Minding your manners in India – Part 3 Minding your manners in India – Part 3

Minding your manners in India – Part 3
14 Mar 2018

In the last of our three-part series on business etiquette in India, we explore what you need to know if a colleague invites you round for dinner and how to get there and what to tip if you dine out: 

Entertainment

It is common for foreigners to be invited for dinner or a meal at the home of an Indian business contact. Indians take great pride and joy in hosting guests, especially those from abroad, and serving them home-cooked traditional meals.

If you are invited to an Indian home for dinner, it is recommended you take some kind of gift such as a box of sweets or flowers. If your host has children, taking a small gift for them is also appreciated. Should you visit during a festival, it is customary to bring a box of sweets known as “mithai.” 

In many Indian homes, people remove their shoes before entering. Observing this custom is important so if you notice your host is not wearing shoes, you should remove yours as well - unless they insist you keep them on.

Should you attend a wedding and choose to give money as a gift, note that the custom is to add an extra rupee for good luck (101, 501, 1001 and so on). To do so is considered auspicious and your gift will be more appreciated as a result.

Drinking alcohol is culturally unacceptable in some parts of India and many Indians do not drink at home. But if your host does so and keeps alcohol in the house, partaking of it will not be a problem.

India has produced its own (originally British) spirits such as gin and whiskey for a long time and, while variable in quality, they can be good. If you are familiar with the drinking preferences of your colleague, a nice bottle of something from duty free would be an acceptable gift.

Food

Eating and drinking are intrinsic aspects of Indian culture and numerous local customs and religions mean there is great variety here. It is common practice for hosts to offer beverages such as tea, coffee and soft drinks as well as light snacks to guests, even during business meetings.

If you ask for, or are offered, water, it is fine to ask if it is filtered or from a bottle. Most Indians only drink filtered water and will understand your need to clarify the situation before partaking.

If you are holding several meetings in a day or feel full, it is acceptable to decline the first offer of food and drink. In fact, it is customary (although not mandatory) to do so, but to accept the second or third offer. It would be considered a breach of etiquette not to accept something small to eat or drink at all, however. Even if you leave the goods untouched or consume only a little, it is better than refusing outright.

For a large number of Hindus, eating meat is a religious taboo. While planning a meal for your Indian guests or placing an order at a restaurant, it makes sense to ask if they are vegetarians or not. Moreover, it is worth bearing in mind that, while much Indian food is eaten with the fingers, it is customary to eat with the right hand only.

In reference to drinking, it is better to ask a guest “what would you like to drink?” than “can I get you a beer?” Even guests who drink alcohol will not always do so on occasions such as religious festivals, or if there is an older, highly-respected relative present.

As a result, it is prudent to make fruit juices, soft drinks, and bottled water available. Fresh lime sodas are a mainstay of Indian rehydration and come in two versions – sweet and salty.

Tipping

In India, excessive tipping is uncommon, but a certain amount is expected. In most restaurants, 10% is enough. But if you would like to show your appreciation, you can give more by leaving the change.

Many taxis or auto-rickshaws simply round their fares up to the nearest whole amount. But it is advisable to negotiate rates and confirm the figure with your driver before getting into the vehicle - and also to check your change thoroughly.

As a quick aside, cab aggregators such as Uber, Ola and Meru, which offer dynamic fare-pricing, also operate in several large Indian cities.

Visas and vaccinations

All foreigners visiting India require a visa. When applying for one, you may need a letter from your Indian contact explaining the purpose of your meeting.

It is also important to visit the doctor before a trip to the country in order to check which vaccinations or boosters you require. Visitors usually take anti-malaria drugs that should typically be started one week prior to travel.

Safety

Since the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the city has taken a number of steps to strengthen security. These attacks are similar to others that have occurred in European cities in recent years and so when visiting India, visitors should take the same precautions they would in any large city anywhere in the world.

As for women travellers, most Indians are friendly and curious, and as long as females are dressed modestly and accompanied ideally by friends or a host, they should not experience any issues with daytime excursions.

 

First published by India Briefing.

Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding foreign clients through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and ASEAN, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in this region and beyond. For inquiries, please email usat info@dezshira.com. Further information about the firm can be found at: www.dezshira.com.

 

 

In the last of our three-part series on business etiquette in India, we explore what you need to know if a colleague invites you round for dinner and how to get there and what to tip if you dine out: 

Entertainment

It is common for foreigners to be invited for dinner or a meal at the home of an Indian business contact. Indians take great pride and joy in hosting guests, especially those from abroad, and serving them home-cooked traditional meals.

If you are invited to an Indian home for dinner, it is recommended you take some kind of gift such as a box of sweets or flowers. If your host has children, taking a small gift for them is also appreciated. Should you visit during a festival, it is customary to bring a box of sweets known as “mithai.” 

In many Indian homes, people remove their shoes before entering. Observing this custom is important so if you notice your host is not wearing shoes, you should remove yours as well - unless they insist you keep them on.

Should you attend a wedding and choose to give money as a gift, note that the custom is to add an extra rupee for good luck (101, 501, 1001 and so on). To do so is considered auspicious and your gift will be more appreciated as a result.

Drinking alcohol is culturally unacceptable in some parts of India and many Indians do not drink at home. But if your host does so and keeps alcohol in the house, partaking of it will not be a problem.

India has produced its own (originally British) spirits such as gin and whiskey for a long time and, while variable in quality, they can be good. If you are familiar with the drinking preferences of your colleague, a nice bottle of something from duty free would be an acceptable gift.

Food

Eating and drinking are intrinsic aspects of Indian culture and numerous local customs and religions mean there is great variety here. It is common practice for hosts to offer beverages such as tea, coffee and soft drinks as well as light snacks to guests, even during business meetings.

If you ask for, or are offered, water, it is fine to ask if it is filtered or from a bottle. Most Indians only drink filtered water and will understand your need to clarify the situation before partaking.

If you are holding several meetings in a day or feel full, it is acceptable to decline the first offer of food and drink. In fact, it is customary (although not mandatory) to do so, but to accept the second or third offer. It would be considered a breach of etiquette not to accept something small to eat or drink at all, however. Even if you leave the goods untouched or consume only a little, it is better than refusing outright.

For a large number of Hindus, eating meat is a religious taboo. While planning a meal for your Indian guests or placing an order at a restaurant, it makes sense to ask if they are vegetarians or not. Moreover, it is worth bearing in mind that, while much Indian food is eaten with the fingers, it is customary to eat with the right hand only.

In reference to drinking, it is better to ask a guest “what would you like to drink?” than “can I get you a beer?” Even guests who drink alcohol will not always do so on occasions such as religious festivals, or if there is an older, highly-respected relative present.

As a result, it is prudent to make fruit juices, soft drinks, and bottled water available. Fresh lime sodas are a mainstay of Indian rehydration and come in two versions – sweet and salty.

Tipping

In India, excessive tipping is uncommon, but a certain amount is expected. In most restaurants, 10% is enough. But if you would like to show your appreciation, you can give more by leaving the change.

Many taxis or auto-rickshaws simply round their fares up to the nearest whole amount. But it is advisable to negotiate rates and confirm the figure with your driver before getting into the vehicle - and also to check your change thoroughly.

As a quick aside, cab aggregators such as Uber, Ola and Meru, which offer dynamic fare-pricing, also operate in several large Indian cities.

Visas and vaccinations

All foreigners visiting India require a visa. When applying for one, you may need a letter from your Indian contact explaining the purpose of your meeting.

It is also important to visit the doctor before a trip to the country in order to check which vaccinations or boosters you require. Visitors usually take anti-malaria drugs that should typically be started one week prior to travel.

Safety

Since the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the city has taken a number of steps to strengthen security. These attacks are similar to others that have occurred in European cities in recent years and so when visiting India, visitors should take the same precautions they would in any large city anywhere in the world.

As for women travellers, most Indians are friendly and curious, and as long as females are dressed modestly and accompanied ideally by friends or a host, they should not experience any issues with daytime excursions.

 

First published by India Briefing.

Since its establishment in 1992, Dezan Shira & Associates has been guiding foreign clients through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assisting them with all aspects of legal, accounting, tax, internal control, HR, payroll and audit matters. As a full-service consultancy with operational offices across China, Hong Kong, India and ASEAN, we are your reliable partner for business expansion in this region and beyond. For inquiries, please email usat info@dezshira.com. Further information about the firm can be found at: www.dezshira.com.