Insights into Indian Culture

Indian culture has often been described as a “strong” culture.  As compared to other internationals, Indians will have more customs and preferences that differ from those of an American.  And those differing customs and preferences may be valued more deeply.

Thus, for you to be effective in ministry, do your best to understand Indian culture and try to relate accordingly.   You’ll make your share of blunders, but if you do your best and if you project a heart of love, your Indian friends will appreciate you.

Food

  • Strict Hindu vegetarians usually don’t eat any form of meat. This includes fish, chicken, turkey, and eggs (even if one of these is an ingredient in baked or snack foods).
  • Many Indians will eat chicken or eggs, but almost all, except those who call themselves Christian, avoid beef and pork.
  • Many students become more strict after arriving in the U.S.
  • Dietary restrictions are not a sensitive topic, so it’s always best to ask before preparing food.

Friendship

  • Relationships are very important to an Indian and friendship is seen as “reciprocal.”
  • It is important to receive from friends, not merely give.
  • A sure sign of “friendship” is when you can “drop in” unannounced at one another’s homes or business.

Indirect communication

  • Indian culture is non-confrontational. Indians will be very reluctant to say “no” to an invitation or reasonable request.
  • This quality can sometimes be confusing or upsetting to Westerners who usually value direct communication. Question: “Are you coming to the party?” Answer: “I should be able to…” Result: The person may or may not actually attend. Westerner can feel frustrated.
  • In working with Indians in a ministry setting, it’s best to try to avoid forcing them into a direct answer: “I am having a party. I know you are busy these days, but I would love it if you could come.”
  • Also, try to avoid saying “no” too strongly to an invitation or offer from an Indian: “I’d love to try your exotic food, but I’ve already had too much of that other wonderful dish.”

Religious discussion

  • Hindus value being open to others and willing to listen and learn.
  • An argumentative tone makes a Westerner seem arrogant to an Indian.
  • In talking with a Hindu, debating apologetics is rarely helpful.
  • It’s difficult to discuss the differences between Christianity and Hinduism because of the great diversity of Hindu thought.
  • Many Hindus have high spiritual ideals, although few students you will meet are trying hard to practice these ideals.
  • The typical Indian’s commitment to his home culture-which is typically intertwined with Hinduism, yet the average Indian Hindu is very open to discussion of spiritual topics.