What do you normally use to eat your food – A fork and knife? Chopsticks? Your hands? Is the dinner table quiet or loud? Is the napkin placed on your lap or tucked into your clothing? There are so many different rules to consider! To avoid embarrassing yourself at the dinner table in a new country, we have put together some eating customs that can help you fit in a little better on your next trip.
Hands or Cutlery?
The Tahiti cuisine of fresh fish, exotic fruits and vegetables is eaten with a hands only policy. Whilst the concept of a fork and knife is accepted it is looked at as amusing. If you want to fit right in during a holiday to the islands, leave your cutlery at home – kids will love that!
Arab countries often use their hands as well, especially for the traditional kebabs. A lot of the main Mediterranean dishes do not require knives. Instead they use a spoon and a fork for ‘formal’ eating and the fork is used to move food into the spoon.
Austria and parts of Italy, do not accept the ‘American style’ of passing the fork into your right hand after cutting up food. Instead, the fork is always kept in the left hand, even after food has been cut and you continue to eat with your fork in your left hand.
Chinese bad fortune
There are a few rules when it comes to eating with chopsticks and how you use them can represent how polite and cultured you are. Chinese restaurants generally have wooden chopsticks that are stuck together and the first thing most people do is separate them and launch straight into eating! The Chinese believe that separating the chopsticks will ‘disturb the peace’ as ‘everything that is good comes in two’.
What are your hands doing?
In some European countries like France and the Netherlands, it is an important part of their upbringing that both hands are visible above the table during a meal. On asking a friend about this custom – “what if I just forgot to put both hands on the table and just had one”, she replied “we would consider it rude – if I can only see one of your hands, I won’t know what you’re doing with the other hand”.
Normally in Australia, once your plate is empty it’s taken away. In countries like India, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, if you finish your food then it means you are still hungry. It’s normal to have a small amount of food left on your plate to symbolise that you are too full to finish, or else it’ll just keep being filled up.
In Japan on the other hand, it’s considered polite to clear every grain of rice on your plate. It’s also accepted to slurp certain foods such as ramen or soba noodles, conveying “deliciousness”. Studies have shown that slurping in fact, does make the noodles taste better! Italians for example believe that ‘wine gurgling’, where air is sucked through their mouths forcing air into the nasal passage, allows for the flavours to spread
By Danielle Fanuli – to learn is to travel. My favourite place has been sitting on an Island in the Great Barrier Reef and seeing an endless horizon. I’m currently an intern at InsureandGo and a curious individual whose life is composed of whims and impulses driven by passion. At the moment I’m visiting a new organic eatery every week and saving money to travel to Tahiti.