Elbows not on the table, smacking is taboo and people eat properly with knives and forks – that’s how table manners look in Germany. But what if the well-educated German travels far away? He may not get very far with his behaviour at the table. Worse still, he can make many mistakes and behave completely wrong. It is often simply forgotten that table manners, like all other customs, vary from country to country. What is considered indecent here at the table may be common practice in other countries. Here are the table manners of some other nations.
USA: One hand remains free
In the USA, people usually eat with only one hand, while the second is left lying quietly in the lap. Legend says that this is a legacy from the Wild West. Because he had to fear enemies at all times, the cowboy always kept a hand on the weapon – even when eating. And so it came about that many Americans still cut their food into small pieces, and eat them with one hand and a fork afterwards.
Japan: Sipping yes, but never crossing the chopsticks
When people burp and slurp in Japan, the cook is happy, because for him that is a compliment to his culinary art. Everybode who eats in Japan with chopsticks, must consider however a few characteristics. You don’t gesticulate around wildly with the eating tool and above all they shouldn’t be crossed or put into the rice. This is only usual and permitted at a funerary banquet in honour of the dead. The chopsticks are also not rubbed against each other and may not be licked. Who points with the chopsticks at another person, insults these, similarly as it is considered as an insult in Germany, if one points with the naked index finger at another person.
China: Smoking while eating
The same strict chopsticks rules as in Japan also apply in China and other Asian countries. In China, another point is added: smoking. In China, smoking tobacco is simply part of eating, it is practically an integral part of eating. While cigar smoke spoils the taste of food for Europeans, it is considered appetizing in China.
Russia: When you are full you simply stop eating
It should always be the case that you always stop eating when you are full. In Russia, however, this rule does not apply to prevent overweight, but as a courtesy. If you leave the rest of your food on your plate, the cook in Russia knows that the food tasted good and that he did his job well. The opposite is true in Germany!
Arabia and India: Eating by hand but by no means with the left!
Many people know that in Arab countries, as well as India and Pakistan, the people still eat by hand. But unfortunately Europeans often forget something decisive: The left, the “unclean” hand must not be used at all. Why? In Arabia you only use your left hand if you clean yourself after going to the toilet. Therefore, the left hand is considered the “impure” hand and the table rule goes without saying. In India one should wash one’s hands additionally between the different courses of food, in order not to be considered unclean.
France: The baguette is really sacred
In France there are strict customs at the table and above all a lot of them! In France, almost everything has to be eaten with cutlery, even chicken legs, which in Germany even in a noble restaurant can be held by hand to bite off. The salad, on the other hand, must first be folded bite-sized with a knife and fork. The hot soup must not be cooled with blowing and the cheese platter must not be completely emptied. Smacking and other noises are completely taboo when eating in France. But the most important rule in France: Never cut the baguette with a knife, only broke it into pieces with your hands.
Korea: The eldest eats first
In Korea, you can’t start eating until the oldest person at the table has taken the first bite. You must also be quiet and silent at the meal, because those who speak cannot enjoy fully the meal.
Italy: Spaghetti must be eaten in the right way.
The rest of the world believes that in Italy you would turn spaghetti against a spoon with a fork and then artistically stroke the spaghetti pile onto the spoon and lead it into your mouth. That’s not the case. It’s only worse if you cut the spaghetti with a knife! If you don’t want to attract attention in Italy, you should quickly move the knife and spoon to the side and only handle the fork. That means: In the Italian restaurant in Italy, the spaghetti is only taken of with the fork and eaten uncut. If you can’t do that, you should order another pasta form!
Britain: A gentleman through and through while eating, too
You can easily recognize an Englishman while eating: A bite is cut off with a knife and fork, then the knife is put down and the fork is changed into the right hand and then – and only then – the bite is eaten. Then the knife and fork are picked up again and the whole thing starts all over again. This is quite cumbersome for non-English people, but “very British”.
Thailand without knife
In Thai restaurants you only eat with fork and spoon. You don’t need a knife here, because the food is already served in bite-sized pieces. The fork is held in the left hand and the spoon in the right. But be careful: In Thailand the fork is only used to push the food onto the spoon. So never lead the food with the fork to the mouth, because the Thai feels that this is naughty, just like in Germany the licking of the knife is considered indecent.
We wish you delicous meals around the world inspite of all these rules!