Americans have their owns thoughts when it comes to dining etiquette, and those opinions aren’t necessarily wrong. Consider, though, that there are certain behaviors that are “rude” in America that other countries find completely acceptable.
People in each and every country have their own way of thinking, and America is no different. We have things that we generally consider to be acceptable, and things that we almost always consider to be inconsiderate and rude. Did you know, however, that many things Americans scoff at are actually welcome in other countries?
When Americans hear slurping, they tend to think of it as annoyance—something that’s really only done by kids who don’t know any better, or by adults who aren’t the most self-aware:
In Japan, though, slurping is essentially considered to be music to the ears of any chef. To them it means that you’re thoroughly enjoying their food, so much so that you can hardly even control the noises you’re making as you try to eat it as fast as you can. It’s a sound most commonly heard while slurping up a bowl of noodles, and one that pays respects to the chef who made it.
There are pretty much two types of people in this world: people who would never dream of being late for literally anything and people who end up being late for most everything.
In America, it’s commonly frowned upon to be late, and some people even resort to telling their perpetually-late friends and family that something starts earlier than it really does so they’ll actually show up at the right time.
When it comes to dinner, it’s pretty much the exact opposite in India. Indians often put a bigger emphasis on relationships than they do time, and they truly take no issues with a friend showing up late for dinner, even if they’re 30 minutes late.
They won’t even get mad if it happens more than once, as being late is something that seems to be pretty acceptable there—now if only it’d work when showing up late for work for the third day in a row.
Having Others Pay
Whether you’re going on a date or just out to dinner with friends, it pretty standard in America that each person will pay for their own portion of the meal, or at least offer to split up the bill.
The main exception to this is when someone is buying you dinner for a birthday or to return a favor but, even then, it’s typically expected of the other person to at least offer to pay for their share.
In France, however, offer to pay for just your portion and you’ll be sure to get a few stares, as it’s actually considered “unsophisticated” not to just pay for the entire bill yourself. Either that, or you’ll just have to let the other person pay and owe them a dinner next time.
The only downside to this custom is that you might go back and forth on who’s going to pay several times before you finally figure it out.
Touching Others’ Food
When a group of people know each other well, it’s usually no big deal to ask for a bite of whatever your dining companions are having. For couples, there’s usually not even any thought behind it—they just reach across the table to their partner’s plate and help themselves.
For the most part, though, people usually expect to pick up their food by themselves, whether with a fork or their fingers, and often feel weird when someone touches their food and tries to hand it to them or just feed them.
You might be surprised to find out that in Ethiopia, it’s pretty common to feed other people with your hands, so much so that it’s actually considered to be a sign of good hospitality.
The tradition even has a name, gursha, which is used to help people connect and build trust among one another as they spend their time eating a meal.
Not Saying Thanks
In America, most people tend to give their thanks for any little thing someone does for them, almost as much as we throw out the word “sorry” for absolutely nothing.
We also tend to consider it incredibly important to thank people when they’ve invited us into their home, especially when that invitation also included a home-cooked meal. Leave it out when the meal is over and the host might either consider you ungrateful or worry that their meal wasn’t truly as good as they thought it was.
In India, however, a “thank you” at the end of a meal is almost thought of as payment, and it’s usually not the most welcome gesture. Instead, it’s more acceptable to just host dinner at your house for your next get-together because it shows them that you value your relationship with them.
Just make sure your meal is comparable so they don’t think you’re trying to show them up.
Eating Dropped Food
As kids, we all tend to be fond of the five-second rule, but that tends to go out the window as we grow older. If you’re like us, picking a piece of food off the floor even after just one second makes you think of whose shoe could’ve been in that exact spot, and all of the terrible things they could’ve stepped in.
It’s not even that paranoid of a thought, as research has proven that the five-second rule is bogus—food picks up bacteria off the ground pretty much instantly.
In Middle Eastern countries, however, eating something that’s been dropped onto the ground isn’t considered gross at all.
Once it happens, it’s customary to pick it back up, kiss the piece of food, and then raise it up to your forehead as acknowledgement of the hard work that went into producing it. Then you just put it back on your plate and carry on.
Not Finishing Your Meal
As children, Americans are bombarded with the idea that leaving food on your plate is a sin on par with murder.
Leaving one small piece of broccoli behind means that you’ll never grow, and a sip of milk left in your glass means you won’t end up smart as you would if you’d just finish it.
In certain Asian countries, though, leaving food on your plate is actually considered to be a very good thing—it means your dinner host did their job of filling you up. Eat everything that’s on your plate and it seems to them like you’re still hungry because they haven’t fed you enough.
In fact, if they see that your plate is empty, they’ll likely come around to your place at the table and fill it for you again until they don’t have any food left. Leave a few bites of food behind and they’ll know that you’re satisfied.
Playing With Food
Kids of all ages love to play with their food—in America, it probably stems from the fact that kids are often forced to finish their plates, even if they’re not hungry anymore.
Sometimes even just mixing our food in weird ways will result in our aunt or grandma telling us to stop playing with our food, as if we were about to pick it up and paint with it.
Go to Germany, though, and being too rigid while eating seems a little weird. Cutting up a single potato with a fork and knife, for instance, tells the cook that it wasn’t done all the way though, hence needing a knife to get through it.
Use a fork to mash it up, however, and they’ll know they did a good job at cooking it through. Not to mention that you’ll go from baked potato to mashed potatoes, which is infinitely better in our book.