There are so many wonderful things about traveling. It's always important to pre-plan before jet-setting across the world, choosing your destinations, the must-see natural and cultural wonders of each visiting land, and figuring out how you'll make your way from point A to point Z. Another important thing one should familiarize themselves with is the culture, the native and customary dos and don'ts of each place.
Every place has its own unique traditions and rules for politeness, many of which seem baffling and almost impolite! And what's the one thing every trip offers us, no matter what your final destination is? Some truly unique culinary experiences. Whether you're eating a home-cooked meal in China or dining at an authentic French restaurant in Paris, you can ensure that you are everyone's favorite guest by following these simple guidelines to food etiquette around the globe.
In Thailand, most dishes are rice-based, and usually have a base of sticky rice coupled with a curry. Dishes are usually served with spoons and forks instead of knives and forks. However, spoons are considered to be the primary eating utensil.
The main purpose of the fork during a traditional Thai meal is solely to scoop and push food onto the spoon to reduce spillage of food on the way to the mouth. The exception to this rule is in the case of stand-alone dishes that are not served with rice.
Though chopsticks are prevalent in Thai culture, they are almost solely used for Chinese dishes and noodles. There are also some northern Thai dishes that are meant to be eaten with your hands.
If you’re left-handed, you may have some difficulty eating the customary way in Africa, India and the Middle East. These 3 cultures eat most, if not all of their dishes with their hands. More specifically, all meals are eaten only with the right hand.
It can be attributed to a number of traditional beliefs and historical acts. Africans consider using one’s left hand to eat as a sign of disrespect. In Middle Eastern countries and some African countries with large Muslim populations, the right hand is used to eat with as scripture indicates that the Devil eats with his left hand.
In India, the left hand is considered to be unclean because of its association with bathroom activities in rural India and therefore not fit for use to eat. In some parts of India, touching the plate or other people with your left hand is considered to be rude.
Western etiquette dictates that one does not slurp at the dining table, be it noodles, soup, or a gargantuan cup of coke through a straw. Japan is a country known for frowning upon messy and noisy eating. However, slurping is the one leeway all are given.
When it comes to noodles, Japan is known for some incredibly delicious varieties and people are encouraged to savor their ramen by slurping loudly. Some theorize that this method of eating noodles allows you to really take in the refreshing and powerful aroma of the dish.
Others believe that slurping your noodles is a way to indicate to the chef that you are thoroughly enjoying your dish. In some parts of Japan, it is considered rude not to slurp as it leads the cook to believe you are dissatisfied. In Korea, slurping is acceptable but not demanded.
We’re taught from a very young age that burping in the presence of others is a big no-no. Much like America and Europe, Japan frowns upon publicly releasing any noises caused by bodily functions. China, on the other hand, views it as perfectly normal.
Chinese custom considers burping to be just another bodily function (as opposed to belching, which is generally louder and somewhat offensive). In some parts of China, letting out a slight burp after the meal can be a sign to the cook that you are full and enjoyed your meal.
Leaving a little food on your plate at the end of the meal is also believed to be polite (though it is considered extremely rude in Germany). A clean plate could indicate to the chef that you were left hungry or unsatisfied with the portions. It’s also important to remember, while burping is polite in China, slurping is not.
Egypt, much like Portugal, has a long-standing custom that looks apprehensively at the adding of salt to traditional or native meals. It is often viewed by cooks as an indication that the dish has not been adequately seasoned, and could inadvertently offend your host.
In case you happen to like your food a little extra salty, most restaurants (particularly the tourist-friendly ones) usually keep salt and pepper shakers on the table. In case there’s no seasoning in sight, it’s best not to request one as it could be seen as an insult to the chef.
It is also generally advised not to refill your glass during a meal. Your neighbor is expected to fill your glass when it is less than half full. You are accordingly expected to do the same for them. In case your neighbor fails to do so, filling his glass further (when it doesn’t need to be) can indicate to him your need for water.
Some etiquette is informed by traditional values, like saying a prayer before eating or being late to a meal (though the latter is actually considered polite in Venezuela). South Korea brings a basic family value to the dining table: always respect your elders.
Younger members of the group are expected to sit at the table only after the elders have been seated. The oldest person at the table must take the first bite before others may begin eating. Similarly, people may only leave the table after the elders of the group have completed their meal so as not to inadvertently hurry them.
These rules are especially important to remember if you ever find yourself dining with or being hosted by South Korean natives. In case you’re traveling with family, it’s probably not a necessity but you may turn some heads in local restaurants by ignoring it.
An important part of any reunion dinner or fun night out is splitting the bill fairly and without unnecessarily ruffling any feathers. The French have the perfect way of avoiding the muss and fuss of dividing the check between friends and family. No dividing at all.
If you’re spending time in the European countryside with some French friends, it would be highly disconcerting to your friends to suggest splitting the bill at the end of the meal. The common practice is for one person to foot the entire bill, it's usually the person who extended the invitation or made the plans.
This is because talking about money often can be seen as rude, and people are expected to take turns hosting each other. In the case of large or younger groups, the bill may be split, but only minimal conversation into calculating exact amounts are meant to be had.
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