Cultural Context and Non-Verbal Cues (Mariaa Wheeler)
Non-verbal communication and insults cross-culturally (Mariaa Wheeler)
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Sara S., Kristina U., Charlene Y., Mariaa W.
November 5, 2010
This presentation is designed to
overview the basics of Indian
culture. India is a very fast growing
culture, Americans find themselves
working with more and more
We, as a group, intend on educating
each of you about certain aspects of
this vast and complicated culture,
shedding light on the intricacies of
In this slideshow you will see
information on verbal and
nonverbal communications used
in greetings and salutations,
provided by Mariaa W. You will
also learn about weddings and
other ceremonies from the
research done by Sara S. Kristina
U. will take you through the
cultural values of music in Indian
culture and Charlene Y. has a
large amount of information on
The Republic of India is called Bharat in
The capitol is New Delhi
The population is 913,000,000
The official languages are Hindi and
There are 22 official languages and 325
recognized dialects used throughout India
Most Indians are bi-lingual or multi-lingual
(Joshi & Szerlip, 2008)
Names and Titles in India
Your surname is the first name said, and your given name follows (ie.
Ji is a title used for both sexes (ie. Mariaa-Ji)
Sahab is used to show deep respect (ie. Doctor-Sahab)
teens and younger people commonly call anyone over the age of 35 Uncle-Ji
or Aunty-Ji, in imitation of America
Teachers are always called Sir or Ma’am
Doctor is the title given to anyone with a doctorate, no matter what it is in.
Shri and Shrimati is used instead of Mrs. or Mr. for all government
officials.(Joshi & Szerlip, 2008)
Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil,
Smt. is the same as shortening Missus to Mrs.
Shrimati Patil is the President of India shown here on Nov. 8, 2010 with
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
In 2010, Beebe, Beebe, and Ivy noted that
Intercultural communication “Occurs when
individuals or groups from different cultures
communicate.” (p.151) When one participates
in intercultural communication, one should
recognize the differences between cultures
and attempt to adapt to them. Names are very
important in Indian culture, and insults can be
given quickly and in ignorance.
Namaste is said while holding your
hands together beneath your chin as if in
prayer and your eyes downcast
In business, a firm handshake is the
most acceptable form of greeting
In formal or traditional homes, a Hindu
persona will bow very low, touching the
other person’s feet, and then touch their
own forehead. This is common for
children to parents
Muslims will say “A Salaam A Leikum”
while raising their right hand, palm in, as
(Joshi & Szerlip, 2008)
As Beebe et al. (2010) describes,
“The cultural context of any
communication consists of the
nonverbal cues that surround and
give added meaning to the
message.” (p.151). In India, honor,
humbleness, and respect are of
utmost importance in non-verbal
cues in greetings. You should
show respect to your receiver and
give them honor.
Just Don’t Do It in India
Do not gesture with your left hand (it is considered unclean)
Never participate in public displays of affection
Don’t eat in public (it’s considered ‘trashy’)
Never touch your feet to another persons feet, even if they are sitting beside you
Don’t cross your legs in a way that points your toes or the soles of your shoes at another
Never place a book on the floor, or allow your foot to touch a book.
Do not discuss religion
A foreigner should never call someone by the title of Sahab, it is considered an insult
Don’t offer to shake hands with a woman, if she wants to, she will extend her hand first
Never touch a stranger, it makes them uncomfortable and can be insulting.
(Joshi & Szerlip, 2008)
Beebe et al. (2010) describes nonverbal
communication is communication by
means other than written or spoken
language that creates meaning for
someone.” (p.20). Some forms of
nonverbal communication can be
unintentionally insulting to people of
Indian culture, as Americans do not
view many of the actions as deliberately
insulting. The rules of even nonverbal
communication can vary from culture to
culture, even from subculture to
●The parents of the future bride and
groom arrange the marriage
●Marriage is treated like an
institution, which teaches the value
●Weddings involve the entire
community not just the
family(Yasmin Khan. 2008)
●By Having arranged marriages the
couple has no communication before
the wedding to see if they even click
with each other. Communication is
the most important role in a
relationship and without it the
relationship most likely will not be as
strong as those who communicate
before settling down.
Order Of the Wedding
●1st- Parents pick the couple
●2nd- The local priest will suggest the engagement date
●3rd-Mehndi party- Signifies the essence of love
●4th- Cleansing ceremony- Bride and groom are pasted with
turmeric powder in each of their homes.
●5th- Ghari Puja- Religious ceremony performed on the eve
of the wedding day
●6th- Saptapadi- The couple circles a fire which is symbolic
Interesting India Wedding Facts
●In many communities in the Hindu Religion, there is a
wedding ritual in which the sisters-in-law hide the shoes of
their jija or brother-in-law and return them only in exchange
for money. It's a very fun filled and enjoying ritual.
●In some communities, there are rituals where the hands of
the couple are covered with a sacred cloth to ward off ill
omen and evil eye during the pheras.
●In Gujarati custom the groom's mother-in-law tries to catch
his nose on arrival of the baraat, as a reminder of the fact
that he is taking away their daughter and is now responsible
for her happiness.(John Keay. 2001)
In India, the weddings are arranged and few
communication is present between the bride and groom.
The wedding itself however is full of communication. It
involves not only the bride, groom, and family, but the
whole community. The ceremony is an all day
celebration with song and dance. Even though the
communication between the bride and groom is not
there, there is plenty of communication going on
throughout the community to make such a beautiful
Indian classical music is based on the ragas or colors, which are scales and melodies
that provide the foundation.
The main instrument of the ragas is the sitar, although historically the vina zither
was of equal importance.
Music of India
Each genre has its own history, evolution and performance style, such as the
music you hear in the temple dance tradition of the far eastern India doesn't sound
like the music you would hear a Rajasthani brass band play for a wedding in the
The two main branches of classical music, Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic
(South Indian) music are distinctly different, though both are built on the twin
principles of raga/ragam (melody) and tala/talam (rhythm) (Music Fraternity).
Today in India there are few who enjoy Indian classical music because they feel it is too slow
or boring. Keeping with times and demands, today, most music composers have shifted from
the classical to newer forms consisting of the Indian melody combined with western beats.
The modern music of India comprises remixes, where old tunes are blended with faster beats
making them popular amongst the younger generation. These are generally played at discos
Fusion is the term given to music where Indian classical music is combined with the western
music forms to create a musical mix of east and west
Film music is extremely popular amongst people of all ages. In fact an Indian film is
considered incomplete without songs with the heroes and heroines dancing.
Indi pop is basically the Indian version of the western pop music. There are number of young
artists who sign up with music companies to cut an album of pop songs in Hindi and other
Modern Indian music , even the basics of classical Indian music, raga and taal, have been
removed from the latest compositions with composers using the western scale and tones. In
fact the new music being generated brings in the older styles and blend them into the
western chords. (Tsioulcas).
●THE INDIAN RELIGION OF HINDUSIM:
INDIA’S PRIMARY RELIGION
THE INDIAN RELIGION OF HINDUISM: INDIA’S
Courtesy of enlightened-spirituality.org
WHAT IS HINDUISM?
● Hinduism is believed to be the 3rd largest religion in the world and is
said to be the world’s oldest known religion.
● The religion is based from the Vedic principles and scriptures.
● Throughout, the significant historic times of Hinduism various Saints,
as well as, Sages created laws that make up the general collection of
Hindu scriptures. Which is also known as “Shastras”.
● It is a religion with the strong belief in reincarnation and a host of gods
“Beliefs are the way in which you structure your understanding of what is
true and false.” et al Beebe
BELIEFS AND BASIS OF HINDUISM
● Brahman is the only believed supreme being within the Hindu religion.
● Hindus worship a variety of deities from spirits, to trees and even animals, etc.
● The Hindu religion does not dictate any one set standard as to who or what the deity
● Therefore, within the religion beliefs and customs may vary throughout sects, location,
Beebe et al states, “Your spiritual self is a mixture of your beliefs and your sense of who you
are in relationship to other forces in the universe. Note that this aspect of the self is termed
“spiritual,” not religious. People who consider themselves religious most likely also consider
themselves spiritual; however, many people view themselves as spiritual but not religious.
The term religious implies adherence to a specific religion or faith, typically accompanied by a
belief in a supreme being or creator.”
RELIGIOUS IMPACT ON DAILY LIFE
● Hinduism holds a great deal of influence on the day to day life of most
it’s followers. Especially, in the areas of Birth, Death, Weddings, and so
● The religion also impacts dietary beliefs of the Hindu’s. As there is a
Hindu law against eating red meat.
● Most Hindu’s generally practice worship at home or at a shrine. Rituals
and ceremonies are often held such as Pilgrimages to Holy cities like
Puri, Ujjain and etc.
“Values are enduring concepts of good or bad, right and wrong. Your
values can be difficult to identify because they are so central to who you
are.” et al Beebe
IMPACT OF HINDUISM BEYOND
● There are spiritual aspects from other world
religions that have originated from Hinduism
such as the Baha’i faith and the Hare
● Many Hindu practices and beliefs have
become popular all over the world such as
Yoga, Ayurveda, Divination, Vegetarianism,
Karma and Reincarnation.
“Intercultural communication occurs when
individuals or groups from different cultures
communicate.” “Clearly, a global economy and
the ease with which technology permits us to
communicate with others around the world
increase the likelihood that you will establish
relationships with people who are different from
you and who have cultural traditions different
from your own. You need not travel abroad to
encounter cultural differences; the world is
here.”et al Beebe
Courtesy of yogafocus.co.uk
When communication occurs between cultures, this can be
frustrating for both participants. The United States is such
a huge conglomeration of so many different cultures, many
have referred to it as the “giant salad bowl” rather than
the “mixing pot”. The many cultures mix together and
compliment one another without overpowering. Being
culturally sensitive is never a bad thing. This presentation
has shown you about the Indian culture, one of the largest
and fastest growing on the planet!
● 1. President Obama visited India November 8th 2010. During his visit there are many pictures of
him holding hands and putting his arm around the shoulders of the Prime Minister (who is a man)
but only one picture of Obama shaking the hand of the (female) President of India. Do you think
that this is an example of our president insulting India (which is an American view of lack of
touch) or our president showing great respect to India (honoring the virtues of women in Indian
culture)? Is it important that our nations leader understands the nuances of the cultures in other
parts of the world?
● 2. What is the tradition or reasoning behind the woman of India wearing a bindi on their
● 3. How do weddings in India differ from those in the United States?
● 4. What have you learned about India that differs from what you know about American culture?
Beebe, S., Beebe, S., Ivy, K. (2010) Communication: Principles for a Lifetime.
Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Blackwell, Fritz (2004), India: A Global Studies Handbook, United States of
America: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
"Infrastructure: S&T Education", Science and Technology in India edited by
R.K. Suri and Kalapana Rajaram (2008), New Delhi: Spectrum,
Joshi, M. & Szerlip, B. (2008) Passport India: Your Pocket Guide to Indian
Business, Customs and Etiquette. New York: World Trade Press
Scaruffi, P., (2002). The history of popular music, a brief summary of Indian music,
Retrieved from http://www.scaruffi.com/history/indian.html
Pakrashi & Co., Retrieved from http://www.pakrashi-harmonium.com/professional-
Music Fraternity., Fraternity for artists in musical professions. Retrieved from
Tsioulcas, A., National Geographic, Retrieved from
Keay, John. (2001) India: A History
New York, Grove Publishing
Khan, Yasmin. (2008) India
London: Dk Publishing
Photo One from:
Lal, Vinay (2005) Introducing Hinduism [electronic resource] Palo Alto, CA
Michael, Axel (2003) Hinduism: Past and Present, Princeton, N.J.,