11 Things Not to Do When Eating Abroad

street food jakartaSit up straight. Use your napkin. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t put your elbows on the table (too much), avoid slurping and burping … you know your table manners. But those refinements you’re so accustomed to may be insignificant or even offensive in other parts of the world. In Japan, for example, slurping is actually encouraged. It’s considered a compliment to the person who prepared the meal; it shows you like your food. Which other etiquette pitfalls should you be aware of while traveling? Read on for a few dos and don’ts at tables across the world. Thailand: Don’t Eat with a Fork Technically, you can use a fork, but only if you’re using it to put food on a spoon. You can’t put the fork in your mouth when eating a meal with rice, as it’s considered offensive in Thailand; use your spoon instead. If the meal isn’t rice-based, a fork might be acceptable, depending on the circumstances. (We recommend observing your fellow diners before digging in.) As for knives, they’re off the table — literally. Thais typically eat with forks and spoons only. Chile: Don’t Eat Without a Fork It used to be barbaric to eat food with your fingers in some parts of the world, though some countries have since warmed to the idea. In Chile, however, the old-fashioned rule remains. It’s customary to use both a fork and spoon at the table for any type of food, no matter how finger-friendly. 12 International Foods to Try Before You Die Italy: Don’t Cut Up Your Pasta If you want to live the dolce vita in Italy, don’t offend the locals by cross-cutting your spaghetti or any other type of pasta into bite-size pieces. Instead, use your fork to twirl the strands against the side of your bowl. (Spoons should also be avoided.) China: Don’t Finish Your Entire Meal In some countries, it’s nice to wipe your plate clean — it shows you truly enjoyed your meal. In China, that’s not the case. Leave some food on your plate to show the chef generously provided you so much that you couldn’t finish it. Egypt: Don’t Refill Your Own Glass If your glass is half empty, it will be refilled in Egypt — just not by you. You should never refresh your water or tea yourself; instead, another person at the table is expected to fill your glass, and you should return the favor for him or her. Spain: Don’t Dip Bread in Your Soup It’s tempting (and delicious) to dip a slice of bread into a bowl of soup, but don’t do it while dining in Spain. Sauces are off limits for dipping too. It’s considered rude, and you’ll get some funny looks. How to Save Money on Food When You Travel Japan: Don’t Pass Food Between Chopsticks street food jakartaThere are numerous taboos when it comes to using your chopsticks in Japan. One of the biggest no-nos is passing food from one set of chopsticks to another; this evokes a Buddhist funeral rite involving the transfer of cremated bones. On a similar note, you shouldn’t leave chopsticks upright in your rice bowl — another practice you’ll see at funerals. Finally, never lick food from your chopsticks, and don’t cross them when you’re not using them. Put them in a holder, if available, or place them parallel to each other on the table. Tanzania: Don’t Smell the Food In many cultures, sniffing a piece of fruit at a market or breathing deeply to take in the delicious aroma of a dish fresh from the oven wouldn’t raise any eyebrows — but this isn’t the case in Tanzania. Sniffing your food or commenting on how it smells implies that the food is rotten and shows disrespect for the cook. Philippines: Don’t Use Your Left Hand Eat with your right hand, and keep your left hand off the table and at your side. Also, use your right hand to pass food. This rule applies in other countries as well, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, since the left hand is considered “unclean” in Muslim tradition. Beyond Restaurants: Eight Ways to Savor a Local Food Scene Portugal: Don’t Ask for Salt and Pepper If there are salt and pepper shakers on the table, by all means help yourself — just don’t request them. In Portugal this is offensive to the chef, who will think you don’t like the taste of your food without additional spices. South Korea: Don’t Start Eating Before the Oldest Person Respect for one’s elders is very important in South Korean culture, and this translates to the country’s table manners. Diners generally allow the oldest person at the table to begin eating first as a token of courtesy and appreciation. You May Also Like Five Foods to Avoid Before Flying The World’s 12 Dreamiest Desserts More Food and Travel Tips Share Advice from Your Latest Trip Get Our Best Travel Tips and Trip Ideas!

Five Foods to Avoid Before Flying:
Pre-flight anxiety — spurred by endless baggage lines, security checkpoints and screaming children — need not extend to fears of repeat trips to the airplane lavatory. But eat the wrong thing before you fly, and you may be contending with more than just an awful in-flight movie or space-invading neighbor.

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