Gestures that are offensive in India

Updated February 21, 2017

Many travellers encounter problems abroad due to cultural differences. Gestures, for instance, vary widely in meaning from one country to another. A harmless gesture in the UK may be offensive in other places. Before travelling, it is always best to learn as much as possible about what is acceptable and what is offensive in the culture you are visiting. Just like other countries, India has its own set of dos and don'ts.

The cutis

This gesture involves placing one's thumbnail behind the upper front teeth and then flicking it toward the recipient of the motion. Considered an extremely rude gesture, it is the equivalent of saying "F" you.


In India, it is an insult to beckon someone to you with your palm upward as we do in the UK. Any beckoning should be done with your palm down, fingers together in a scratching motion, to draw a person toward you.

The head

Never touch the head of anyone in India. The head is considered the seat of the soul, and touching it is not acceptable. Do not pat a child on the head, even in an affectionate manner.


Do not whistle at a woman or wink at her in India. Both are considered rude, and the wink is considered an invitation for sex. Being overly bold with a woman is considered in very poor taste.

The feet

Watch your feet in India. To point at someone with your foot or to show the bottom of your foot is offensive. In India, the feet are considered unclean, and people do not want to see the bottoms of them. Apologise if you accidentally touch another with your feet or shoes.

The left hand

The left hand is considered unclean in many countries, including India. Do not accept items or hand anything to anyone with your left hand. Never eat with your left hand. Of course this will be more difficult to do if you are left-handed, but in the interest of cultural assimilation, try to observe this tradition.


As strange as it may seem, staring is not considered rude at all in India the way it is in the UK and other Western countries. In India, staring is a natural response to curiosity, especially when taking notice of outsiders or anything different.

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About the Author

Amie Taylor has been a writer since 2000. Book reviews, gardening and outdoor lawn equipment repair articles and short fiction account for a handful of her published works. Taylor gained her gardening and outdoor equipment repair experience from working in the landscaping and lawn-care business she and her husband own and operate.