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Languages & Cultural Blog

Dining Etiquette Around the World

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Learning how to eat the right way in the country you plan to visit is an important part of the prep before a trip. Just like looking up common phrases in the foreign destination’s language, or the climate your future trip location enjoys – researching the local dining etiquette can save you from seeming rude.

Tipping, cutlery usage, and even seasoning should be kept in mind, and improper technique of any of these can cause offense to your host.

Make sure you are culturally savvy - learn the dos and don’ts from popular travel destinations to help you seem just like a native on your next trip!

Portugal

Dos

Do leave a tip of around 10%.

Don’ts

Don’t ask for salt and pepper if it isn’t provided on the table as this is considered offensive to the chef’s seasoning skills.

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France

Dos

Do rest your wrist on the table and not on your lap and keep your hands above the table.

Don’ts

Don’t split the bill as this is considered highly impolite. Either offer to pay the bill in its entirety or someone else will.

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Japan

Top Tips for Japanese Etiquette

Dos

Do drink directly from your soup bowl and slurp your food (loudly!) – this shows appreciation to the chef.

Don’ts

Don’t cross your chopsticks, lick them, or stick them vertically into a bowl of rice – these are all considered rude.

Don’t pass food using chopsticks either as this is done only during funerals.

Don’t tip staff as this is seen to be rude.

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Italy

Dos

Do opt for something like an espresso after a meal instead of a milk beverage to avoid hindered digestion.

Do tip 5-10% for exceptional service; the rest of the service charge is usually included in the bill.

Don’ts

Don’t ask for cheese if it is not explicitly offered – adding extra cheese to the top of your pizza or your seafood is considered a huge faux pas.

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India

Dos

Do wash your hand before and after eating, paying close attention to the fingernails.

Do finish your meal in its entirety as wasting food is considered extremely disrespectful.

Don’ts

Don’t eat too quickly or too slowly – maintaining a medium pace is important.

Don’t eat with your left hand as it is unconsidered unclean. Cutlery is rarely provided so use your right hand instead.

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Thailand

Top Tips for Thai Cultural Etiquette

Dos

Do expect to receive all dishes at once rather than in set courses.

Do be ready to share as dishes will often be served to be split amongst the table.

Don’ts

Don’t use your fork to eat – use it only to push food onto your spoon.

Don’t take the last bite from the sharing bowl.

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China

Chinese Cultural Awareness - Learn the Art of "Guanxi"

Dos

Do arrive promptly and dressed well to indicate respect for your fellow diners.

Do burp! This is seen as complimentary to the chef for creating a satisfying meal.

Don’ts

Don’t dig through your food for anything in particular as this is considered very rude.

Don’t finish all your food – instead leave a small amount on the plate to indicate that your host fed you more than enough.

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At the end of the day, foreigners aren’t going to judge you too harsh for being ignorant to their customs right off the back. If you’re eating with locals for the first time, don’t be afraid to ask their customs. They’ll respect you for being interested enough to find out, and see it as respecting their culture.

For more tips, check out Cultural Intelligence in the Hospitality Industry.


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