18 Table Etiquette Rules From Around the World That Will Help You Excel as a Foreign Visitor

When it comes to sitting down to eat any meal of the day, each country has its own customs. In some places, these protocols are deeply rooted, and not following them can be considered impolite.
On the other hand, they are simple habits that a foreign diner can disregard without the risk of seeming out of place.

You never know when you might be faced with the possibility of traveling to another country with a different culinary culture. That’s why, at Bright Side, we prepared a list of customs from certain places in the world. Let’s see which country you would fit in best!

  • In Japan, chopsticks shouldn’t be stuck in your food, nor should pieces of food be passed from chopsticks to chopsticks. This is because these are rituals that are only done at funerals, and it’s in bad taste to do them at the table.
  • Also, in Japan noise while slurping noodles isn’t a big problem. It is customary to eat your noodles fast since it’s a better way to savor their aroma. You must slurp your noodle soup vigorously in order to understand its flavor. However, eating any other dish in a noisy manner is frowned upon.
  • In Japan, if a host offers a gift of some sort, politely declining it up to 3 times is considered polite. If they offer it again, it can be accepted.
  • In France, the hands cannot be anywhere while eating. The correct position is to have both hands on the table and it’s okay if you want to put your palms on the table.
  • In Thailand, all dishes are shared, so they are prepared or ordered to be eaten as a group. Also, when it is time to start eating, it is best to wait for the highest-ranking person at the table to start. If no one is eating, the polite thing to do would be to wait for someone else to start eating.
  • In certain Middle Eastern countries, the most normal thing to do is to eat with your hands, but there is a very simple thing to consider before starting to eat: the right hand must be used since the left hand is considered unclean.
  • In England, popularly known for having “tea time,” there are certain actions that are frowned upon during that period, for example, making noise with a spoon when stirring or leaving it inside the cup. The latter is what the plate is for.
  • In Tanzania, not being punctual isn’t something serious at all. If there is an agreed-upon schedule for eating, being a little late is totally normal. For example, you might have a meeting at 7:00 p.m., but not start it until sometime between 7:30-9:00 p.m.
  • In Norway, when you are at a formal dinner and someone is being toasted, you should raise your glass, look at the person, take a sip, look at the person again, and put your glass down.
  • In Thailand, a spoon and fork are used for eating. The fork is used to cut or to serve, and the spoon to carry the food to the mouth. There won’t be a knife nearby, so if you need to cut something you can use the edge of your spoon.
  • In Taiwan, there’s a very particular custom to show a chef that their food was tasty: burping after eating. The host or chef will take that as a compliment.
  • In Spain, when the New Year is about to begin, it is customary to eat 12 grapes.
  • In Portugal, if the salt or pepper shaker is not on the table, asking for it to season the dish is considered an offense against the chef. The Portuguese think that, indirectly, they are being told “you seasoned the food badly.”
  • In China, finishing a dish is taken as the host “not offering you enough food.” So the best thing to do, in order to look good with the host, would be to leave some food on your plate.
  • Unlike in China, in India, it is best to empty your plate. By leaving food behind, the locals believe that it is being wasted.
  • In France, it is frowned upon to cut lettuce with a knife, and there is a historical reason for this. In the past, cutlery used to be made of silver, a metal that oxidizes and darkens when it comes into contact with vinegar. Although today they are made of a different material, the custom is still in force, and it would be best to use scissors or your hands.
  • In Italy, locals rarely drink cappuccinos past breakfast time and if they need some caffeine after a meal they sip on a simple espresso.
  • Also in Italy, you can’t just order any pasta with any sauce, as each pasta has a number of sauces it can go with. For example, spaghetti is not strong enough to stand up to chunky sauces but instead goes better with sauces that have creamier consistencies.

What particular custom does your family have that may be strange to other people?

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