Business and Personal Etiquette in India: Greetings, Hand Shakes and Kisses
Every country in the world is different. What is considered “normal” behavior in one country could be shocking or seemingly progressive or seemingly conservative and out of this world to another country. Since moving to Bangalore I have had to change some of my habits because here they are mostly considered inappropriate behavior. One “bad” habit that I actually QUIT 100% over the past couple of months is – happily – coming back to life again and that is kissing, kissing, kissing! I am so happy about that too!
You can’t imagine the change I experienced in moving from Barcelona to Bangalore. You see, in Spain everyone kisses. Men with men, men and women, women with women….even groups of kids. Whenever you greet someone, even in many business situations, you give two kisses. You start with your right cheeks, then switch up to the left. When you meet up with your mates, your family, the owner of your favorite restaurant, etc, you kiss them to say hello. In a business environment I would kiss the team from my PR agency whenever we had a meeting, my photographer and models I’d use for shoots, and my freelance video guy. At work I would kiss my team mates if we hadn’t seen each other in days or after a holiday break… of course this is especially nice when I had a smokin’ hot boss, haha. Everyone kissed. Every day. Throughout the day. It was great.
But here in India it is inappropriate to kiss in public, kissing scenes are removed from imported TV shows and films … in fact, a colleague of mine told me that she and her husband have never touched or kissed in front of their son or their family. It’s just really different here.
RANDOM TIDBIT: In Europe, you can get into a bit of trouble when you kiss an Italian because they kiss from left to right instead of right to left. I don’t know how many times I have almost accidentally kissed someone on the mouth because I go right, they go left and that sort of left us in the middle, haha. It’s funny but it can definitely be a bit awkward!!
Two kisses is such a nicer way to greet people than the cold American handshake that’s for sure! And although the gesture might seem intimate to some cultures, the kisses are not sexual in nature nor intimate. Even straight guys kiss, so that should put it into perspective. I miss the two kisses quite a lot actually. So I am so happy to see that most of my new friends in Bangalore are Two Kissers. For just a few seconds it makes me feel like I am back in Europe. I also like that the guys in our group are huggers too, to be honest. Being alone here without anyone to snuggle up to gets as lonely for me as it would for anyone, so I love it when my mates give me big bear hugs. Especially my tall friends. It’s nice.
But here in Bangalore I can’t imagine kissing anyone besides my friends under any circumstance. I think my work mates would think I had lost my mind if I walked into work on Monday and started two-kissing them as I walked in. And if I kissed my marketing manager, who is a man….my oh my I bet the rumors would start flying. It’s just not done here.When I first arrived I made an effort to not even extend my hand when the impulse hit me to shake hands with a male colleague or business contact. This was an etiquette rule I had read online somewhere. But I realized quite quickly that it is actually ridiculous to worry about something like that in Bangalore. I think it’s difinitely still good advice for me to follow when I am in more remote locations but as a rule here in Bangalore everyone in the business world is very cosmopolitan so it is unnecessary for women to act in this way. We can reach out to shake hands just like a man in Bangalore, which rocks.
So admit it! We all enjoy a good kiss or two but it can most definitely lead to trouble or awkwardness. A couple of nights ago I went up to a good friend of mine and gave him two kisses in front of loads of people. For me this is 100% normal and to be honest I didn’t think twice about it. Well later on in the evening I heard two different people introduce me as his girlfriend. Haha! Now I can’t be sure that I was labeled the girlfriend because of the kisses or not but I bet it helped 🙂
And last night I met up for dinner and drinks with one of my three expat mates in Bangalore. He brought a colleague with him and when I went to two-kiss them it was definitely awkward and I regretted it sort of straight away. One turned his face so much I almost kissed his ear and the other guy just gave me a big hug, haha. Ahh, bless!
I don’t imagine that I’ll be revolutionizing the two-kisses scene here in Bangalore but I definitely like the thought of it 🙂
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011