India: Verbal and NV Communication

Nonverbal Communication

India is a high context culture, there is much reliance on nonverbal gestures. In India, people greet each other using the word Namaste and they put their palms together in front of their chest and give a slight bow of the head. This casual or formal greeting is a custom in all of India. Used to begin and end with, Namaste literally means “I bow to you”-my greetings or salutations. Men will shake hands, but not with women. Women should never initiate the handshake. Like other Asian cultures, Indians require the removal of footwear before entering a sacred area. The people of India have different gestures. According to Charlene Wu on Cultural Gestures, Indians will “grasp their earlobes to express remorse or honesty.” She also states that they use their whole hand or chin to signal to something. An apology can be given by tapping someone’s shoulder and then tapping your own forehead.

Indians do not like to say no because people do not like to hear no. They tell you what you want to hear, which is part of the reason they use the head wobble. Indians clearly believe that actions speak louder than words because of the universal gesture that unites their country. People who travel to India often get confused by the Indian head wobble. According to the travel website, the head wobble represents the word “accha”. This can mean anything from “yes” or “no” as well as, “good” to “I understand”. The further south in India, the more common the head wobble is.

Indian Head Wobble

Verbal communication

Hindi is the official language of India and has at least 13 different dialects. However, the Indian constitution recognizes 18 languages, including English. Different states of India have different official languages. It is inappropriate to be direct when asking questions and one should not expect an immediate response. The same goes for asking personal questions. It’s also disrespectful to always be the first one to talk, and to only talk about what you are interested in. Pauses in conversations are expected, it can be used for emphasis or to show disapproval. Silence is not uncommon, it is normal to just sit and enjoy someone’s company.

Here is a map of the languages spoken throughout the country. (map photo)


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