Socializing in India

By Jean Williams

The divide between home and work is much more fluid than in the Western world.  It is not unusual to meet someone for the first time and upon departing, the Indian acquaintance most likely will suggest another get-together to include a meal that could be at the person’s home.  Even though there is no tradition of gift giving for such an occasion, a few do’s and don’ts should be regarded.

photo by Scott Kafora

Flowers as presents to the family or gifts from the U. S. are always welcome but the colors black and white should be avoided as this denotes being unlucky.  Chocolates and sweets such as donuts are appreciated as well. It is best to arrive twenty to thirty minutes late which may be the case anyway as street signs do not exit leaving one to memorize the turns and landmarks from directions.

Before entering the home, shoes are always left outside the door.  Most likely a glass of water will be served upon arrival and it is expected to finish the drink even in one take.  The Indians have the good habit of having a liquid a couple of hours before eating and not drinking with the meal.  An array of starters (appetizers) may be offered but knowing that an abundance of main course will be presented later, it is important to pace the consumption of food throughout the evening and it is polite to clean the plate.

It is best to refrain from saying “please” or “thank you” since there is no need in the Indian culture as appreciation is understood and a continuous showing of gratitude may become annoying to the host.

Eating in India is a fascinating culinary trip and some practices may be difficult for Westerners to make the adjustment, such as sitting on the floor and eating with the hands.  Sometimes a low stool is offered as a compromise and perhaps a low table, but it could be that the food is served on fastened banana leaves as a plate especially during a special gathering.

Respecting the Indian customs and traditions has assisted Scott and me by making many friends.  In fact, we often remark that we have made more friends during the past three months than during any time period of our lives.

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  1. Beautiful, everything I always wanted to know about socializing in India!

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