Atithi Devo Bhava



For a typical Indian, the term Personal Space has very little sanctity. He doesn’t think much about asking you questions that may seem personal to you, but to him it’s just a question. He is only truing to know you as an individual.

Questions like are you married or where are you working or do you have any kids are personal but still acceptable. When they progress to what you earn or why don’t you have kids or when are you planning to have kids, you start squirming. But an average Indian may not think so.

Your parents do not think twice about sharing your achievements/  escapades with their extended family and friends. They think it is alright to share everything that you did as a kid with any Tom, Dick and Harry. And woe upon you if you cry out of sheer embarrassment. Your uncles or aunts or grandparents think it is their right to ask you such questions and duty to give you unsolicited advise because they are experienced and older.

Indians pride on being great hosts. ‘Atithi devo bhava’ meaning guest is like God is the motto. So we tend to go overboard with how we take care of our guests. We think nothing about force feeding the guests assuming that they are shy and are hesitant in asking for refills.

During our stay in Liberia, we had an American colleague who was stationed at the mining site but was on a visit to the Head Office for a couple of days. She was staying in the guest house and during dinner, a couple of our Indian colleagues tried to serve some Indian dishes to her despite her protests. They ignored her objections and served a small portion on her plate. To everyone’s horror, she burst into tears. We tried asking her what the matter was but she didn’t say anything, just kept crying for a few minutes.

The next day the CEO (an Indian/ American) called them into his office and explained  all about personal spaces and invasions. The poor gentlemen were flabbergasted. They did not in their wildest dreams understand in what way they had offended her. Blame it all on cultural differences.

My grandfather had an unwritten rule at home. Never force second helpings on your guests. Respect their refusal. They may have health issues too that they may not want to share with you. So keeping his dictum in mind, we always announce to our guests at the beginning of the meal about not feeling shy to help themselves to anything of their choice and that we take no at face value.

Personal spaces respected???


Personal Space

#culture #personalspaces #guests


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