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”.

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Hospitality

This past weekend, Satya’s brother and his wife visited our apartment for the first time.  Satya’s mom made sure we followed a hospitality tradition.  His brother and his wife both had to eat something from our apartment.  We offered them a banana since they weren’t really hungry at that time-actually they each had half a banana.  Satya’s mom just made it seem very important that we offered them something and they ate it.

In general, it seems that all cultures value hospitality and offering guests enough food and water to satisfy.

I wonder what is so special about the first time someone visits?  Is it supposed to set a precedent of hospitality?  To ensure that we have family and friends visit us regularly?  Here in the U.S. I’ve never experienced this particular tradition before so am curious.