India: Prosperous Entertaining – Part 2


Eating cont’d and business entertaining

Traditional Indian dishes are eaten with the hands. When it is necessary to use your hands, use only your right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean. It’s considered acceptable, however, to pass dishes with the left hand.

Offering food from your plate to another person is not culturally acceptable, since this practice is seen as ‘unclean.’

Drinking is prohibited among Muslims, Sikhs and in many other Indian communities. However, with changing times, and especially among urban educated Indians, this is not strictly observed.

It is better to ask your guest: ‘What would you like to drink?’ rather than ‘Can I get you a beer?’ Even guests who drink will not drink alcohol on certain occasions such as religious festivals or if there is an older, highly respected relative present. Therefore, it is prudent to have fruit-juices and/or soft-drinks available for the non-drinkers.

Traditional Indian women, regardless of their religion, don’t smoke or drink. Among urban elite Indians, however, some women do drink wine or beer, and also smoke.

Compared to a few years back, most well-known brands of hard liquors [whiskey and scotch] are now available in India. Many Indian brands are also as good as the global brands. However, most Indian drinkers feel that an imported foreign brand of drink is superior to Indian brands.

Business Entertaining

Business lunches are preferable to dinners in India. However, in recent times, business dinners and ‘power breakfasts’ are also becoming popular.

Mostly, business meals are organized in either high-class restaurants or in five-star hotels. Some of these places are very much in demand, and you will need to book your table in advance.

In large cities [e.g., Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, etc.], restaurants offer a wide choice of cuisines, ranging from traditional Indian food to Chinese, Thai, Continental, etc. In selecting the restaurant, you must check what cuisines the restaurant offers to suit the tastes of your guests.

Most restaurants have separate smoking and non-smoking sections, and you must select the space according to the preference of your guests.

Most Indian dishes are quite spicy to the western palate. While ordering Indian food you might want to ask the waiter/steward how spicy a given dish will be.

Toasting is not a normal custom in India. However, in business meals where drinks are served, it is normal for the host to toast by raising the glass and saying ‘cheers.’

If a business associate invites you for a meal, unless it is an official function, it is customary to arrive a few minutes late.

Businesswomen can take Indian businessmen out for a meal without causing awkwardness or embarrassment. A male guest, however, may insist on paying for the meal. Conversely, if you are a male, and are invited for a meal by an Indian businesswoman, it is expected that you will offer to pay [which, though, may be politely declined].

Normally, excessive tipping is not encouraged, but a certain amount of tip is expected. In most restaurants, 10% is a sufficient tip, which may be added to the bill. You can, however, give an additional tip by leaving the change to show your appreciation.

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