Indian Culture – Greetings and Family

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Indian Culture - Greetings and Family

Table of Contents

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Greetings

In several regions of India, individuals often greet each other with the ancient Hindu greeting “Namaste,” which means “I greet the divine within you,” on ceremonial occasions. Depending on the person you are meeting, you may follow this with a bow or a head nod.

Pressing the hands together and pointing the fingertips upwards (i.e., in a praying stance) is a typical welcoming gesture. Sometimes a small bow is added to this greeting.

Verbal welcomes varies based on relationships between persons as well as between areas. For instance, “Kem cho” (meaning “How are you?”) is a typical Gujarati greeting.

Muslims can extend a greeting by shaking hands and saying “Salaam” to their counterparts. 

Shaking hands is typically acceptable for both men and women. Waiting for a lady to extend her hand first is advised, though. Some men and women who identify as Muslim or Hindu might not want to touch someone who is the other gender.

Refrain from giving someone a hug or a kiss unless you are familiar with them.

Indians anticipate that the oldest or most senior person should be greeted first. Some Indians show respect by reaching down to touch the ground or the elder’s feet when they meet them.

Until they say they’re okay with you using their first name, it’s best to address people by their title (Mr., Mrs., etc.) and last name.

To honor a person, a group, or inanimate objects, it is customary to append the gender-neutral honorific suffix “-ji” to a first name (e.g., “Madhavji”).

Family

For the majority of Indians, the family is the most significant institution in their lives. Given their collectivistic society, Indians place a strong emphasis on interdependence and loyalty. The family’s interests typically come before an individual’s, and choices that have an impact on a person’s personal life—like marriage and professional choices—are typically taken after consulting the family. Individuals typically operate in the best interests of their family’s reputation because a single action can affect how the community views the entire family.

Even if the majority of family members live close to one another or belong to the same professional groupings, newer generations are starting to question these notions of family as a result of increased urbanization and migration. Many people today have large family networks that are dispersed throughout numerous locations and are employed in various fields. Compared to most people in English-speaking Western nations, Indians frequently have far tighter ties to their extended families living abroad. Indians who live outside also keep in touch with their relatives who still live in India via frequent phone conversations, money transfers, and, when possible, in-person visits.

Structure of the Household: 

Families are not limited to the traditional nuclear family; they also include extended family units. These big, intergenerational families may also be crucial to a person’s ability to maintain financial stability. They frequently supply labor for a family farm or open doors in urban areas where connections with relatives and other parties are essential to finding a job.

It might be encouraged for people to establish close bonds with their aunts and uncles that rival those of their parents. It is not unusual to have three or four generations coexisting in many places of India. The patriarch is typically the father, or the eldest son in his absence, and his wife is in charge of any daughters or daughters-in-law who have moved into the home. There is usually a definite hierarchy among family members in extended families, and the younger members yield to the elders. People tend to live in smaller nuclear families and have close relationships to their extended family when they dwell in more urban places.

Roles of Gender:

In India, there is a clear disparity in the status of men and women. There are different traditions related to a custom called “pardah” that requires women to be kept apart in specific circumstances. It is primarily practiced by traditional Muslim or Hindu families in northern India. Women are generally only supposed to leave the home sphere when they are covered up and accompanying a man, according to pardah. The subtleties of customs differ among social classes, religions, and ethnic groups. For instance, married Hindu women in certain regions of northern India may choose to cover their heads or wear a veil called a “ghoonghat” when they are with their husband’s elder male relatives.

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The extent to which gender disparities continue to exist is always shifting. In India, for instance, it is increasingly common for a brother and sister to get the same education and treatment within the educational system. Through professional possibilities and political representation, educated women in society are gaining more influence, even if they are still constrained by numerous restrictive societal norms. In order to help address structural inequities, affirmative action programs are also available for women. 

Marriage and Relationships:

In India, arranged marriages are not uncommon, yet regional and religious differences might influence expectations and customs surrounding these unions. Usually, a matchmaker, the couple’s parents, or another reliable third party arranges marriages. It is now more typical for the family to ask the pair for permission before the wedding, as opposed to the past when people would not know about their future spouse.

Caste politics almost always play a role in arranged weddings. As a result, endogamous unions—which are only permitted between members of the same caste or, in certain situations, religion—remain prevalent. This is partially due to the fact that arranging marriages is a custom carried out by families via established networks within the larger society. Families avoid having members of the same subcaste marry, despite the fact that people will marry within their own caste. 

Parents can shape their children’s destiny and uphold the social and local structures through the practices of caste endogamy and arranged marriage. It is rare for intercaste weddings to be arranged. These unions are referred to as “love marriages” and are increasing in number. In the process of getting married, the family is almost always consulted, regardless of how one finds a spouse.

Regardless of whether the family lives in their village or in a big metropolis, weddings are typically held in the villages where the families reside. Families do, in fact, frequently reserve their village home for important family occasions like weddings. Depending on the area and the families’ respective religions, weddings can take place over a few days, with different customs used. 

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