7 Strange Table Manners Around The World: Burping, Farting+

Do You Have Good Table Manners?

Well do you?  We all like to think we have good table manners but how do you REALLY know if you have good table manners? 

Is burping after a meal considered good or bad manners? What about slurping noodles or finishing all the food on your plate?

The answer is not a simple yes or no because “IT DEPENDS”.  Table manners vary from country to country. What is considered appropriate and polite in one country may be rude and impolite in another. So if you are ready, let’s explore some strange table manners around the world that just make you scratch your head.  

7 strange table manners around the world

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 somewhat strange table manners around the world.

#1- Chopsticks:

Table Manners: don't stick your chopsticks in 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:

slurping noodles is polite

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- To clean your plate

lick your plate clean: strange table manner

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- Farting:

fart after diner: strange table manner

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:

strange table manners around the world: belch and burp

As strange as it sounds; YES, it is considered good table manners in some cultures to belch after a meal.

India, Turkey and some  Middle Eastern countries and even in parts of China it is considered good manners to burp after a meal.  It’s a sign of appreciation and satiety

I’m not sure if I could bring myself to burp at the diner table could you?  I suppose it would come down to if I didn’t belch, would it be considered an insult? Same for farting at the diner table.

#6- Don’t Cut Your Salad With A Knife In France!

Table manners: don't cut salad with knife

Bet you didn’t know that in France, Salads should not be cut with a knife and fork.  You should gently fold your lettuce leaves onto the fork and eat it.

I was out at a Bistro here in France the other day and saw someone cutting their salad. So i think this is one of those things where cutting your salad is accepted but not considered proper etiquette. If you know differently please let me know.

#7- Which fork Do I use?

which fork

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.

FUN 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.

NOTE*

Not all people adhere to their table manner rules 100%. Just like Americans and Canadians don’t all adhere to their rules of table manners.

My sons puts their elbows on the table. I don’t always put napkin on my lap.

When in doubt, look around and see what other people are doing and just follow suit. Better yet, just ask someone.

 

Photo Credits for Strange table manners

Street VendorRice bowl, Forks, noodle slurping, clean your plate, Man Holding Nose, burping stomach

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About the Author

Annie André was born in Thailand to a Thai mother and French Canadian father. She knew from an early age that she was meant to experience the world first hand. By the time she was 23, she had visited over 20 countries including a 3 year stint in Japan. Currently she lives in the south of France with her husband Blake and three children who attend French schools.

Lindsay

Japanese noodle bowls are my favorite! When I was there for a month, I quickly adapted the habit–it makes eating them so much easier.

I always try to observe others before I jump into a new culture’s habits, but it’s really interesting how different each country is with what’s considered rude, acceptable or just weird.
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    Annie Andre

    Lindsay,
    I love Japanese noodles too. So delicious and healthy too. Plus super easy to cook.

    And you are so right. IT”S WAAAAAY easier to slurp your noodles than any other way. So much more efficient too.

    Sounds like you are conscience traveler too. I’ll travel with you anytime..
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Adrienne

Oh my goodness… I would so mess all of that up I’m afraid.

I can’t eat with chopsticks Annie, I’ve tried and I’m a failed mess. If that’s all I was given I’d probably starve to death.

I worked part time for the Census Bureau a couple years ago. I went into this one home to get the people’s information and I have no idea what culture they were.

They invited me in and they were so warm and welcoming. Only one of them spoke English. They offered me food but I declined. Every 2 minutes she was offering me food again and finally she came over and set it down beside me.

She kept telling me to eat it and I had work to do so I continued to decline. I finally took a bite and then took the rest with me. I later learned that it’s rude to not eat what they had given you but I swear I didn’t know any better and was just trying to get my work done before dark.

I’m an American for goodness sakes and I live in the US. I don’t know other people’s cultures because I don’t visit foreign countries very often at all. I would probably break every rule in the book girl.

I’ll just claim ignorance but I’m NOT licking the plate!
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    Annie Andre

    Oh Adrienne,
    you are adorable.

    Don’t worry, that family probably never considered you rude. They were just doing what they thought was polite. Believe it or not, they are very tollerant of other cultures not understanding their customs.

    Just like, if you had an Inuit over for diner and they kept farting at the table to let you know the meal was amazing. Would you tell them to stop or just chalk it up to their customs? It’s a funny scenario to think about isn’t it. LOL

    I’m find with you not licking your plate. But i’ve been known to lick my ice cream bowl and cake mix bowl with my daughter.
    I have photos to prove it. :) Yes i have no shame…

Meg

WOW!!! I learn something new everyday. I know David will be happy about the farting one! :) I am awful with chopsticks. I always just use my fingers to eat sushi which I also learn was the proper way to eat sushi…..rice on the other hand, I think I am going to have to practice. Thanks for sharing these. I would have ate all my food on my plate and held in my burps if it wasn’t for you!
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    Annie Andre

    Meg, you are too much. I think you could get away eating any way you like no matter where you are. And i never want to see or smell David Fart :)

    You are so correct about how to eat nigiri sushi. (with your fingers). You should also only dip the fish into the soy sauce. Sashimi should be eaten with chopsticks.

    I have found that i make some people uncomfortable when i pick up my sushi with my hands. Mostly because they don’t realize this is how it is to be eaten. So sometimes i use my chopsticks depending who i am with. Thanks for your comment. it’s always appreciated to have a conversation.

David W

Cool post! I like to learn these things, but I also like breaking rules.

So, you gotta know em if you wanna break em!
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Jack

I try to make a point to watch the “locals” and do what they do, as best I can.

I have been fortunate to travel many different places, but I also know that no matter what I do I still look “American.”

Not that it is a bad thing, but my dress, speech and movement give so much away…
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    Annie Andre

    There is nothing wrong with looking or being American.
    In fact, if you do make a faux pas in table etiquete while travelling, most likely people will forgive you because they know and see that you are not from around there. In my travels, other countries are very tolerant to foreigners.

    On the flip side, I’ve seen and heard some horrible things that people have said about Asian, Indian, middle eastern table manners. But that’s another issue.

    I think most people will and do try to respect local customs when travelling. It’s impossible to know everything. The best one can do is try.
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Brasilicana

I love this! So fascinating. Today I read a post by a Brazilian blogger living in the U.S. who commented on the fact that Americans eat foods like pizza, sandwiches, and fries with their hands – and to Brazilian eyes, that’s really unsanitary! People here will eat pizza with a knife and fork, fries with a fork, and wrap a napkin around a sandwich or burger so as not to touch it directly with their hands.
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    Annie Andre

    Brasilicana,
    I actually read about certain countries that wold not touch food with their hands but i didn’t believe it. It must be true though….

    I wonder, i would love to find out if any Brazilians have gone to a country where they only eat with their hands and if so, what did they think. How did they deal?
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Lenia

Hey Annie,
Haha really great and funny this article. After reading that I feel hungry :)
I did not know all these details about Japan. I have never been there. I didn’t know that detail for salad in France. I know that in France they usually do not cut the salad but they put the whole “salad leaf” in the plate. That is a big difference because in Greece we cut the salad leaf in small pieces…

Personally, I have not problem to slurp the noodles but I think my boyfriend will have a big problem. He is getting nervous when other people around are slurping !

My boyfriend has recently visited Birmania, Vietnam, Nepal…in some of these countries people don’t use forks to eat…they use their hands!
That is all I know!
thank you for sharing :)

p.s. Annie, if you have sometime time please check out my new WordPress blog. I would appreciate to have your feedback. Thanks!
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Noch Noch

ahahhahahahaha i was rolling with laughter on the floor. i completely see all that and experienced it all, esp the slurping noodles in Japan and not cutting my salad in France. so true, some of these culture sensitivities seem so obvious but not many of us actually realize them beforehand. and the chopsticks in the bowl, big No No!!!!
:)
Noch Noch
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    Annie Andre

    Noch Nock,
    I knew i would make someone laugh with this post. Customs and table manners were some o the most obvious differences i noticed when travelling. Some people love the difference, while others have a hard time. It’s not for everyone. AND i agree, DO NOT STICK chopsticks in Rice. NO NO NO.. :)
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Sarah O

This was so entertaining and true! I think the key take-away is Watch what the locals are doing! (At least if you don’t want to look like a clueless tourist.) On the other hand, it’s true that you will probably be forgiven for your faux pas table manners too. But you’ll get extra points if you make the effort.

I can remember being so flummoxed by all of this as a kid – when we lived in Belgium for a few years. I’d had it drilled into my head that I had to switch my fork from my left hand to my right after cutting my food. But over in Belgium that was considered totally weird and inefficient. Everyone just bit off the fork while it was in their left hand! And don’t even get me started about how the kids teased me when I returned to the U.S. and was cutting my pizza with my knife and fork!

Great info – and so important for folks planning a stay in a foreign land.

Morris

Watching other cultures eat is interesting. Chinese have no problem filling your bowl if you don’t put something in it fast enough.
Cultures affect the way we conduct business as well.
Enjoyed the article.
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Hajra

I am an Indian and yes, some of them hold true for us. In most parts of India, burping is seen as a sign that the host prepared delicious, sumptuous meal. When I visited a particular place in India; I was supposed to lick my fingers clean after the meal. And yes, I did it! What is normal for one is abnormal for others! But farting on the table… I might have to be paid to try that custom out! :)
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Steve

Before I took my big trip through Southeast Asia, I looked up table manners so some of these I already knew. I heard once that sticking chopsticks into rice like that was bad luck because it resembled incense sticks for the dead. Or it was something like that. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I made sure that my chopsticks didn’t do that while I was there.

Something you said about finishing your plate explains one meal I had at a nicer restaurant. I finished a side dish and I was completely stuffed, but the server insisted he bring more even though I told him I couldn’t eat anymore.
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    Annie Andre

    Steve,
    You are absolutely right about the reason why chopsticks sticking in your rice is bad luck. it’s the same explanation my step mum gave me.

    Were you in another counttry when your host kept serving you food after you finished your plate?

    Rabi

    Wow Steve, I never thought that would be the reason sticking chopsticks into the rice is prohibited.

    Hello Annie,
    I find your article is interesting to read. I’m going to use it to tell my students here in Indonesia about unique table manners from other countries. Thanks for sharing. :)
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Thea

Hi Annie
It’s lovely to be here, I have popped in to read your blog a few times but this is my first comment.

Loved the article. I think I would be a good slurper, particularly when it comes to eating noodles. I can use chopsticks but I am not great with them, so it would be all about slurping and shoveling. Come to think of it not sure if shoveling is acceptable?

Interesting fact about not cutting salad in France, didn’t know that one and probably did the wrong thing a few times when I was there. Speaking of food in France I remember being in Paris years ago at a Korean restaurant. The menu was all in French (not a tourist place which was great) and we ordered Korean which we had never tried either. We had no idea what was going to come out of the kitchen. Turned out it was great though. Interesting little history fact about the forks as well.
Thanks for the informative and fun post.
Cheers
Thea
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    Annie Andre

    Thea,
    It’s so wonderful of you to stop by. I think everyone who has ever travelled to a place where that country speaks another language must surely have a story like yours where they order from the menu and just hope whatever comes out of the kitchen is something that they want to eat.. It was very brave of you. Food can make a trip abroad extraordinary or miserable. You have to eat 3 times a day after all right?

Terri

Great post. Very interesting. I wasn’t aware of several of these. Here’s one more that I learned from my sister who lives in Sweden: in Sweden, it is bad form to take the last piece of anything. You should cut in half and take only half. The next person can cut the remaining half in half again (and so on!).
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Sammy

Just to bring some insight about the salad thing.

I am french and I could say it will not be a shame to cut your salad. Sure, not doing it could be a hint of a better education. But I am pretty sure a lot french people do not follow the rule.

Lee

Hi Annie
I have spent quite a bit of time in France and never cutting your salad ever crossed my mind. Could be why I used to get the odd side ways glance now and again when eating out. May not of been but could of.

I love reading facts like this

I can remember in Japan that you never finish your drink unless you want it topping up. That took a bit of getting used to.

Great post lee
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CJ

The not-cutting-your-salad thing could be a more or less regional thing too. I am French and where I’m from we just don’t do that. I’ve lived in the US for 14 years now and I still cringe when I see people cut their salad (when it’s not already been cut to bite size during preparation–which is also a huge no-no to me).

Batians

Some of these cultures are weird. Why would the host keep adding food on my plate without asking if am indeed full? And somehow i fail to understand how leaving food on the table goes well with these hosts.
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