In­ter­na­tional Din­ing

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Contents - By Mar­a­lyn D. Hill

While our Global Eti­quette ex­pert is away, the ed­i­tors of Luxe Beat Mag­a­zine have reprised some of her ex­cel­lent tips from past col­umns. Here, just in case, you may have for­got­ten, we re­mind of how to use chop­sticks in Ja­pan -and when it’s fine to belch at din­ner in China.

Achop­sticks on your plate or a chop­stick rest when not us­ing them, never in or across the rice bowl. You may hold the rice bowl close to your mouth when eat­ing, so it acts as a safety net, if you are us­ing the chop­sticks as a scoop.


It is im­por­tant not to cross your chop­sticks, lick them or stick them ver­ti­cally into a bowl of rice, as all three man­ner­isms are con­sid­ered rude. How­ever, with soup, it is fine to drink di­rectly from the soup bowl. Slurp­ing soup and noo­dles is con­sid­ered a com­pli­ment to the chef, and the louder the bet­ter. Don’t tip in a restau­rant.


Belch­ing is viewed as a com­pli­ment to the chef for preparing such a sat­is­fy­ing meal. Be sure to leave some of your food on your plate, which in­di­cates the chef pre­pared more than enough to sat­isfy you, and don’t dig through a dish of any­thing to get to a par­tic­u­lar part you like. It is con­sid­ered rude. Like Ja­pan, don’t tip.


Cour­ses will be served all at once and gen­er­ally shared, Shar­ing is com­mon, and dishes are of­ten served to spit among the ta­ble. Your fork is used to push food onto your spoon. Eat with your spoon. Be sure not to take the last bite from the shar­ing bowl.


It is im­por­tant to fin­ish your meal, since wast­ing food is viewed as quite dis­re­spect­ful. Wash your hands both be­fore and af­ter eat­ing, and be sure to clean around your fin­ger­nails. Don’t eat too quickly or too slowly. A medium pace is rec­om­mended. Never eat with your left hand, as it is con­sid­ered un­clean. Use the right hand in­stead. Uten­sils are rarely pro­vided.

Mid­dle East

Arabs are well known for their hos­pi­tal­ity and their meals. They of­ten start much later than you may be used to, and a meals con­sist of many cour­ses. Be sure to pace your­self. You will not be served al­co­holic bev­er­ages as drunk­en­ness is frowned upon and il­le­gal in the ma­jor­ity of Mus­lim coun­tries. Eat only with your right hand.


Food is both mid-east­ern and western, and eat­ing cus­toms are gen­er­ally the same as Western Europe.


Here they take great plea­sure in en­ter­tain­ing and eat­ing, as well as be­ing gen­er­ous. In most in­stances, you would be in­vited to some­one’s home. In many of the coun­tries, there will be no uten­sils of any sort and you’ll be ex­pected to eat with your hands. Be sure to re­mem­ber, in Mus­lim coun­tries, don’t eat with your left hand. A tip is to watch your hosts in other coun­tries for sim­i­lar taboos and do what they do.

Caribbean, Cen­tral Amer­ica and South Amer­ica

Busi­ness lunches are com­mon in Latin Amer­ica and usu­ally quite long. Din­ner is purely so­cial and can be very late, some­times start­ing at 10 or 11 p.m. In gen­eral, through­out Latin Amer­ica, it is best to keep your hands above the ta­ble at all times when eat­ing. You pass food and drink with your right hand. You can rest your wrists on the ta­ble, but not your fore­arms or el­bows.


Whether you are in Western, East­ern, or Mediter­ranean Europe, you will find that ta­ble man­ners are quite sim­i­lar to the United States. There are some dif­fer­ences, but not an over­whelm­ing num­ber.

Euro­peans eat us­ing the Con­ti­nen­tal style. This is when you hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right. The fork and knife re­main in your hands at all times.

Amer­i­cans switch the fork to the right hand af­ter they cut meat, and

set their( knife down on the plate.

Euro­peans are known to be stricter about ta­ble man­ners than Amer­i­cans are. (Not than my fam­ily was. My grand­fa­ther no­ticed ev­ery­thing and was the en­forcer.) In Europe, don’t rest your el­bows on the ta­ble, but keep both hands above the ta­ble at all times. This feat can be ac­com­plished by rest­ing your wrists on the edge of the ta­ble. Never be tempted to tilt your chair back on two legs or push food onto a fork with your fin­gers.


If you are tempted to ask for ex­tra cheese, don’t. It’s a gi­ant faux pas to put more cheese on your pizza. A big­ger sin would be to add it to seafood. A ser­vice charge is usu­ally added in the bill, but if the ser­vice is ex­cep­tional, add 5 to 10% gra­tu­ity.


If you are some­one who uses a lot of salt and pep­per and there are not salt and pep­per shak­ers on the ta­ble, don’t ask for them. It is quite of­fen­sive to the chef’s sea­son­ing skills.


Don’t ask to split the bill, as it is con­sid­ered un­so­phis­ti­cated. You of­fer to pay the bill or some­one else will. I per­son­ally have a prob­lem with this cus­tom. I have found my­self in sit­u­a­tions where some­one paid the bill and, later in the taxi, I slipped them some money to help cover my share. I knew their bud­get, but I also knew they were French. They were very ap­pre­cia­tive. Use bread to help push food to the fork. Tear a piece of bread off and use it. When not in use, bread be­longs on the ta­ble, not on the plate, un­less a very for­mal din­ner.

In our multi-cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment and global mar­ket­place, din­ing with oth­ers is one of the most com­mon ways to build and ce­ment re­la­tion­ships. You will find it quite use­ful to be cog­nizant of cus­toms and din­ing eti­quette of coun­tries you are vis­it­ing. This is es­pe­cially true if you are trav­el­ing there for busi­ness, but even if for plea­sure, it is nice to be aware. This shows your host an aware­ness and cour­tesy for their cus­toms. The more you travel, the more you will learn and dis­cover and build your reper­toire of world­wide din­ing cus­toms, while you enjoy break­ing bread with peo­ple around the world.

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