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Doing Business in India For Dummies® by Ranjini Manian

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Keep It Official, but Don’t Forget the Personal

Indians are basically conservative in social situations, and they may not like the more liberal attitudes of the West. What to you is completely innocent behavior such as winking or touching someone’s arm, may seem provocative and unacceptable to an Indian. So keep things official. Joking and friendship in the office are fine but Indians won’t always get your jokes right away. Make sure not to include sexual or political overtones to the jokes.

Along the same lines, don’t take certain liberties for granted as you would in the West. For example, if you need to make an overseas or long distance phone call from your Indian associate’s office, offer to pay for the charges. Even if the offer is declined, don’t assume that it’s acceptable for you to make several such calls.

Don’t confuse Indian restraint with a lack of emotion or sentimentality: Indians are sentimental. There’s a thin line between business and personal life, and most people fill their workspace with pictures of family and pets. Comment on the cuteness of the employees’ children or talk of their smile for example, and you’re sure to get a good response! In fact, Indians think you’re strange if, with typical Western restraint, you don’t comment on their collection. So do take an interest in their interest. You won’t go overboard on this, so don’t worry about making a personal comment that you may not do back home.

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