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From sticking your chopsticks vertically in your rice, to timing your coffee consumption throughout the day; the world’s food court is a minefield of courtesies and common practices that can have you unknowingly committing a tasty taboo. Here’s a a quick guide to some of the oddest food related faux pas you can commit whilst travelling abroad.
It is considered bad manners to insert food into your mouth using a fork, as this should be used only to push food onto your spoon. Stand alone items that are not part of rice-based dishes may be eaten solely with a fork but apparently; the worst thing you can potentially do at a traditional banquet would be to use chopsticks, as it is considered tacky.
Never eat tacos with a knife and fork! It’s considered a silly and snobby practice, so to be polite try to stick to eating this messy delicacy with your hands.
In The Middle East, India and Some Parts of Africa
Try not to eat with your left hand. In fact in South India, don’t so much as touch your plate with your left hand. The reasoning behind this is that the left hand is traditionally associated with bodily functions and as such is considered unclean. It’s also a faux pas to pass object from person to person with the left hand; unless you are in fact left handed in which case the rules are reversed.
You’ll be branded a tourist if you order a cappuccino after noon. Some Italians claim that it’ll upset your stomach if you decide to indulge in a late coffee, although espresso is considered acceptable. Also, never ask for parmesan with your pizza, or any other time that it is not explicitly offered to you. Putting parmigiano on pizza is considered a sin.
Do not touch any part of your meal with your hands, even fries. This is considered bad manners and not in keeping with European culture.
You are required to show respect to elders that offer you a drink by raising your glass to receive the pour with both hands. Similarly, do not start eating until the eldest male has begun, and do not leave the table until that person has finished.
Offering someone a drink is a sign of trust and friendship and it is a faux pas to turn down the proposal. You’d not want to offend a local by declining their offer of a drink and have to deal with a confrontation as your glass is hurled at the glass splashbacks of a bar! Vodka is always drunk neat and without ice, as adding anything is seen as compromising the purity of the drink. Unless of course the vodka is mixed with beer, which creates a hefty blend that Russians call ‘yorsh’.
Eat your bread as an accompaniment to your meal rather than as a preceding appetizer. It is also preferable to place your bread directly onto the table rather than a plate.
Do you know of any strange rituals or etiquette exclusive to one country? Let us know in the comments below.
Elise Lévêque works as a translator and loves to travel. In her spare time she enjoys fine wine, good food, and writing for Loveglass on her favourite holiday destinations!