Food is such an intrinsic part of life that we tend to assume that everybody approaches it in the same way.
This isn't actually the case. Even in countries that are culturally similar to the U.S.A., there are small variations in what is and isn't polite at the dinner table.
The further away you go, culturally speaking, the bigger these variations become. If you know what the differences are before you travel, you can feel comfortable at any meal, knowing that you will never offend your hosts.
So, with that in mind, we'd like to share with you some of the biggest differences in dining etiquette from a range of countries around the world, so you can get the most from your next international vacation.
1. Pass The Port On The Left In England
The place closest to the U.S.A. from a cultural perspective only has one minor difference in dining etiquette - when someone breaks out the port, you pass it to the left and it keeps moving until it's all gone.
2. Avoid Cheese And Seafood Pasta In Italy
Italians don't put cheese on their seafood pasta. In fact, they think the idea is absolutely disgusting. That doesn't mean that they will shout at you, but you may find yourself shunned socially for it.
3. Don't Clink Your Glasses In Sweden
You only clink glasses during a formal toast in Sweden. Otherwise, it's incredibly gauche. If you don't know what to do, watch other people and only clink if they do.
4. Keep The Volume Down In France
The French have only a single complaint about American diners - the noise they make while eating. You shouldn't be able to be heard at the next table. If you can, you're being rude.
5. Don't Disrespect The Dead In Japan
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This is fairly easy to avoid. Never, ever stand your chopsticks upright in rice. This is something that is only done at funerals in Japan.
6. Chopsticks Rule In China
Chopsticks are used for everything in China, including breaking up food. So don't ask for a knife, use the chopsticks to tear food instead.
7. Avoid Meat In India
With a nation split between Muslims and Hindus, it's best just to avoid pork (forbidden to Muslims) and beef (cows are sacred to Hindus) completely. That way you can't offend anyone in India.
8. Thais Use Their Forks In An Unusual Way
Forks never go in your mouth in Thailand. They are only used to put food on your spoon, which is the only utensil that goes in your mouth over dinner. Oh and don't ask for chopsticks. Thais don't use them.
9. Don't Go Southpaw In Islamic Countries
People in Islamic countries use their left hand to clean themselves in the toilet. Thus eating with the left hand is really rude and also quite disgusting.
10. Never Refuse Food In Lebanon
Lebanese folks don't like it when you turn down food. Even if you know you don't like it, you must try it or you will offend someone.
11. It's Rude To Be On Time In Chile
Chileans consider it to be the height of ignorance to arrive on time for a dinner at someone's house. It's only polite to be fashionably late.
12. Keep Your Hands In View In Brazil
It is considered to be the sign of a liar in Brazil if someone's hands are not visible during the meal, so keep them above the table at all times.
13. Dress Up For Dinner In Argentina
An invitation to dinner in Argentina is never informal. You wear a suit and tie if you're a man or an evening dress if you are a woman. To do otherwise would insult your host.
14. Chicken Is A Very Big Deal In Zambia
If somebody invites you to eat chicken in Zambia, they are really pushing the boat out for you. You have to go and you have to thank your host profusely once you're done.
15. Somebody Else Might Try To Feed You In Ethiopia
This one's a little unusual. In Ethiopia, another diner may try to put food in your mouth. Don't panic. This is called gursha and it's a sign of respect.
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