India is permeated with spiritual rituals. Objects are often blessed or worshipped with a sense of humility, respect, and desire for harmony. There is a strong sense of the divine and the dirty which dictates the proper role and protocol for hands and feet (among other things).
Let’s start with feet:
- The sole of the foot or shoe is considered very dirty. Therefore, it should never be positioned where others would see it or where it would be pointing at them. For example, you should never cross your legs by putting one ankle on the knee of the other leg. Never.
- Likewise, don’t lean back and put your feet up, even if you’ve, say, been waiting for a train for an hour and would just love to stretch your legs and rest them on something.
- Don’t wear your shoes in a house unless you see the host and hostess doing so.
- Do not use your feet to move objects. Many objects are the purview of Goddesses and need to be treated with respect.
- If your feet or shoes should touch someone, be sure to apologize immediately.
- The left hand is considered unclean so it is best not to eat with your left hand or use it to give someone a gift – even if you are left handed.
- Wash your hands before eating as you will often be eating with your hands. It’s not as hard as you think and if the food is still too hot to eat, you’ll know it before you burn your mouth.
- The traditional Namaste greeting is with palms together and a slight bow of the head. This honors the divine nature of both parties.
- Men often shake hands, but it is best to let a lady offer hers first if she is comfortable with the custom.
- And, yes, hugging is only for people of the same sex.