Travel Etiquette: How To Mind Your Manners At The Global Dinner Table

23 July 2015

As a kid, were you ever scolded for talking with your mouth full or putting your elbows on the table? Across the globe are worlds of cultural anomalies that sometimes contradict those basic manners we learnt in our younger years.

When it comes to travel, it's not just new cultures that are learnt, but different ways in enjoying our food. Dining in local haunts and homes often form some of the most memorable parts of a holiday. However, one chef's compliment can be another's criticism.

Save face with our eating etiquette guide to ensure you don't offend any of your new travelling buddies, lest you be shunned and forced to dine at the Golden Arches.

Japan

Sip and slurp away! Sip and slurp away!
  • Never stand your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl or pierce your food

Any vertical stick-like objects in rice resemble burning incense to commemorate passed family members in churches and temples which naturally makes for bad ju-ju at the dinner table.

  • Never tip at a restaurant

Leaving a tip implies your waiter or waitress does not make enough money.

  • Don't drown your sushi in soy sauce

If you must, dip only the fish side into the soy. Oh, and gobble it up in one bite.

  • Slurp away to show your appreciation for that bowl of ramen

Noodles are Asia's comfort food. Make as much lip-smacking noise as you want while you eat, as it shows your host you're enjoying what they have prepared for you. Quiet eaters may get an uncomfortable, seat-shifting glance from the cook as it may signal you don't like the dish. Like many aspects in the eastern world, it's all about balance. Slurp away; just don't shower your dining companions in broth. You can ditch the spoon too – guzzle that gloriously fragrant broth straight from the bowl.

China

Dining is a family affair Dining is a family affair
  • Try not to finish everything on your plate

It can be an insult to your host as it means they have not fed you enough. Simply leave a small bite or two in your bowl to show you've had your fill.

  • Don't pick up food directly from the share plate and eat it

Use the reverse end of your chopsticks (or serving utensil) to place food onto your plate or serve others.

  • Never eat the last morsel

As much as you're dying to wrap your lips around that last piece of beef in black bean sauce, it's considered bad luck and makes you look greedy. Instead, wait until you're encouraged to do so.

  • Use both hands when toasting

Toasts are generally performed multiple times throughout meals but be sure to use both hands to show respect, and never raise your glass higher than the eldest person at the table.

India

Look Mum, no cutler! Look Mum, no cutlery!
  • Eat with your right hand only

Leave the cutlery in the drawer. Most Indian food is eaten by hand (fingers only), using your thumb to push food into your mouth. Never, ever use your left hand as it is associated with, er, bathroom hygiene and thus considered unclean. Any lefties out there? Good luck.


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Italy

Not Not a shaving of Parmesan in sight
  • It's considered offensive to the chef to sprinkle cheese on pasta

Step away from the Parmesan. It's also absolute sacrilege on seafood.

  • Don't cut your pasta with a knife

Twirl it around your spoon, like the fancy, cultured person you are.

  • Never drink coffee with a main meal

You'll get more than a glare from your waiter. Like no service.

France

he Nicoise salad
  • Don't cut your lettuce with a knife

It's said to bruise the delicate salad leaves. Instead, fold lettuce into a bundle around your fork.

  • Lunch is considered a leisurely affair

Rushing is not an option.

United Kingdom

hello Giving good tea
  • Never touch the sides of your cup with the teaspoon
  • Never leave your spoon in the teacup
  • If in a formal setting, never dunk biscuits in your tea

'Havin' a cuppa' is practically a national pastime. An art form that has stood the test of time, it's best to follow the lead of your tea-sipping companions in order to avoid committing any faux pas.

  • When eating soup, tilt the bowl away from you

Feel posh while doing so.


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Anna Howard

Give me street food over Michelin stars, cellar doors over wine bars and small towns and wide open spaces over big cities any day. Travel for me means ticking off the 'to eat and drink' list one regional flavour and wine bottle at a time.