In a world full of tourists hosts are prone to labeling their guests by the country they come from, so it is common knowledge that the Japanese are famous as being most grateful, Germans as most economical and the French as the most demanding and prone to nagging. So it can’t hurt to know the basics of eating behavior and habits – so called eatiquette – of the country you’re traveling to so you can leave a good impression or at least avoid possible inconvenience.
If you are invited to dinner, don’t make plans for later, because you are expected to stay and socialize. Learning Russian language is the best way to gain friends or leave a good impression. At least make an effort. In that case, you can expect the warmest greetings, hugs, pat on the back and other effusions of friendship. Do not shake hands above the doorstep because the Russians believe that it leads to quarrels.
Use a knife and a fork while eating a sandwich, fruit and other foods. At the table the host will wish you “Guten Appetit”, which is also a sign that you can start eating. Introduce yourself only with a last name and never mention the title. If an older or higher ranked person enters the room, it’s decent to stand up. Do not overdo with the compliments to your hosts so they wouldn’t be embarrassed. Don’t forget that the Germans are more formal and more accurate than the rest of the world, so at least try to incorporate.
During the meal feel free to belch or sip the soup, but ordering a rare steak is considered the pinnacle of barbarity. You should leave a little food on the plate so you show the host you’re grateful for the generosity. Be prepared to give a small toast to any occasion at any time. If a Chinese honors you with applause – reciprocate, but by no means don’t snap you fingers and whistle as it is considered very rude. Show special respect to elders and never point at anything with a finger.
At the table don’t ask for an extra plate for bread, because it is customary to hold it on the table. Spaniards don’t like to throw away the food so put only what you can eat on a plate. Be patient, except when you get interrupted. In southern Spain it is common to arrive late for a meeting even up to half an hour, while in the north of the country usual delay is to 15 minutes. However, being late for bull fights isn’t tolerable. Leave tips to everyone and everything.
Don’t twirl the spaghetti on the fork, do it on the edge of the plate. Burping is considered extremely vulgar. While eating, hold both hands above the table, but don’t support yourself on elbows. The Italians are very chic, so it is polite to dress elegantly and somewhat conservative. Don’t yawn in the public or take off your shoes. Italians are generous, so they will forgive many mistakes, but not arrogance and brutality.
At lunch or dinner it is polite to leave some food on your plate and leave the hosts shortly after a meal. Before you start eating, wait for the host to begin first. Shake hands lightly, not tightly, don’t push, be persistent, or interrupt while someone’s talking. Always hold the door for the person behind you.
Don’t eat the whole fruit, but peel it and cut. However, don’t cut the crunchy baguette – tear it with your hands. Before the meal don’t order a martini or whiskey because the French believe that diminishes the palate. People in this country value their privacy, so don’t be conspicuous, and don’t use a comb, a toothpick, or even chewing gum on the street. Also considered rude are scratching and yawning and they’re not very keen on telling jokes either.
Photo by: Swaminathan