India is a closed-knit society, with tradition in all of it aspects. It is such a huge country, with varied cultures, languages, traditions and customs that, you can never really reach to one collective opinion on India. You have to experience every region, lifestyle, geographical space, season, to be able to make not just one, but varied opinions on India. There is so much diversity in the culture here, which shows in all of its features. Food is one of the dynamic features of this culmination of different cultures, called India. Whichever part of India you will visit, you will find that food is an important aspect of that particular regional culture and binds in it, a lot of intricacies of the culture it represents. Every region is characteristically different when it comes to food. If you would like to familiarize yourself with all the different cultures of India, then you certainly can not leave ‘food’ behind. As there’s a difference in the preparation of food, likewise there is difference in the food manners of every region. While most of it is basically the same, but there still are minute differences that should be understood and accepted by a new member or a visitor. It is highly recommended. Here are a few basic things you should take care of.
Table Manners & Etiquettes in India
- Traditionally, Indian food is served on a rug on the floor and people are supposed to sit in a circle. This has changed in the recent times. With the slow seep in of the westernization, the use of dinning tables has become prevalent. It has much more logic to it as well, as the architecture of houses has changed. It is much more modern in outlook and sitting on the floor for eating does not make any sense, any more. Although, there are still houses and regions in India that follow the same tradition. In case you are using a table, let the eldest person sit first. This is the sign of respect in India. The eldest is generally the authoritative figure in the house. Disrespecting this factor may lead to the disappointment of the whole household. The host is supposed to sit in a direction from where he/she can see everyone around him. This is because of the convenience of the host, so that he/she can keep an eye on everyone and can cater to someone’s need.
- When everyone is seated, wait for the food to be served. You should not chatter unnecessarily, with the people around you. This is a basic table manner followed in all the different parts of the world. In India, eating together is an important part of the culture. There are households that take it very seriously. To be frivolous around that time, may lead to someone getting upset. So, it is recommended, that you do not speak unless you are spoken to, or it is something of utmost importance.
- Indian tradition does not emphasize on the use of cutlery, which is considered to be a part of western culture, such as fork and knife. Indian food such as curries and gravies are enjoyed best when eaten with hands. It is an innate part of the culture to eat with hands. It is because of the nature and consistency of the food.
- Wash hands properly before starting as much of the food is eaten with hands, even if you are using basic cutleries such as spoon and fork. It is more of the hygienic habit that has taken its place in the culture. It is a good practice to wash your hands before eating.
- Wait for the eldest to start first. Even if you are starving don’t attack the food or east hastily. It is considered disrespectful and a bad manner.
- You are not expected to use your left hand while eating. Even breads and chapattis are broken into pieces using the right hand alone. But you are supposed to transfer food from the common plate using your clean left hand.
- In north India it is not acceptable to stain your hands with gravies or curries, only fingertips it used to pick and gather food. However, in south India, you can take liberty to dip your hand up to your palms.
- Don’t flood your plate with food. You don’t have to taste each and every dish served. Finish your whole food before asking for more. Wasting food is considered disrespect to the host and the food.
- Once you have finished your food, don’t leave the table until the host asks you to. If you have to leave the table, ask for the permission from the people before leaving. This is a way to show your gratitude towards your host.
- Don’t wash your hands in your plate or on the bay leaf and you are not expected to close the bay leaf- if you are in south India. Use a finger bowl (lemon and water) to wash your greasy hands.
- You are expected to say polite terms like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ as a courtesy towards your host. The host puts in a lot of trouble in preparing extensive meals. The least that we should do is thank them for their hospitality. Meals are an exclusive way to get together in India; people meet on meals and have a hearty time with each other. Especially during the important festivals in India, big meals are prepared. All of the extensive family members decide to get together at one person’s house and the host looks after all the arrangements.