Includes Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka & Nepal.

Caution: These are broad generalizations and should not be used to stereotype any individuals.

Direct eye contact may be seen as rude or disrespectful, especially among the elderly.

Silence often indicates acceptance or approval.

Some may not want to sign consents; they consider health care professionals to be the authorities, and may prefer to have them make the decisions.

A side-to-side head bob may indicate agreement or uncertainty. An up-and-down nod may indicate disagreement, while acknowledging what the speaker is saying.

Husbands may answer questions addressed to wife.

Males should avoid shaking hands with females unless she offers her hand first.

Family/Gender Issues
Close female family members will often remain with patient; family members will often take over ADLs (Activities of Daily Living, such as feeding, grooming, etc.) for patient. Do not insist upon self-care unless medically necessary.

The father or eldest son usually has decision-making power, but generally family members are consulted before decisions are made.

May prefer same-sex caregivers due to modesty.

Expression of Pain
Generally stoic, however, moaning and screaming are acceptable during the birth of the first child.

Muslim patients may not want narcotics for anything other than severe pain.

Pregnancy & Birth
Pregnant Hindu women are often encouraged to eat nuts, raisins, coconuts and fruits to have a healthy, beautiful baby.

Dried ginger powder, celery seeds, nuts and puffed lotus seeds may be given to the new Hindu mother to cleanse her system and restore her strength.

East Indian women practice a post-partum lying-in period. It is expected that they feed the baby, but that everything else is done for them. Traditionally, female relatives would take over. If none are with them, they may expect nurses to do so.

End of Life Issues
Some may prefer to have fatal diagnosis given to family member. Family will then decide whether and how much to reveal to the patient. Discuss with patient whom information should be given. It is best to do this well in advance of need.

Health Related Practices
Sikh’s are enjoined not to cut their hair or shave their beard. Their hair will usually be worn in a turban. Consider this before cutting or shaving any hair in preparation for surgery.

Hindus will generally not eat meat or fish; some may not eat eggs. Muslims will not eat pork.

Those who believe in Ayurvedic medicine (Hindus, Sikhs and some Muslims) see food in terms of a hot/cold classification, based on qualities inherent in the food, rather than on the temperature. “Hot” foods (meat, fish, eggs, yogurt, honey, nuts) will be given for “cold” conditions such as fever or surgery, especially in winter. “Cold” foods (e.g., milk, butter, cheese, fruits & vegetables) should be eaten in the summer and for “hot” conditions, including pregnancy.

Note: most of the material contained in this profile is adapted from Rajwani, R., J. (1996) South Asians. In JG Lipson, SL Dibble, and PA Minarik (Eds.), Culture and Nursing Care: A Pocket Guide (pp. 264-279). San Francisco: UCSF Nursing Press.

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