Part of the process of exploring and participating in south Indian culture requires a sense of local customs here. While most of these mannerisms are second nature to locals; south Indians typically retain their sense of customs, even if they live abroad.
1. Neighborhood watch
Most uptown neighborhoods in South India have garbage disposal rules. For example, it’s a common requirement that you should pack and seal your garbage bags, before handing it to the garbage collecting vehicles. Retired members of the neighborhood volunteer to ensure people follows these rules. Residents tend to be fear them as they are known to go on wild power trips. They may become highly critical of your garbage packing skills if your diligence fails. These garbage-Nazis are usually well connected to the local gossip circuit too.
2. Slang and language
It’s common for people in south India to speak English in its colonial form. Informal British expressions like I say, Bugger, Bloody Hell, Bogs and Man are part of their local dialects. Rural speech, though, is forthright, in the sense that people use subtle hints to express their feelings. The ability to read such hints is an important social skill in south India.
People in south India are careful not to offend others and their respect comes through in the way they speak. Every local dialect includes respectful names to address strangers and older family members. Names in south India usually follow with a suffix like Anna (big brother) for men and Akka (big sister) for women.
If not everyday, people in south India wear traditional apparel during festivals and cultural activities. Rules to wear traditional clothing is unwritten but expected. Beyond that, most young south Indians choose ethnic attires at weddings. At these occasions, it’s very easy to feel under dressed in a sea of kanjeevaram silks and gold jewelry.
While dining, people use banana and palm leaves for serving or wrapping food, everyday in rural areas and occasionally in cities. Wiping the leaves clean before eating and tearing off the damaged parts is all part of the fuss here. People serve food on plates and bowls made from leaves too – which cuts down on plastic and paper at feasts and weddings.
6. Philter coffee?
Traditionally, people serve coffee hot unless the city bistros and cafes offer cold coffee variants. While traveling across the Deccan plateau, tea and coffee shops sell filter-coffee ground from locally grown coffee beans. Any south Indian home will have a reserve of coffee powder to serve guests and their family. Cooling decanted coffee in a steel bowl before drinking it from a steel glass is customary and fun too.
7. Compliments for the cook
Complementing food in South India needn’t always be a polite phase. Asking for a second helping and not wasting food is sure to impress people in south India.
Spoiler alert: south Indian gifts are usually boxes of fruits, sweets and fabrics. Relatives, neighbors and colleagues exchange such presents at festivals or while making happy announcements.
9. Work culture
Event if employees in south India finish their work; they tend to stay late in the office if their team or their boss is working late. Most people wait for their boss to go home or feel uncomfortable being the first one to leave.