Nancy B. Varghese
Placing your cutlery in the wrong direction after a meal, cutting the lettuce in your salad, and even placing your hands under the table as you eat may seem harmless at home and in the company of those you know, but it can be a major faux pas in other countries. To save you from any kind of embarrassment and spare you the glaring stares from those around you, we bring you a quick and comprehensive guide to table manners around the world!
- Place your chopsticks on the chopstick rest or hashioki, or right next to your bowl, when you’re finished eating. Make sure it’s not pointed to anyone at the table, and that you don’t use them to gesticulate or point it at anyone when you’re speaking.
- Many restaurants offer wet towels before beginning a meal; use it to clean your hands, fold it, and keep it aside.
- Stick them vertically into your bowl of rice, as it is extremely offensive and is a part of the Buddhist ritual to offer food to the deceased!
- Pass food to a person, from one chopstick to another, because at funerals chopsticks are used to pick bones from the ashes of the deceased and pass it to another person, or while transferring it into the urn.
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- Always keep your hands on the table where they are visible to everyone seated with you.
- Wait for the host of the meal to make a toast, before drinking
- Tear your bread into bite-sized portions before eating; it’s considered rude to take bites off a whole piece of bread.
- Start drinking unless everyone has a full glass in front of them.
- Touch your food with your fingers, especially cheese.
- Cross clink your glass (over or under other people’s hands); it’s considered bad luck
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- Pass all dishes to the left of the table.
- Keep your wrists on the table, but not your elbows, and avoid crossing your hands.
- Remember that red wine goes with the meat and white wine goes with the fish; this is to bring out individual flavours of the dishes and the wines when paired together.
- Cut the lettuce in your salad; fold it with your fork and knife into a bundle that can be picked up by the fork.
- Begin the meal until the host says “Buòn appetito!”
- Chop long strands of pasta, but twirl it with a fork and eat instead.
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- Arrive on time; the idea of ‘fashionably late” doesn’t apply to German dining etiquette!
- It is customary for the host to say “Guten Appetit!”, and it is suggested you wait for the same before you begin eating
- Hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right; after the meal is done, place the fork and the knife parallel to each other on the right side of your plate. The tips should point to the ten o'clock position.
- Eat with your hands at all; the concept of ‘finger food’ is definitely not literal in Germany
- Cut up all of your meat at once; cut up bite-sized pieces, eat it, and then proceed to cut out the next piece and so on.
- Leave the napkin on your chair, if you leave the table during the meal for any reason. You can keep it next to your plate.
- Drop the pits from olives politely from your mouth onto your fork, and then discard it into a dish that’s provided for the same.
- Ask for water, as it is not usually provided unless you do so, and make sure you mention if you want it natural (room temperature) or fresca (cold).
- Ask for dishes to be substituted; especially in the local dining locations where they are not too keen on changing their dishes, and you will be handed exactly what is mentioned on the menu.
- Forget to leave a small bit of food on your plate after you’ve finished eating.
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- Leave a small amount of rice in your bowl after you’ve finished eating unless you want some more, in which case your empty bowl is a sign for the waiter to refill it.
- Take small amounts of each dish onto your plate; taking too much of any dish and hence preventing others from trying it is considered rude.
- Slurp your food, especially if you’re consuming noodles or broth.
- Begin eating or drinking unless the senior-most member of the dinner party has been served first.
- Wish fellow diners ‘buen provecho’ (enjoy your meal) before you begin your meal.
- Eat foods like tortas and tortillas with your hands, as it is encouraged; but use the fork and spoon above your place for dessert.
- Be too early for a dinner! It is assumed that you’re imposing on your hosts if you show up on the dot, as you’re invited. 15-30 minutes past the decided time is an acceptable time-frame to show up.
- Rush through your meal; dining is to be enjoyed with friends and family and is looked at as an opportunity to socialize and converse with those around you.
Which of these customs did you find the most insightful?
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