Etiquette in India

Eating and the right-hand rule

Eat with your right hand only. In India, as right across Asia, the left hand is for wiping your bottom, cleaning your feet and other unsavoury functions (you also put on and take off your shoes with your left hand), while the right hand is for eating, shaking hands and so on.

You must not eat, pass food or wipe your mouth with your left hand.

The other rule to beware of when eating or drinking is that your lips must not touch other people’s food.

It is not difficult to eat with your fingers, but there are a few rules of Indian etiquette that have to be observed:

1. The left hand is not used for eating, (even if you are left-handed,) this is considered offensive and unclean.

2. Wait to be served. Remember you are eating with your hands and your right hand will be messy, therefore you will leave the serving spoon all sticky and messy too. Don’t be tempted to use your left hand as it is bad Indian etiquette and considered offensive.

3. The hygiene of jootha:

While sharing is good Indian etiquette and manners, sharing a glass, spoon, drinking bottle etc., coming into contact with another’s spit is called joothaand is considered offensive in many parts of India.

4. In Indian etiquette never offer anyone food from your thali, even if it is in one of the little bowls and you haven't touched it. All the food that is placed on your thali becomes jootha: There is no precise English equivalent ofjootha. I suppose 'contaminated' comes closest in meaning.

Mostly Indian etiquette has the same basic rules as Western etiquette, for example:

5. Wash your hands before and after a meal.

6. Ask for whatever you want instead of reaching out directly or pointing at dishes.

7. Don’t make too much noise; don’t talk with food in your mouth.

8. Wait until everyone else is sitting down before starting to eat.

9. Help clear the dishes, unless it is not acceptable in that particular custom.

10. Don’t talk on your cell phone during the meal and if you must get up in-between, ask to be excused.

  • When invited to an Indian family home for dinner, it is considered good Indian etiquette to give a gift, such as a box of chocolates or flowers. If your host has children, a gift for the child (a toy or a book) is a good gesture and totally acceptable.
  • If you are planning to give flowers, check with the florist as to what would be appropriate Indian etiquette.
  • Drinking alcohol is culturally not accepted in most parts of India. Many Indian families do not keep alcohol in the home.
  • However, if your host drinks and keeps drinks at home, a bottle of whisky or wine is an acceptable gift.

Social & Family Etiquette

  • Before entering an Indian family home, take off your shoes/sandals and leave them outside.
  • It is considered good manners to arrive 15 to 30 minutes late.
  • It is not good manners to say 'thank you' at the end of the meal. This is considered as an inappropriate and impersonal gesture. However, it is good etiquette to show appreciation and invite your hosts out to dinner in the future.
  • If you are hosting a social event in India for mainly Indian people, it would be good etiquette to contact every person by phone personally, even if you have already sent a printed invitation.
  • Invitations must be sent out early, and follow up phone calls should be made close to the day of the event.
  • In a business meeting it is considered rude and poor etiquette to just jump in with work related conversation. Meetings usually start with small talk about non-work related topics. Personal questions about your family, children, trip etc., are not considered rude and prying, it is just part of the friendly, Indian social etiquette.

Business Card Etiquette

Presenting and exchanging business cards are a necessary part of Indian etiquette when doing business in India. You must bring plenty since people exchange business cards even in non-business situations.

Dress Etiquette

  • Indian dress etiquette for women: your attire will often signal your status, and casual dress will make it more difficult for you to elicit respect. Loose, cool clothing that covers up as much as possible. Exposed flesh suggests that you're too poor to dress properly, or that you're shameless about flaunting your body.
  • Tight clothes are also considered shameless in Indian etiquette and culture; the more you can disguise your shape, the better.
  • Shoes are never worn in places of worship - you are even required to remove your shoes when entering certain churches.
  • Normal business dress for men is a suit and tie. However, since India has a warm climate, often just a full-sleeved shirt with a tie is also acceptable. It is also important to select neutral colors, which are subdued and not very bright.
  • For women, a salwar-suit is also acceptable for business dress.

Appointments Etiquette

Indian etiquette can be seen as a bit erratic when it comes to keeping appointments. But that would only be on Western etiquette standards. However, the Indian people do appreciate punctuality and keeping one's commitments. However, many visitors to India find it very disconcerting that often the Indian people themselves are quite casual in keeping their time commitments. One of the reasons for this is that in their mind, time is generally not considered as the objective yardstick for planning and scheduling one's activities

Here are some tips to have good manners, in different situations, experiencing new things feeling secure and reliable making no offense to any member of the site.

Try to remember that Indian people are very sensitive to refusals of their hospitality; you must be good manners and etiquette following references named above.

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