Hindi Language Blog

Bargaining Basics and Shopping in India Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in Hindi Language

Whether you are shopping for gold ornaments at the jewelers, picking vegetables in an open-air market, or buying clothes in small or large shops, bargaining is an integral part of the Indian shopping experience.

Indians love to bargain. And shopkeepers or store salesmen love to push back. To a newcomer to India, shopping can be either completely exhausting (if you are trying to bargain) or incredibly simple (if you get taken in).

Except in malls where bargaining is usually not an option, or in many large air-conditioned stores that discourage bargaining upfront by posting signs that say “Fixed Price,” to bargain (or sometimes haggle) is commonplace and expected almost everywhere in India. Every large city or town has a market that is famous for different things and a trip to one of these is absolutely imperative if you want to see the breadth of local crafts and wares.

Delhi’s Palika Bazaar is famous for clothes, footwear, cheap electronics, and a mind-boggling range of knick-knacks and trinkets. “Although bargaining is the mantra for shopping anywhere in Delhi, it must be followed here rigorously,” quips the Delhi Tourism website.

If you are in Mumbai, some of the best street-side shopping is to be experienced at Fashion Street where shopkeepers from nearly 400 shops along M.G. Road (nearAzad Maidan in South Mumbai) try to entice you into purchasing a variety of clothes and accessories. Here, you will find export rejects as well as cheap imitations of branded fashion wear.

When I first ventured into Fashion Street, my older friends gave me some sage bargaining advice:

“If they ask for Rs. 200, you offer Rs.100. If they refuse the offer, you walk away … until they bring down the price to Rs. 150.” And so forth, until you reached a price point that worked for both parties.

Conversation: Shopping for a Kurta

Let’s listen to this conversation of a lady shopping for a kurta (tunic). 

Lady: भाईसाहब इस कुर्ते का क्या दाम है?
Bhai-saahub, is kurte ka kya daam hai?
(Excuse me, what is the cost of this kurta?)

Shopkeeper: जी, यह पाँच सौ का है।
Jee, yeh paanch sau rupaiye ka hai.
(Ma’am, it costs 500 rupees.)

Lady: पाँच सौ! यह तो बहुत ज़्यादा है।
Paanch sau! Yeh to bahut zyada hai.
(500! That is too much.)

Shopkeeper: क्या कह रहे हैं बहनजी। यह बहुत अच्छा कपड़ा है।
Kya keh rahe hain behenji. Yeh bahut accha kapda hai.
(What are you saying, ma’am. This is very good cloth/material.)

 Conversation vocabulary: 
The words in bold are transliterations and pronunciations.

भाईसाहब   bhaai-saa-hub – literally means “brother.” Here, it’s a polite way of getting attention, sort of like saying “Excuse me, brother.”
इस           iss – this
कैसे          kaise (kay-say) – how
कुर्ते का     koorte ka – kurta’s (koorta means tunic. ka signifies possession in second
or third person. for example, Nina  ka means Nina’s.
क्या         kya  – what
दाम         daam  – price/cost
है             hai (hay) – is
जी           jee  – a suffix that can also be used by itself to denote respect
(for example, teacherji or auntyji)
यह          ye-ha – this
पाँच        paanch – 5
सौ          sow –  100
बहुत       b-hooth – a lot/very
ज़्यादा     zee-yaa-daa – a lot/high
क्या         kya – what
कह रहे हैं  kah rahey hain are you saying
बहनजी    behen jee – sister (behen literally means sister, but is used commonly
to address women you don’t know)
अच्छा      a-cchhaa – good
कपड़ा       kapdaa – cloth

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About the Author: Nitya

Namaste, friends. My name is Nitya. I was born and raised in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). I'm a native Hindi speaker. However, as life took me through school, college, work, and waves of friends from different parts of India, my repertoire of Hindi flavors and dialects grew and added dimension to my native fluency. Casual, formal, colloquial, and regional ... Hindi is a language with incredible variety and localization. Through this blog, I will help you learn Hindi through conversations, vocabulary, colloquialisms, and glimpses of Indian culture. आओ, मिलकर हिंदी सीखते हैं। (Aao, milkar Hindi seekhte hain!) Come, let's learn Hindi together.


  1. A~:

    Oh my–the audio clip is spot on! It sounds exactly like people talk in shops!!

    One question: can you talk a bit about when/with whom to use “bhai sahib”? What kind of situations would you use it in? How much (or how little) respect does it convey? I have heard middle-aged people use the term, but I can’t figure out appropriate usage.

    • Nitya:

      @A~ Bhai-sahub literally means brother (respectfully). However, bhai-sahub can be used any time to politely address a gent/male person who is unknown to you.

      For e.g., you could use bhai-sahub when you address the taxi driver.
      You could say, “Bhai-sahub, station chalenge?” भाईसाहब, स्टेशन चलेंगे? (Excuse me, will you go to the station?) Here, bhai-sahub loosely takes the place of “Excuse me.”

      In another example, say your friend introduces you to her husband. You would then greet your friend’s husband by saying: “Namastay bhai-sahub.” नमस्ते भाईसाहब।

      I hope that clarifies it a little more for you 🙂

      • A~:

        @Nitya That does help! Is it typically used by a certain age-group? I have mostly heard middle-aged and older people using it. Could young adults use it?

        • Nitya:

          @A~ Yes, young adults can use it, too. It’s female counterpart is “behen-jee” which is used to address or get the attention of an unknown lady. Men can also address other male persons with the term “bhai-sahub.” In quite the same way, women can address other women as “behen-jee.”

  2. A~:

    I’ve heard behen-ji but it doesn’t usually have a great connotation!! 😀