We all like to think we have good table manners but what you consider inappropriate table manners may in fact be polite in another country! For example burping, slurping and farting are actually considered polite in certain cultures. So if you are ready, let's explore some strange table manners around the world.
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Why Bother With Table Manners When You Travel To Other Countries?
SLURP…SLURP….SLURP!!!. That was the sound all around us.
I had been living in Japan for a few months and one of my room-mates at the time was this beautiful blond girl from Carmel California. Let’s call her Jenny.
Jenny was raised like many westerners to believe that you SHOULD NOT SLURP or hold your bowl up to your mouth to eat because it was rude. Because of her deep-rooted upbringing, Jenny just could not bring herself to slurp and she found it disgusting that everyone around her was slurping.
Ironically what Jenny didn’t realize was that by not slurping, she was actually being rude because slurping was a sign to the chef that the food was delicious. Oh Well!
Adapt or suffer
Jenny never did adapt to the food, the etiquette or the culture. She ended up returning home with a terrible experience while I continued on with my travels for a total of 3.5 years… loving every second of it.
The point I’m trying to make is that eating amongst the locals is going to be one of the most memorable parts of your trip.
Your experiences with the food will give you as much insight into a foreign culture as say going to see the local sites of that country so you had better adapt!
If you don’t understand and at least try to adapt to the local food customs of the country you are visiting you probably won’t fully enjoy yourself. You might even have a terrible time. With that said, here are some strange table manners from around the world which might surprise you.
7 surprising examples of some strange table manners around the world
#1- Don’t leave your chopsticks sticking in a bowl of rice
Growing up, my step mother used to tell me it was bad luck to stick your chopsticks into your rice. It just wasn’t done. Even to this day, when I see people doing it, I cringe and want to run over and pull them out.
This belief is widely believed in most Asian countries, Thailand, Taiwan, japan, China, Korea and more.
I won’t go into the why, just DON”T DO IT. Lay them down next to your plate. NEVER sticking straight up. No No NO.
#2- Slurping: is good
One of my favourite things about Asian food is noodles. Pho, ramen, Udon, soba to name a few.
As you just read in my story above, in Japan, slurping is considered polite. It’s also an indication that the food is good. You’ll look weirder for not slurping your noodles. Trust me.
But be careful, slurping is not considered polite in all Asian cultures. In Thailand and in parts of China it is accepted to slurp but not really encouraged. Just know before you go.
#3- Should you finish all the food on your plate?
You might be surprised to know that in some cultures, if you finish all your food on your plate, it is a sign that your host did not provide you with enough food.
In fact, in some cultures, if you finish your food, your host will continue to serve you each time you clear your plate and drink your entire beverage.
Filipinos, Cambodians, Koreans, Egyptians and Thais will all think this. But for Japanese, finishing ones plate and rice bowl signifies to the host that the meal is complete and that you appreciate the meal. When in doubt, observe what other people are doing.
#4- Is it ever polite to fart after a meal?
This is a new one for me.
I had heard that farting was NOT rude in certain cultures but I wasn’t really sure if it was true or not so I did a little research.
Turns out Farting after a meal is an expression of thanks and appreciation to the Inuit people of Canada.
I’m not sure if i believe this one. So if you know otherwise, please let me know. I’m really curious.
#5- Yes, You SHOULD Belch and Burp:
As strange as it sounds, burping is considered good table manners in parts of China and in Bahrain- A small island country located in the Middle East, just south of Kuwait. It shows a sign of appreciation and satiety
#6- Don’t Cut Your Salad With A Knife In France!
Bet you didn’t know that many people in France think you should not cut your salad on your plate with a knife and fork. Instead, you should gently fold your lettuce leaves onto the fork. I emphasize the word many people rather than all because there are many French people who don’t consider it rude to cut your salad with a fork and knife.
#7- Which fork Do I use?
Have you ever gone to a fancy restaurant and weren’t sure which fork to use. Fear not. It’s the one furthest from your plate.
But in Thai culture you don’t use your fork to put food in your mouth, instead you use a fork to push your food onto your spoon.
Some countries don’t even use forks but rather eat with their hands like Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. In this case, you only use your right hand to eat with, never your left. Your left is reserved um, for um………..wiping yourself after you go potty and your right is reserved for eating.
INTERESTING FACT: Did you know that during renaissance times in Europe there were no forks? Forks were initially viewed almost to a fault, excessively refined. In the case of men, it was even considered a sign of effeminacy. The custom of using forks began in Italy but it took a while for it to catch on. Even then, only wealthy could afford them throughout the 17th century.
Don’t take these rules too seriously
Just like Americans and Canadians who don’t adhere to all their table manner rules, not all people in other countries adhere to their table manner rules 100%.
For instance, it’s generally believed that you should not put your elbows on the table or a napkin on your lap but not everyone adheres to these rules 100 percent.
When in doubt, look around and see what other people are doing and just follow suit. Better yet, just ask someone. And the next time you are sitting next to someone who slurps at the table, just smile and feel happy that you know, they are showing that they are enjoying their meal.
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