People from India – communication gestures and the famous Indian head nod
There is always a local language of a region and then there is a language that the people form, out of convenience, habit or interpretation and start to depend on small quick gestures instead of saying the full sentence or words. Just that it is a lot more common in India as India is a land of rich cultural diversity and different religious beliefs. There are many common communication gestures in India, some of which are like those found in other cultures, while others are unique to India. Here are some examples:
1. Namaste: This is a traditional Indian greeting, where the palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head is bowed slightly. It is a sign of respect and is used when meeting someone, saying goodbye, or showing gratitude.
2. Head nod: The Indian head nod is a common communication gesture in India, which involves tilting the head back and forth slightly, usually accompanied by a slight smile. It can mean different things depending on the context and the person doing it. It is mostly used to indicate agreement, acknowledgement, or understanding. It can also be used to show respect or to indicate that the person is listening attentively.
The Indian head nod can be confusing for people from other cultures who are not familiar with it. Some may interpret it as a sign of disagreement or confusion, while others may see it as a sign of indifference or even rudeness.
3. Hand gestures: There are many hand gestures that are commonly used in India to convey different meanings. For example, pointing with the index finger is considered rude. The “thumbs up” gesture is also considered offensive in some parts of India.
One more interesting one to know is that you can say WoW! Without even saying it. Just make a circle with your thumb and index finger and keep all the fingers open. People will automatically understand what you mean.
If you see someone slapping their forehead, just try to console them. In India, people slap their foreheads as a gesture to show their helplessness or loss.
4. Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact is an important part of communication in India. It is seen as a sign of respect and attentiveness, and avoiding eye contact can be interpreted as a lack of interest or disrespect.
5. Touching: Touching is a common way of showing affection or respect in India, and people may touch each other’s feet, hands, or heads as a sign of respect or greeting. Indians are very warm and like to express their warmth or love by hugging. It is a sign of affection and yes, they will instantly know the difference if you give them cold or side hugs.
6. Eating with hands: Eating with your hands is common in India, especially when eating traditional Indian food. It’s important to use your right hand only, as the left hand is considered unclean. It will be considered rude to make faces at people eating rice or food with their hands. It may appear as clumsy or untidy, but it is considered wholesome and it is part of consuming food with all our senses.
7. This is a common one again – When asking for a cheque after dining at a restaurant, people gesture to the server as if scribbling something in the air and smile – Voila! The server gets you your cheque.
8. A common way of calling rickshaw pullers or cab drivers, especially in Mumbai or Kolkata – people whistle or make a sound while pouting and it serves the purpose!
9. Here, when we go to temples, we offer sweets to the deities and the same is given back to us in divided portions, to distribute to our friends and family. It is called Prasad or Prasadam. It is always accepted with both the hands cupped together and is considered rude to accept it with one or left hand. Infact any auspicious task is to be performed with right hand and never left.
There is no one book that can teach us these small communication gestures that are so commonly used in India, by the people of India. Best is to live them, observe them yourself and you will know!
More on the Indian PR ecosystem in our next blog