Spain: a Messy Floor Is a Good Sign
If you are out for tapas, look for a bar with a floor covered with trash. According to a tradition that dates back to the 19th century, the more waste is left on the floor of a bar, the better the bar is. Back in those days, a lot of garbage indicated that the bar was visited by many clients. The tradition is still alive in many tapas bars around Spain and never ceases to shock foreigners.
China: Be Careful with Your Chopsticks
In China, do not stick your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl. It’s a gesture that is linked to the ceremonial offering of a meal to the spirits of the dead. Also, never point your chopsticks at another person or wave them at others – doing so is seen as an insult.
To avoid being considered ill-mannered when using chopsticks, after finishing your meal place them on the top of your bowl. If you are not finished, use a chopstick rest. | ⓒ OiMax / Flickr
France: the Role of Bread
In France, bread is not an appetizer but serves to assist the food. You should always use two hands to eat: either with fork and knife or fork and bread. Also, you should not eat bread directly, but rather tear off pieces of it and then put the pieces in your mouth. One more rule about bread: it belongs on the table, not the plate.
Ethiopia: Building Trust over Dinner
Gursha translates as “mouthful” in Amharic and is sometimes performed over a meal in Ethiopian homes as a gesture of hospitality. A host takes a large piece of food and places it in the mouth of someone else at the table. The person who receives the gursha then returns the gesture. Usually the guests and the elderly are the first to receive gursha as a sign of respect and a step to building trust and friendship between the people who are sharing a meal. Sharing is a big part of Ethiopian dining culture. Individual plates are rarely used and are considered wasteful. More commonly, meals are served off one giant plate.
In Ethiopia, diners at a meal feed each other as an expression of trust and friendship. | ⓒ South Ethiopia / Youtube
Italy: Cheese Rules
Unless you are offered it, you should not ask for additional cheese in Italy. The cheese that food is served with is reckoned to be enough, and it is considered crude to ask for more. Traditionally, cheese should not be mixed with seafood.
Japan: Slurp the Noodle Soup
In Western countries, eating loudly is often perceived as bad manners. But according to the Japanese, slurping noodle soup improves its flavor and helps to speed up the process of eating a hot meal. More than that, slurping indicates that the guest is enjoying the dish that was served to him.
How to eat ramen? | ⓒ The Dallas Morning News / Youtube
Tanzania: a Paradise for People Who Are Always Late
If you have problems with punctuality, you will love this Tanzanian dining custom: it is considered rude to come for dinner too early or even on time. If you want to be considered a good guest, you should show up at least 15 minutes late!
Thailand: Unusual Use of Cutlery
In Thailand, never use a fork to put food in your mouth unless you want to be seen as uncouth. The fork is used only to push the food onto a spoon which is put into the mouth. Utensils were introduced in Thailand by King Chulalongkorn after his visit to Europe at the end of the 19th century; however, it seems that European ways of using utensils were not adopted.
Learn the right way to eat Thai food with this video from ⓒ Coconuts TV / Youtube
India, Morocco, Africa, the Middle East: Use the Right Hand
In many cultures eating with hands is an unbreakable tradition. However, it is worth knowing that in numerous countries of Africa and Middle East, as well as in India, the right hand is reserved for picking up food – even among left-handed persons! The left hand is reserved for other duties and using it for eating might be quite a shock for those you share a meal with.
Germany: Potato Rule
Going to Germany? If you go out for dinner, remember to never cut potatoes on your plate. In Germany, using a knife to cut potatoes might be understood as not considering them well done. To avoid insulting the cook, instead of cutting potatoes into pieces, use the fork to smash them.
In Germany, potatoes should not be cut, but smashed – this way, potatoes are better covered with gravy. | ⓒ Jefrreyw / Flickr
What unusual dining customs are a part of the traditions of your country? Have you ever made a faux pas when having a meal in a foreign country without even realizing it?