Overcoming Communication Gaps Shopping in South Asia

Couples tell us one of the most challenging aspects of wedding shopping in India/South Asia is the communication gaps. This is especially true if you’re shopping at smaller stores vs. designer or bigger shops. This article, Overcoming Communication Gaps Shopping in South Asia describes cultural nuance that may make the process of shopping in South Asia better.

South Asian cultures are ‘yes’ cultures. In other words, it’s common for shopkeepers to make a lot of promises, agree to requests, and make claims they know they can’t fulfill. It’s not that they want to fool customers or mean harm. Saying no to a customer is considered disrespectful and the person saying no, thinks it makes him/her personally and the company look bad.

Coming from the US, Canada, Aus, NZ, UK etc. we consider it quite the opposite. We see it as being upfront and honest. Therein lies the communication gap. In Western cultures, a person’s word is their bond and we hold people to their words. In Eastern cultures, “yes” only means “yes” when it’s said without hesitation.


In India there’s a concept of bohni which means that the first sale or first customer of the day determines the shop’s luck that day. Shopkeepers are known to use that to appeal to customers who are going to leave without buying. That interaction is uncomfortable and makes consumers hesitant to walk into stores after that. If you think that’ll be an issue for you – shop later, after a store has been open for at least an hour or two.

{What Can You Do?}

  • Read between the lines – be wary of low eye-contact, pushiness, people who say yes to everything.
  • If your items will be ready in days/weeks – periodically check in.
  • Expect delays
  • Ask open-ended questions.
    a. when will item x be ready? vs. will item x be ready on y date?
    b. what address are you shipping my items to? vs. do you still have my shipping address?

This article, Overcoming Communication Gaps Shopping in South Asia describes cultural nuance that can be helpful to make the shopping process better.

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