As with anywhere, Indian dining etiquette can vary from region to region. However, there are some typical ‘rules’ of Indian dining that will help you enjoy a meal in a traditional Indian style.
Before the meal
Indians are naturally very welcoming and hospitable, therefore, it is often customary to be invited around to meals. The phrase, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, is a longstanding belief in Indian culture. It is translated to the guest is god. Therefore, being invited around should be considered an honour. Before the meal starts, there will often be light snacks to enjoy.
During the meal
When the meal is announced, you must wash and dry your hands. This will show that you’re ready for the meal. Traditionally, in western cultures, you may be used to course. This concept does not exist in Indian dining. Many dishes will be prepared and then served ready for everyone to help themselves to.
Generally, cutlery is not used in Indian culture. Many even claim that food taste better when eaten with your hands. To do so successfully, you should use the tips of your fingers. If you’re struggling with this, utilising flatbreads such as chapatis and rotis can help. However, when you’re eating with your hand you must not use your left hand, regardless of your preference. You can use your left hand for passing dishes and drinking, but not for eating food off your plate.
After the meal
It is often assumed that if there are leftovers on your plate that your guests are unsatisfied. Naturally, like in any culture, it would be polite to be gracious and complimentary to the meal you’ve just enjoyed. You shouldn’t stand up and leave the table prior to the host or the eldest person at the table. This would be considered rude.
Mostly, with any Indian dining experience, it’s all about eating delicious food and having fun. Although it may seem like there are many rules, don’t be worried. Dining like an Indian is all about enjoying the company you’re in and enjoying yourself.