Hosting Indian Friends and Family

After hosting Satya’s parents, one of Satya’s college buddies and wife, and his sister I am slowly starting to understand that hospitality expectations are different.  IndianTies had a great post about this in May.  (If only I’d read her post before his sister came!)  I’d like to add a few things that I’ve learned.

Entertaining at Home is Key

For family, especially, they’d rather eat in your home and be entertained at home than at a fancy restaurant.  Family cares about knowing the “real you”.  IndianTies mentions using your best stuff and serving drinks on trays (things Satya conveniently forgot to tell me about).  Is this really necessary?  Perhaps at first.  People who make the effort to come and visit you want to spend time with you, at your house. 

Be Careful About What People Really Mean

For this, it is best to rely on your spouse.  If you really want to do something for somebody, make sure you keep offering 3 or 4 times.  If they deny it more than that, for the most part let it go.  Minnesota has its own version of this (usually called “Minnesota nice”), but the Indian version goes a step further. 


People Who Stay in Your House Expect to Help Out

Do not be surprised if all of a sudden you have more help with        chopping veggies or with washing dishes.  In Minnesota it is more common for the host and hostess to do all the work.  I think this makes sense though because in general, Indian guests will stay for longer periods of time than U.S. guests.  GoriGirl wrote a lot about this in one of her posts.


One traditional belief that was new to me from my sister-in-law’s visit is that after a beloved guest leaves, you are not supposed to take a shower or clean up.  For us, Satya’s sister left in the afternoon and that meant that he did not want me to take a shower that night.   At first this seemed weird to me because Satya is nothing if not clean.  He later explained that it is the reverse of funerals.  When somebody dies and you attend the funeral, when you return home you take a shower and immediately clean all the clothes you were wearing.  Logically, this is for hygienic reasons but also perhaps for some spiritual closure?  Or to put some distance between you and the dead?  When a guest leaves you are not supposed to take a shower immediately because somehow that would break a bond and/or mean you do not wish your guest to return.  Biblically, I guess it is akin to “shaking the dust off your sandals”.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Minnesotan
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 21:46:04

    People in Minnesota will absolutely offer to help cook or clean after a meal. Perhaps it’s more common for the host/hostess to gently decline such an offer – believing it’s more polite – but especially in the home of a good friend or someone you’re staying with, there are offers to help out.

    True, it is different for good friends and close family members.


  2. dbals
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 17:43:50

    My understanding is different. You can take body bath but not full bath. Meaning, without wetting your hair on the head.

    Because taking a full bath is part of funeral ceremony. Symbolically it means you’re getting over that person. Interesting note here – Often in Indian movies, when the daughter leaves the father against his will to marry her lover, the father takes a full bath dropping a bucket of water over his head. Just to show – you’re dead to me.

    In the guest-host scenario, the host wishes the guest safe journey by not taking a full bath until they reach home. Same is true when someone close like husband or son/daughter is travelling abroad, the mother/wife refrains from taking a full bath.

    I didn’t know that about the movies….I will be watching out for that now.

    Thanks for your explanation….it definitely helps to fill in some holes in my husband’s explanation.


  3. Lyssie
    Oct 14, 2009 @ 00:41:53

    Thanks for this post, it’s very interesting. I’m dating a second-generation Scot of Indian descent, whose parents are from Karnataka – it’s totally possible, in fact, that they know Satya’s uncle/cousin! Just thought that was a funny coincidence 🙂


  4. goundan
    Jan 02, 2010 @ 04:59:34

    Funny, I’m an indian from India and I’ve never heard of this don’t wash yourself story.


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