Here’s a fun fact.
India has 22 official languages as recognised in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
22 languages! That’s ridiculous, by any stretch of the imagination. But before you panic and buy “Telugu for Dummies” (Telugu is a regional language mostly spoken in Andhra Pradesh, a state in South India) – remember that a working knowledge of Hindi should get you through most interactions with locals (without prejudice to anybody’s mother tongue)
And so the good people here at SeekSherpa put together a quick list of 8 Hindi phrases that will get you through the mother of all interactions – a shopping expedition! This is especially useful if you decide to roll up the sleeves and hit the microcosms of Indian cultural beauty like Dilli Haat, Sadar Bazaar, or Chandni Chowk, etc. If you manage to sneak a nice discount, be sure to let us know!
1. Namaste – Hindi for Hola/ Hello / Bonjour/ Konnichiwa. It’s always best to start a conversation with a polite namaste and you could get responses ranging from an amused smirk to an equally effusive “aapko bhi” (Hello to you too). Either way, making friends never hurt anybody! Accompanying gestures – Folded hands, holier than thou smile, and the occasional wink Alternate uses – Saying ‘sup’ to the Yoga class instructor, or as an alternative to “bless you” when somebody sneezes. (Disclaimer : Don’t take these seriously)
2. Aap Kaisay Hain ? – Literally translates to “how are you?”. Our hunch says that this too could bring in responses as varied as a bear hug or a suspicious stare. But stick with being the good guy initially. Accompanying gestures – Raised eyebrow (just one, preferably the left one), smaller smile, and loose body language. Alternate uses – Polite inquiries into people’s health, or the colour of their washing machine
3. Yeh Kaisa Diya - The most important question! Translates to “how much?”. Nail it with a perfect combination of curiosity yet assertion, you’ll probably never get duped. Act too innocent – they might just take advantage of you. Accompanying gestures – Hand outstretched with the item displayed clearly. Avoid eye contact to show that you’re not too bothered with the response. Alternate uses – Asking somebody their age, or whether their kidney is for sale. Make sure you point at the kidney first, though.
So, here’s where it gets interesting. Once you ask a shopkeeper “how much / yeh kaisa diya ” – there are typically 3 responses to expect. One, the quoted price is a steal (this rarely happens), or the price is kind of high (about 20% more than what you’d expect to pay), and finally, the shopkeeper just said something outrageous, like a thousand bucks for a bottle of water (Fair warning – they will try.)
Each of these situations calls for a delicate balance between action and emotion to make sure you walk away with the upper hand in the bargain –
If the quoted price is too low to be true –
4. Shukriya – Means ” Thank you.” Quickly mutter this and make an exit before the shopkeeper realises that he could’ve gotten you for more. Accompanying gestures – None! Unless you’re worried about the purchase being a fake, then you could give him a death stare. Alternate uses – Whenever somebody opens the door for you or gives you the key to their bank account, no questions asked.
If the price is about 20% higher than what you’d be willing to pay.
5. Accha - Kind of in the same rhythm as “okay” or “hmm.” Gives both of you time to consider your next move. Accompanying gestures – A slight nod of the head with a thoughtful expression like you’re actually considering the offer. (This is important to throw him off his game) Alternate uses – If somebody makes you an offer you can(‘t) refuse! Or pair it up with the word “hai” to form “accha hai”, which means “It’s good.” Show everybody your appreciative side with accha hai.
6. Kam Karo - After giving the intended bargain due consideration – the most befitting response is to ask for less, right ? Use kam karo (reduce it) to stamp your authority. Accompanying gestures – Clenched fist and blood rushing to your head Alternate uses – If the music gets too loud or to complain about the weather (plead with the elements!)
If the quote is JUST OUTRAGEOUS –
7. Seedha dey bey - ” Play it straight dude.” This will definitely ensure that you prove yourself as somebody not to mess with. It puts you in the same mental category as a local (because they don’t know you have SeekSherpa swag !) Accompanying gestures – A calm demeanour with an icy cold voice (even if you’re raging inside!) Alternate uses – To keep an errant taxi driver in check
8. Alvida – Goodbye! Tata! Asta la vista, baby! You know when you can’t win, so walk out with your head held high. Chances are they’ll come chasing after. Accompanying gestures – A crinkled nose, pursed lips, and audible signs of irritation. Alternate uses – Alvida has positive connotations too! Use it for dramatic effect during a teary goodbye with your local host or Sherpa.
Found this guide useful? We’ve put together a bunch of other cool stuff that you can check out – like medical checks, must packs, visa guidelines, and bargaining techniques for travellers to India ! Or if you’re still not feeling confident, why not check out our list of micro-tours that not only guarantee you a unique perspective of the city, but also quality time with a passionate local who would be more than happy to help in whatever way they can!
You can also check out the SeekSherpa list of things to do in Delhi here and in Mumbai here. Keep checking back for other awesome stuff like Sherpa Stories coming soon!