Things you wanted do know when visiting an Indian home for dinner

Visiting India will not be complete without visiting an Indian home. If you intend to visit India and planning to visit someone at their home then here are some do’s and don’ts.

Clothes

If you are a woman then try to dress modestly unless you are going to a rave party in Mumbai. Most Indians are conservative by western standards and they might be offended if they see you in revealing clothes. Why not impress them and wear a salwar kameez. If you really wanted to flatter them then you can wear the saree. Here’s how to wear the saree.

Visiting an Indian Family for Dinner

Visiting an Indian Family for Dinner Photo – Sumit Jain

Shoes

Take your shoes off when entering the house. Indians consider shoes as impure and that is why you see us taking it off at temples. So take your shoes off when entering the house (not at the gates) unless they ask you to leave it on.

Salutations

You don’t really have to say Namaste to your guests. Hello or any other western greeting is fine. But do offer your Namaste by folding your hands together to any elders in the household. You can shake hands with the gents; say hello to the ladies and Namaste to the elders. Or if you are unsure, simply return the greeting in the same way you are greeted. Don’t go for that air-kiss greeting, cheek-to-cheek and smacky noises and certainly not kiss the cheek.

Gifts

Take something with you. Don’t go empty handed. Although Indians don’t expect anything from their guests, it’s a good idea to take something with you. In fact, it’s the opposite – it’s the host that is supposed to give you a return gift. But things have changed in India and we are slightly more materialistic. So my suggestion is to take something with you. A box of chocolates or Indian sweets would do the trick. (Don’t be surprised to be served the same sweets. I remember visiting a poor relative and as usual they showed great hospitality but they give me the same sweets to eat I had brought for them).

Alcohol and tobacco

Many Indian households refrain from consuming alcohol in their homes. But on the other hand – things have changed; wine and beer is being consumed widely. So if you do drink and if you are offered alcohol, take it. Don’t smoke, smoking is one of worst kind of ills in Indian society. Men usually go outside the house a few streets away to have a paan (betel leaf) or a smoke.

Don’t expect meat

Many Indian familiars are vegetarians, so if you are expecting meat then you’re out of luck. Even if they do offer meat, most likely its going to be chicken, goat meat or fish. No beef.

Eating with your hands

Many Indian’s eat with their hands. If you really want to impress your guest then eat as they do but there is not nothing harm in asking for a spoon. Don’t expect to be given a knife and fork.

Don’t react to burps

Don’t be surprised if someone is burping when they have had their dinner. Just ignore it. I know it sounds disgusting but burping is not considered as bad as they are in the west. You don’t have to burp in return – simply ignore it.

Complements

You should complement the lady of the house. Don’t tell her that she’s looking gorgeous or hot *not that kind of complement*. Complement her on the cooking.

Take photos

We Indians love being photographed. So why not gather the whole household together for a photo shoot. But ask them first. If you have a Polaroid camera, then give them a copy. They will be well chuffed.

Wash your hands

We Indians wash our hands and gargle our mouths after we’ve had our food, you could do the same.

Talk politics

We Indians love politics and have strong political views. If you really wanted to start up a mini-discussion, you could read up on the latest news by picking up a newspaper and polish up on your politics. For instance, you could talk about the “food security bill”, “development in Gujarat” or “is Delhi safe” and so on. Try not to disagree with the host.

Enjoy the food

There is nothing more that gives us pleasure than watching our guests enjoy their food. We go out of the way to make sure our guests are well looked after. So eat as much as your heart’s desire and show that you are enjoying it.

Be prepared

We love offering food to our guests. So don’t be surprised to see your plate being filled with more food without you asking for it. Indian hosts will insist you on having more food. You just have to make a judgement call on how much you want to eat.

Here are some Hindi food words and phrases you could use. Don’t forget to listen to me speaking it out.

Khana or bhojan – food
Pani – water
Chawal – rice
Roti – chapatti
Daal – lentils
Sabji – vegetables
Accha – good
Aachar – pickles
Daahi – yogurt
Aaloo – potato
Tamatar – tomato
Dhanevad – thank you
Mujhe bahut maaja aaya – I enjoyed myself
App ka khana bahut accha tha – Your food was really good
App ka khana bahut accha hai – Your food is really good

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49 Responses to “Things you wanted do know when visiting an Indian home for dinner”

  1. Hi Shalu,

    I liked the way you explained things so well that anyone visiting an Indian home should consider. Yes, just as it’s said when in Rome do as the Romans do – when in India, so as the Indians do :)

    Yes, a majority of the families still eat with their hands, and some even sit down to have their meals. There’s no question of using a fork and knife, or perhaps that culture is limited to only a few cities and homes. Removing your shoes outside the house, not serving non-veg, alcohol or smoking are things most Indians strongly believe in.

    But that’s how Indians are and it makes sense to be like them when in India, and I’m sure it’s the same with any other country you visit – you adapt their ways or culture for the time you are with them, isn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend :)
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  2. What an article! Though you have addressed it to foreign nationals, it is applicable to all Indians too. I am sure new hosts would pick up some useful tips from your article meant for guests.
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  3. So truely described specially ‘Don’t react to burps’ should strictly be maintained :-) :-)

  4. Wow
    Superb Post
    Sound Cloud enhance your post to a different level. You’re a mirror of India
    When you going to invite me and Harleena for dinner @ your home Shalu mam
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  5. marilyn cada says:

    hi shalu. japan has the same etiquette in terms of shoes. shoes should also be removed in entering the house and the host will give slippers to the guest. in terms of talking politics, it is discouraged here in our country unless both individuals have the same views about the political issue

    if people tend to have differing views in politics, arguments oftentimes arise and creates gap in relationships. this is the reason why talking about politics (and even differing views about religion) is discouraged
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    • Shalu Sharma says:

      You are right about Japan, they too have a lot of similarity with Indian customs. Politics is always a hot topic but as long you don’t disagree with the host then it should be fine. Thanks for your comment.
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  6. shamim says:

    Hi Shalu Mam i like the way you have explained about our Indian style which this post can give some hints about our cultures and so on. I have seen some foreigners in my state who been staying they love to learn something from us and been changed there dress code too it’s welcome one
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  7. Priyanka says:

    Hi Shalu

    Great piece of advice! But I disagree about couple of points. First, “wear salwar kameez”…why? Indian Women aren’t wearing it (I can provide so many fashion disaster examples in this particular case that some might consider it rude and crude). Then why enforce it on foreigners in the name of “appeasing conservative Indians.” Frankly, conservative Indians find a way to be displeased with anyone, so why bother with them. No one can please everyone! A decent top paired with jeans is just fine, like so many Indian women are doing. And if some foreign women want to wear Indian clothing then it should be their choice.

    Secondly, not all families ask guests or anyone visiting their homes to take off their shoes before entering. Its one rule not strictly followed anymore. Best way is to simply ask the host when in doubt. Lastly, I think foreigners always attract unwanted attention in India and mostly it’s not because of their “clothing.”
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    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Priyanka

      Thank you for making an interesting comment here. But there’s a couple of my own points.

      I am not asking any one to appease, its more about accommodating and showing appreciation. I have had foreign ladies for dinner at my home and I was very happy to see them in salwar kameez. And I am not conservative in any way. By the way, Indian women are wearing salwars and sarees by the hordes.

      You mention that not all families ask their guests to take their shoes off. Absolutely spot-on and that is why I have said those visiting should leave it on if the hosts say so. So nowhere I have mentioned one rule that shoes must come off.

      Thanks for commenting and I do hope you will comment again.

      Best wishes to you.
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  8. Ashutosh from Google SEO Optimization says:

    Hi Shalu,

    A nice post as always, things that most of the Indians love and appreciate but at the same time, I believe that the Indian perspective is changing with time.

    Today, we are more trending towards westernisation and it has given some new dimensions to our culture.

    I am not against the Indian culture, in fact, I love it and love the richness that is still carries in simple simple things that we do.

    It has its own value and own fun that can never be compromised with anything else.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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  9. I. C. Daniel says:

    I too eat with hands when is a proper food.

    However most of time I eat with something, spoon, fork, knife etc.

    See you next time Shalu. Best regards from Romania!
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  10. Pankaj says:

    Hi Shalu ji,

    Really nice tips for visiting any Indian home, I generally expect sweets or fruits whenever any relative visits in my home. ;) We also carry something especially sweets when we visit someone’s home. It’s really great way to show your affection and love.

    In earlier times, men used to smoke at home and hardly care if someone like it or not but now on Indian society is getting educated and knows the bad effects of smoking so they avoid smoking at home and do it far away from their home.
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  11. probate says:

    hey its really nice here i got over all view about Indian culture want an excellent way you shared the content. Basically our culture is totally different from others culture i loved it a lot. here we has many more thing to learn form our elder one.

  12. Pramod says:

    Hi Shalu !
    We all Indians expect every one who visits/stays_in our house(including family members to follow the rules/points that you have mentioned ) .Although most of the well cultivated Indians know these rules ..most of the foreigners might not be knowing it ..They should try to implement them in their own countries(Apart from Namaste) or when they visit India . Thanks for sharing the information .

    -Pramod
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  13. Vivek Baghel says:

    Hi Shalu,
    There are lot of thing to know when visiting an Indian home for dinner but I like your great list which you made & share in this post. I personally understand these are the best thing ! We do see our culture ! When we visit visiting an Indian home for dinner! We found the real indian culture. Well Thanks Shalu for nice & interesting post.

  14. So good to know Shalu. We will be visiting India for the first time in 1 month; lol on the burps. No big deal at all but in the West people are silly hahaha….thanks.
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  15. shiv from droidow says:

    Thanks Shalu, for detailed description. I think everyone will like this post. Thanks!!!
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  16. Partha says:

    For Indians Guest is God and thus we welcome all our guests and try to fulfill all their desires…… Nice topic again Shalu Mam

  17. Shalu this is right & great information about India, it does happen when we visit on an Indian home specially for dinner.
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  18. haha Don’t expect meat yeah some times and east with hands how .. :(
    great post and great topic ..
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  19. Shakil says:

    Meat is not considered in Indian homes in most of time. I hope that your tips will be useful to all foreign visitors visiting India..
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  20. What a nice article ? You mentioned all the things which we need to visit a pure indian home for both a foreigner or an indian too. If we will follow all these necessary things like don’t smoke inside home, Salutation in proper way(we always prefer”namaste”) then we will look like a civilised person and we also feel the same revert.So, we are indian and we always believe in “ATITHI DEVOY BHAVAY”

    Thanks

    Have a nice day!
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  21. Jones says:

    Well i say that Indians have the best culture in the world . And you have written a best post regarding the Indian homes . The best thing that i like is “Eating with hands ” :)
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  22. Hi Shalu…
    Great list of Do’s and Don’t.
    It will definitely help for Host and Guest both to have a happy gathering and Dinner too.
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  23. This is very useful article and helps me to understand values in indian culture. Thank you madam for this article.

  24. Rita lopes says:

    hi.
    Thanks for posting such helpful and knowledgeable post this is actually full of information
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  25. Laura says:

    Maybe one day I will be in the position of using all these great tips of yours. And even if that will never happen, this was a great read that taught me so much about Indian culture and private life.
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  26. Ross Victor says:

    Great tips. Every Forigner would get help from this guide. The same applies for other Asian countries as culture and rituals are same to India
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  27. Sujit says:

    Thank you such a useful article it helps to understand Indian culture.
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  28. dubaiflower says:

    Where there is a party, the flowers are the most important factor which can change the atmosphere of the whole party. I would like to thanks for sharing the useful stuff.

  29. Anetta Bursh says:

    This is very interesting Shalu,
    Now I know how to carry myself, wear, eat and carry as a gift while going to visit my Indian friends. Thanks for sharing
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  30. Chauffeur Hire London says:

    Interesting stuff!! mostly just one thing keep in mind that most of Indian families are too religious they heart-corely following their tradition. Thanks for sharing blog while reading this blog i actually proud that i am belong to this country.

  31. Deepak Gaude says:

    Nice Article on different topic of India….. well written keep going. Thanks from Deepak Gaude.

  32. Luissmary45 says:

    Really this article contains huge amount of information. I think it would be helpful for all. Thank you for sharing with us.

  33. Salman says:

    Pretty nice share on Indian culture and habits. I guess anyone would have a nice experience visiting an Indian home upon reading this.
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  34. Abdul Ghani says:

    Great info!It helps to learn more about the Incredible INDIAN culture.Thanks for sharing :)
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