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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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