In India, some of the biggest deals are apt to happen in a restaurant rather than a boardroom. Knowing how to navigate a business lunch in India can help you seal deals and solidify important business relationships. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re invited out for a business lunch in India.
If you’re ever invited to a business lunch in India, the first rule of etiquette is always to accept the invitation. India’s culture largely is driven by relationships, and saying no to an invitation is declining a chance to enhance your connection to your colleagues, clients, or potential associates.
What to Wear
Business attire is usually required – choose the same type of outfit you’d wear to an office party. The Times of India warns against donning loud colors, flamboyant styles, or dressing nicer than your boss.
Food to Expect
Spicy food abounds in India, as does plenty of vegetarian fare. Be considerate with your meal choices, perhaps skipping the meat if the rest of your table is ordering purely vegetarian dishes.
Also steer clear of foods that are messy or priced the highest on the menu.
Play it safe by paying attention to what the host orders and then following his lead. Only order alcohol if everyone else is doing so. Keep in mind that Muslims don’t drink alcohol. They also refrain from eating pork, while Hindus don’t eat beef.
Since business lunches in India function as a way to strengthen relationships, feel free to converse about things other than business before getting down to negotiations. Acceptable subjects include movies, music, sports, entertainment, family, and travel.
Avoid potentially controversial topics, such as religion or politics, and avoid being roped into arguments. Make sure you never criticize the restaurant or its food, particularly if you’ve been invited there by your host.
Eating with your hands is the norm at business lunches in India at certain restaurants, typically where banana-leaf food is served. These meals consist of curries served with rice and sauce on a large banana leaf. Etiquette Scholar stresses never using your left hand for eating—only your right hand. The rule applies whether you’re eating with your hands or utensils.
You’ll also want to keep your left hand off and away from the table at all times. It’s customary to wash your hands before and after the meal, especially if you’re eating with your hands.
Paying and Tipping
When it comes to paying for business lunches in India, the responsibility goes to the highest ranking person at the table or whoever planned the affair. If that happens to be you, it’s customary to leave a tip of about 10 percent.
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on business lunches in India, you’re nearly set for your overseas trip. Finish off your preparations by ensuring your passport is up to date, securing your Indian business visa, and packing appropriate clothing for your business affairs. Also feel free to contact Swift with any additional questions; we’re always happy to help.