Anyone who has been on holiday will know that learning about the culture of the country and learning basic language and etiquette is essential to a perfect hassle free holiday. The last thing you want to do is offend the locals without even realising it! Around the world you can find many different countries that do things a little differently, what is offensive in one area of the world may actually be a compliment in another. So, below are our very own MyBreakTrip do’s and don’ts of dining etiquette of 5 very different countries.
Whilst not using your cutlery, make sure that your hands are always above the table and not rested on your lap or elsewhere. You should also only rest your wrists on the table and not your elbows as it’s seen as rude. When served pasta dishes, don’t twirl it on a spoon like you might back at home. Instead use the side of your bowl or the surface of your plate. Also, don’t slurp the pasta into your mouth as eating loudly is also rude, instead you put the entire fork full of food into your mouth in one go.
In England, the most important group member sits at the end of the table. In Italy however, the host (if there is no host, then the eldest or most important person) actually sits in the middle of the longest side of the table. This is so they get a full view of everyone on the table but are also closest to everyone. In Italy the person who suggests dining out or invites you out for dinner is the person who should pay the bill. You should also leave a tip for your waiter of 10% of the bill price.
Coffee helps you to digest your food and therefore it is seen as rude to the chef if you order coffee before or during your meal as it makes you look like you can’t digest the food that the chef has cooked you. The waiter who brings you your food is not responsible for taking your order, they are in fact two separate job roles in Italy. So you may be greeted with a dirty look if you ask your food server for more wine, beer or water instead of your waiter. It’s also seen as a sin to put extra cheese on your pizza, seafood or pasta as it is viewed as gluttonous.
It’s tradition and culture to eat with chopsticks in Japan, however there are a few rules that apply:
Don’t point your chopsticks at people when eating as it’s seen as a rude gesture.
Don’t pass food with chopsticks (it reminds locals of an old tradition of passing bones at funerals).
Sticking your chopstick vertically into a bowl of rice is also a morbid symbol that brings bad fortune.
Spoons aren’t usually supplied in restaurants and you’re expected to slurp and drink the liquid from your bowl directly. In the West, slurping and loud eating is seen as rude and offensive whereas in Japan it is seen as a sign of appreciation and improves the taste of your noodles. Make sure you finish every last bit of food on your plate. Wasting food is seen as very rude and it gives off the impression that you do not appreciate the chef’s cooking and the origin of the food.
Tipping is very uncommon in Japan and it’s not done by the locals, so the waiters will not be expecting a tip when you dine out and they feel very awkward accepting them. Just make sure you thank them personally, this gratitude will be more than enough for them. If you have a cold refrain from breaking out a tissue as blowing your nose is unhygienic and rude when done at a table, instead you should ask to be excused to do it in the bathroom.
Tea is served with every meal and in every restaurant in China, this is where the first ever teas were drank. China is actually one of the largest exporters of various delicious teas, which explains its huge popularity there. You should never let your teapot run dry and whenever you refill your tea cup, you should also refill others. When someone refills your tea cup you tap the table with two fingers to say thank you.
Fish is served as a whole fish in Chinese restaurants, instead of being diced or cut, so it’s natural to want to turn over your fish once you are finished with one side. However, this symbolises you capsizing the boat that caught the fish and brings bad luck and fortune to the fishermen. However, the fish here is so juicy and tender is pretty much falls off the bone, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get to without flipping it. Don’t use your chopsticks to find morsels within your rice or fish as digging around for food is seen as disrespectful.
It is important when you’re eating in France to keep your hands in sight, but also don’t put your elbows on the table as both are seen as rude. Even if you’re in a tiny informal cafe, turn your ringer off (or put your phone on silent) or step outside if you must take a phone call. The French dine to enjoy each others company, not to listen to others talk over the phone!
You use the bread given to you to push food onto your fork, which is why most meals will come with a basket of bread. It helps to keep the table tidy but also stops you from getting sauce over your face. In France, it is considered rude of the waiter to rush you out of the restaurant by giving you the bill after you’ve eaten, they therefore wait until you ask for it.
The French don’t dine out just to eat, they dine out for a social occasion with their family and friends. This is why you may be expected to wait longer than you will in England for service and for your food as the waiters are not used to rushing around. Try to remain patient, calling the waiter over or asking to be seen sooner will not aid your situation and will possibly offend the staff serving you.
In this amazing part of the world it’s tradition to eat with your hands. It is normal and part of Indian culture, however if you visit a westernised Indian restaurant then you will find that cutlery is provided. When eating with your hand, use your right hand. Using your left hand is seen as unclean and rude as in India you use your left hand to wipe yourself after going to the toilet.
When sauces and chutneys are provided, it’s very rude and uncouth to double dip your food into it. You will also be seen as rude by observers if you sit and eat your own dish to yourself. It’s customary that when you dine out, that you order several dishes and you share amongst yourself (quite like Tapas in Spain). However, don’t share your food once it’s on your plate or bowl, it is viewed as unclean and dirty.
You can’t serve your food with your left hand as it’s seen as offensive (as we explained earlier), and as you’re eating with your right hand you will make the serving spoon sticky and messy if you serve yourself your own food. It’s therefore custom to wait for the waiter to serve you your food, or have a dedicated person on your table to clean their hands to do it.
Just like in western culture, it’s very rude to eat loudly and with your mouth open. Indians also disapprove of public displays of affection anywhere within their country as it’s seen as being disrespectful, especially when you’re dining.
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