“Don’t chew with your mouth open !”, “Don’t put your elbows on the table ! “, “Don’t play with your food !” We’ve all been hearing these words since childhood. Our parents and family took great care of teaching us the principles of what we consider being good table manners. But when you travel, you soon realize those rules aren’t universal. And sometimes, you also discover strange rituals like these ones…
1. Trash on the floor
Don’t be surprised if the floor of your Spanish tapas bar is soiled with garbage: papers, napkins, cigarettes, food debris… Don’t they have any garbage bin in Spain? What looks like a lack of hygiene is in fact an old tradition from the 19th century. The more waste you got on the floor of your bar, the more you could show off about how many clients you had in front of your competitors.
This tradition is still alive in some places. You can even spot waiters throwing what’s left on the table directly on the ground.
2. Eating noisily
In Japan, you should slurp your noodles noisily (like you did as a child with spaghetti!) because it means you love what you’re eating. It is perfectly acceptable to do so (but only with noodles and soup).
3. Burping at the end of your meal
In some Asian and Maghreb countries, it’s not impolite to burp at the end of your meal. It simply means you have eaten well.
But if you’re traveling to those countries be sure to always check in advance what’s the custom to avoid any false step. This is not a generality and note that the burp is not a must: they just consider you shouldn’t restrain yourself from burping if you feel like it.
4. Eating with your hands
In some countries it’s perfectly normal to use only your hands (or to be more specific your right hand) to eat some dishes. In Ethiopia for example, everybody eat from the same plate, with their hand.
Be sure to use your right hand because the left one is usually considered unclean.
5. Arriving late
In some countries, it’s customary to arrive late when you’re invited for dinner. In Japan, count 1 hour delay. In Tanzania, between 15 and 30 minutes.
Good to know: in general, never ever arrive in advance to your host’s place.
Have you ever observed strange manners abroad? Share your experiences in the comment section below!