No Faux Pas in India!

I’m headed to India this week to speak for BNI in Mumbai and Bangalore.  I look forward to meeting many people and having the chance to help them increase their business through referrals.

I’ve traveled to dozens of countries to speak and teach my philosophy of Givers Gain® in business. However, this is my first time to visit this exotic country. I’ve discovered that it is very important to get “briefed” by others before speaking around the world. I learned the hard way in one country during a public presentation that mentioning a woman’s “pants” actually indicates that you are speaking about her “underwear.” A story that talks about a woman’s pants, no matter how funny it is, doesn’t quite achieve the effect it’s supposed to when it’s told by a man and “pants”  means “underwear.”

Another thing I’ve learned is that using a specific phrase about tree roots in Australia or New Zealand can actually mean that you are talking about having sex. Who would have thought?! When I unknowingly used the phrase (in reference to tree roots–not sex) in the title of an article I wrote, folks in New Zealand and Australia began calling and e-mailing in handfuls to let me know of my blunder. On behalf of Americans everywhere who’ve used this phrase when speaking or writing to Australians and New Zealanders, I’d like to apologize.

In Sweden, there’s no expression for “word of mouth.” There, it is translated as “mouth to mouth.” Takes your mind in a whole different direction, doesn’t it?

And then there are hand gestures . . . don’t even get me started on talking about hand gestures! Suffice it to say, I’ve almost caused several international incidents by accidentally making the “wrong” hand gesture in some countries.

I’ll post a blog or two about my visit to India soon. But, before I go, help me out here would you please? Is there anything I should know about speaking in India? I’d really like to head back to the U.S. knowing for sure that the citizens of India are talking about something positive in regard to me . . . something other than me causing a public scene for saying or doing the wrong thing. 🙂

Wish me luck and, please, drop me a note here if you have any helpful information. Thanks!

11 thoughts on “No Faux Pas in India!

  1. Have fun! I’ll look forward to those posts!

    Thanks, for the chuckles! 🙂
    (and oh, yeah, thanks, for all you are doing to connect the world…:-) )

    Be well,

  2. Vince – Best of luck going to India. I spent three weeks in Bangalore and a day in Mumbai at the end of last year. The one “faux pas” that I experienced is that when sitting in auditorium style seating, men tend to sit on one side and women on the other. In our office and holiday party, it was men on the right and women on the left when facing the stage, but I only learned that when I sat on the “wrong” side next to the male colleagues I had spent the majority of my time with and realized that all the women were on the other side of the aisle.

  3. Best of luck on your trip to Mumbai!

    Indians have a good command of English. They just pronounce it differently. But try to avoid speaking in metaphors and you’ll be fine.

    Kind regards.

    Phillip Khan-Panni

    1. Phillip,
      You just provided a universally applicable piece of good advice! Whether speaking with English language speakers in other parts of one’s own country, or in other countries, it is best to avoid any sort of metaphors or slang expressions. I learned this very recently when I led an information technology seminar for attendees from Wisconsin and Minnesota (I’m from Arizona), I never realized there were so many regional differences in use of language within the U.S.A. It is as important or more so with speakers of English in other countries, whether the U.K or India or Australia.

      It might make you seem formal. Yet that is better than saying something that is construed as very INFORMALl!

  4. Hi Dr. Ivan !!!

    Surely Niraj will have it sorted no Faux Pas at all. On the lighter note HINGLISH (HINDI+ENGLISH) is accepted this is
    what most will carry from you. Ofcourse the Indian cusine with lot of CHAATS (FLAVOURS not CHAT) is the key to get your words right.
    Warm Regards,

  5. Hi Ivan,
    I loved the article. As you can imagine in the UAE we are subjected to this challenge every day with over 100 active nationalities in our business arena . It is a real challenge. I remember a newsletter once that said “get rooted in BNI” I won’t even go into what that means in the UK but I bet membership increased:)

  6. Hi Ivan,
    Sounds like you’ve gone and returned from India already. Some suggestions for next time or to see if you found this: Always present a business card, keep a leisurly pace – small talk preceeds most business. Don’t touch heads – not even a childs; eckon with palm down as it is an insult if done as in the US; arms on hips while in conversation makes you look angry, point with your chin, not your finger, whistling is impolite, never point your feet at a person. If your shoes do touch another, apologize, they are considered unclean. Open gifts after the giver leaves. Dogs are unclean, avoid presents with anything dog. Hostess gifts of chocolate or flowers are appreciated (except frangipani as that’s associated with funerals).

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