The Difference Between Indian and American Parties

This Morning as I get myself, my daughter and my husband ready to attend a Birthday party for one of my friend’s little boy, I think about the differences between an American party and an Indian party. So I thought well this would be a great topic for a blog post. So here is a quick rundown with a few key etiquette points and differences for each type of party.

  1. The Timing:

    Showed up on time for a party and we were the only ones there

American Party: It is customary to show up on time for a party in the United States, especially for events like weddings and birthday parties. The host will most likely create a party schedule and stick to the timings she/he has set aside for each part of the party, especially in larger events. So it is imperative that guests show up on time so that the party runs smoothly. Often times the invitation will give you the exact timings, for example 12-4pm. This means that guests come at 12 and the party winds down at 4pm. It is considered rude when quests show up late.

Indian Party: It is common place to show up late for an event in India or an event that is hosted by Indians in the United States and abroad. The host typically gives a type of target time for guests to come and they will come within two hours of that time. In most circles this is not considered rude, this is simply the custom. As a result the structure of the party schedule is quite flexible at times. I have also found Indian parties to go quite long. For example my American baby shower lasted about 3 hours and we served lunch to the guests. My baby shower hosted by an Indian went for about 8 and included lunch and dinner.

  1. Food:

    Cake is the Universal food, everyone likes cake. This was the cake I made for my daughters 3rd birthday!

American Party: Food is often served at most events if the event occurs near a normal meal time. If it is a short event between meals then there might be a snack or appetizer. Food is important to some hosts especially at a wedding or dinner party and can be extravagant, or it can be simple hot dogs and chips for a child’s party.

Indian Party: Food is always a central part of an Indian event! Everyone looks in to the kitchen to see what yummy food if being prepared. There will be several courses at the party. Usually a fried snack like a Samosa with Tea, then a large meal with many options like rice, chanas, paneer, chicken, vegetable currys and so many other options, then more snacks, then cake and sweets and more tea. No matter what the event is, the food is extravagant!

  1. Gifts:

    Opening gifts at my baby shower, a common practice in the USA

American Party: The opening up of the gifts especially at a baby shower and a child’s birthday party is considered one of the highlighting parts of the party. The person of honor sits with their gifts and opens them in front of everyone. This is especially wonderful for children, because the gift giver gets to see the reaction of the child as they open the gift that you have picked out for them. Baby showers are also fun because you get to see all the pretty baby gifts that were given and everyone gets so excited for the curtness.

Indian Party: The gifts are not opened in front of the guests. They are opened when everyone leaves. Opening gifts in front of everyone is considered rude, because someone with a lesser gift may feel judged or uncomfortable when a larger gift is opened. Honestly I always feel sad when I leave an Indian child’s Birthday party not knowing how they felt about my gift to them.

  1. The Clothes:

    My daughter Birthday party, my husband and I wore Indian clothes

American Party: Most parties are pretty informal unless it says otherwise in the invitation. Weddings are always a dressy event but birthday parties are more simple apparel.

Indian Party: Every Party I have been to that was hosted by an Indian was a big social event. Women come in their nicest Indian suits and anarkali dresses. I think that they love the chance to wear those beautiful Indian party wear that gets left in their closets most of the year.

As a Masala Family we have parties that take aspects from both of our cultures.

  1. I like to keep a schedule with my party’s because I like planning games and event for birthdays and baby showers and such. So I expect people to come on time.
  2. I love to cook and make fun meals and snacks. At my party’s I usually serve a mixture of western food and Indian food depending on the guests.
  3. I love to open gifts at the party. I love seeing the reaction and the excitement. I will respect if there is only Indians at my party I will not open it in front of them, but if there are American I will have them opened at the party. I just love seeing the delight and excitement.
  4. At my party’s I honestly love wearing Indian wear! Its so rare I get to wear my anarkali suits that I will take any opportunity to wear them

****** As a side note being married to an Indian makes it hard to get to places on time. He is still living with the idea that you can show up to a party late! This drives me crazy and I write this article as I try for the 10th time to wake him up and get him going so that we wont be late….

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17 thoughts on “The Difference Between Indian and American Parties

  1. Good comparisons.

    I’d like to share a few more points of interest :D.

    1. Opening gifts – I am actually relieved my gifts aren’t opened when I am there. That’s just because I am rarely confident I am able to get a gift others like. I am not a good gifter.
    2. Dressing up – I think the dressing up happens more outside of India. I have been living in Kerala for three years. Going to birthday parties or even holiday parties, people tend to dress more casually than in the US. Maybe because there are just so many other chances to really dress up (ex. weddings).

  2. There isn’t much dressing up in India, most parties are very casual, I think ladies ache for a chance to wear their prettiest suits abroad.

    Food wise, the biggest difference is really when it is served, in Indian parties the food is always served at the end of the party and act as a signal that the party is over, people usually eat quickly and. Leave right after filling their tummies. While in western style parties, the food is central to the event.

    In the new generation, showing up late is considered rude in India, people have less time in their days to dedicate to parties, so coming late is no longer seen as ok as much as it once was. Many of my Indian friends are punctual and irritated if people come late, or worse the party organisers.

    • Yeah I really think there is a huge difference between partys in india and indian expats here. Because here clothes is everything, ppl are often late no problem, food is served early on and throughout whole event, and partys last hours.

    • I agree, food is not looked on in the same way in Indian parties. Maybe this could depend on the parts of India people are from, I am not sure. I know for sure in Kerala, the wedding is over and you go home after you eat! 😀

  3. This is a really good comparison. I experienced everything you said and it’s somewhat difficult to understand. The atmosphere is different but lively at each type of party.

    • I know you just kind of flow with it all lol. The gift one confused me the most because it was my good indian friends childs birthday and I loved the gift I got her and wanted to see her open it. So as we left I requested she open it lol. She did no problem 🙂 I just love that smile !

    • You are right 😀 the atmosphere is lively at both types of parties, it’s just different. It’s more interesting to mix up Americans and Indians at the same party. Americans come on time and leave sooner than Indians. Indians come in later and the Americans get frustrated waiting to eat. Then they will get a little sad when people leave after food. My American friends asked me, “Do your Indian friends like us? They came late, barely talked to us, ate and bolted?” I had to explain the cultural difference! (This happened on about 4 or 5 occasions!)

      • OMG thats hilarious! I have not had too many partys that mix indians and American too much lol. It should be interesting as Nasreen makes more American friends in school how it will appear. The one difference is that the punjabi expats i know in America eat early so its not the same issue of eating and bolting lol

  4. Some of the points are true to Nepalese people as well but I don’t like to be late . But the downside of arriving on time in Nepalese party is that things may not be ready at all when you reache as they expect everyone to come late 🙂

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