Indian customs are ancient and fascinating. If you are taking a trip to India or if you have frequent interaction with Indian people, it is likely that you would receive an invitation to visit them at home. This custom of India is a natural part of their lives, so do not be surprised; accept the invitation and look forward to an extremely interesting and pleasant experience. To help you along, here are some Indian customs you should be aware of.
1. Gifts for Your Host
Although it is not necessary or one of the essential Indian customs to take a gift when you are invited to an Indian home, if you would like to, then it would be greatly appreciated. Should you not be on familiar terms with the family, or have difficulty deciding what to get them, an item that is something from your own culture would always be welcomed.
2. How to Dress
Within Indian social customs, exposing too much skin and wearing revealing clothes are not regarded as acceptable, particularly for a woman. Therefore, avoid making your hosts feel uncomfortable. Wear something conservative and they will be happy
3. Entering a Home and Footwear
Among the customs of India, feet and footwear are regarded as being unclean. As such, it is usual practice to take footwear off at the front door before entering a house. You can then enter your host’s home, barefooted.
4. Introduction and Traditional Greetings
Indian customs include “Namaste” or the “joining of hands,” which have different meanings. Following the first introductions, the greetings will be completed with the Namaste. Although some people regard it as an Eastern bow of respect, many others believe it is saying that “I greet you without previous inhibition or prejudice.” Many traditional families use the greeting of Namaste, and as part of your Indian experience, accept and enjoy the respect paid to you and return the greeting.
5. Physical Contact
In many parts of the world today, a hug or a kiss on one or both cheeks have become traditional methods of greeting and signs of affection. However, the Indian people are a conservative nation, with hugs and kisses not accepted as common social practice. This especially applies to interaction between new acquaintances, when shaking hands is the most that would be accepted.
6. Alcohol and Smoking
Some of the religious customs of India mean alcohol is not served at the dinner table and generally, it is considered taboo in many homes. Therefore, do not expect that it will be served unless it is especially mentioned by your host. This also applies to smoking. A woman smoking is a rare event, so do not offer one a cigarette as it could be seen as a sign of disrespect. If you are a smoker, then always get the approval of your host before lighting a cigarette. Although the men do smoke outside the home, usually at work, they do not smoke inside the house.
It is one of the customs of India that every person washes their hands before starting and after finishing a meal. This is because it is usual practice for most families to eat with their hands. Even if cutlery is used, hands are still washed before a meal.
8. Showing Courtesy and Respect
It is a recognized custom in India to always get permission from your host before taking any photographs of the family. This particularly applies to women. Should you want to ask questions and learn more about Indian culture, religion or beliefs it is acceptable providing, you do not come across as being derogatory or having a condescending manner. You can pay a great and welcome compliment to the lady of the home by praising the food. Be sure to tell her what you liked most and why; ask her questions and even for a particular recipe.
There are many Indian customs and many relate to particular religions. If you are invited to an Indian home, it is definitely worth knowing if your hosts are Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, as the food culture is very different between all three of these main Indian religions. Do a little research beforehand so you won’t commit any major faux pas that would offend your hosts. What is your take on these customs?