In general, the workday is from 9am to 5pm, though most inter-business matters are conducted between 11am and 4pm. Most businesses have a one-hour lunch. The workweek is generally six days long, with Sundays off. Different holidays are observed throughout the many regions and states of India. The dates for the holidays change from year to year, so verify the dates.

Indians appreciate punctuality but don't always practice it themselves. It is wise to keep your schedule flexible enough for last-minute rescheduling of meetings or other hitches. In India long delays are inevitable, particularly when dealing with government bureaucracy.

Many companies in India are strictly hierarchical. In the public sector and in many industries, an employee will often call his or her superior "Sir" or "Madam," and an employee is rarely expected to do tasks outside of their job description unless specifically asked to by a superior. Coming from the outside, one should first approach the senior-most person in an organization, even though a subordinate may be delegated to carry out the work requested.

Business Dress
Formal business attire is normal for the workplace in India. For men suits and ties are appropriate. However, in very warm weather (April-June usually), men may wear an Indian safari suit. Short-sleeved shirts and long trousers are worn by men. Do not wear shorts to the office as shorts are acceptable for men only when exercising; women who jog should wear track pants. Trousers for women are also acceptable. Sandals or chappals are a casual alternative during the hot months and the monsoon, but usually shoes are worn. For a Western female guest at a social function, it is appropriate to wear a sari. Your hosts will interpret it as a gesture of good will and equality if you make the effort to wear an Indian outfit. Foreign men can wear casual business dress during cultural ceremonies.

Names & Titles
In India, use professional titles such as Professor and Doctor.  Courtesy titles such as Mr., Mrs., or Miss are always used. One will also hear common titles and honorifics in Hindi used in conversation. These include affixing to the beginning of a name the word "Sri" or "Shri" for men and "Srimati" or "Shrimati" for women. At the end of names, "Ji" is added for elders and respected people. Mr Krishna Menon, the senior director would be referred to as Krsihnaji. It takes some time and you should wait before being asked to address someone by his or her first name.

Interpersonal Relationships and Corporate Politeness
In many offices, employees rise each time the boss enters the room to acknowledge respect. The boss makes all of the decisions and accepts all the responsibility. Subordinates are also often reluctant to accept responsibility. Most Indian businesses are run by families. Within family-run businesses, business affairs are often restricted to the family. Interpersonal skills such as the ability to form friendships are sometimes considered more important than professional competence and experience. Many Indians are generally too polite to directly answer no. For example, when declining an invitation, an Indian may be more likely to answer, "I'll try," rather than "No, I can't."

While some degree of moderate assertiveness is often valued in the Western workplace as a sign of confidence and ingenuity, in the Indian context it is seen as a sign of disrespect or arrogance, especially if it is from a subordinate. Criticism about individuals, ideas, or work needs to be given carefully, diplomatically and constructively. Supervisors are expected to monitor an individual's work and take the responsibility of meeting deadlines.

Food Taboos
Most Hindus do not eat beef and most Muslims do not eat pork. For Muslims, other types of meat must be ritually slaughtered or Halal. Many Indians are strict vegetarians.The left hand in India is considered unclean. So always eat with your right hand. Similarly use your right hand to receive or hand over things.

Officially Islam prohibits drinking and the Sikh religion prohibits drinking and smoking, not everyone is strict in these observances. Indian women do not smoke or drink openly, but Indian women in higher levels of hierarchy sometimes do.Indians who usually drink may not drink alcohol on certain occasions such as religious festivals or if there is an older, respected individual present (such as one's boss).

Business Lunches/Dinners
Many important decisions are made over a meal. In India over-tipping is considered a sign of bad taste. In better restaurants, 10-15% is a sufficient tip, if the service charge hasn't been added to the bill. When in doubt, you may certainly ask your dinner companion what would be appropriate.

For more information on Indian food and drink, check:

The second culture in our series is India.

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