Travel protocol in India

A couple years ago I found myself on a trip to India. It was a great trip, and I highly recommend everyone go there, to see the Taj Mahal and the rest of the country. But the “how” part of my being on the trip always seemed a bit strange to me – until now.

My wandering consort was truly enamored with the idea of visiting India. Much Bollywood was being watched, the cultures studied and tourism research performed. She actually had a great plan for making the trip happen, which was to convince her mother to go to India for work (something that was actually supposed to happen anyways) and then the two of them would travel together. I’ll admit that I was a little jealous when I heard the plans, as I wanted to go too, but I kept quiet and let the plan play out. A bit more research showed that women didn’t often travel alone, certainly not single women. So I got invited along as an escort as much as anything else. We weren’t married yet, so that probably raised just as many questions and protocol issues, but we were made to feel quite welcome everywhere we visited. Plus it turns out that my presence was quite helpful on a few occasions when the “two tall white women” became just as much of an attraction as whatever site we were at.

And now French President Nicolas Sarkozy is experiencing some of the same protocol issues, though at a much higher level. He divorced his wife last year and pretty much immediately started dating a supermodel; the two are rather inseparable. The problem is that formal Indian protocol doesn’t know how to deal with the presence of the “girlfriend” at a State event. Does she get to sit at the head table? A second hotel room? So many little things to think about, and only a few days to figure it all out before he shows up next week. And things aren’t being made much easier by the fact that no one has told the Indians if she is coming along on the trip or not, though their Visa program should have cleared that up by now I would think – they take time to get.

Nothing more than a reminder that cultures are all different and that you have to respect your hosts when you go somewhere, which is made much more difficult by the fact that the world keeps getting smaller.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.