Dining Etiquette Abroad

August 26, 2015 2 min read

One of the best parts about traveling is getting the chance to experience the local culinary specialties. Sushi in Japan, pizza in Italy, it just doesn’t get any better (or fresher) than that. Ensure that your manners are as good as your meal with our guide to dining etiquette abroad.
When breaking bread with the French, don’t be surprised if you find yourself without a side plate to place your baguette. In France, bread typically goes straight on the table. As for forks and knives, the fork stays in your left hand throughout the course of the meal. Once you’ve finished, place silverware in the 5 o’clock position on your plate to signify that you’re done.
Before tucking into a delicious Italian pizza, don’t forget to pick up your cutlery. Unlike some of their North American counterparts, the Italians enjoy their pizza with a knife and fork. Also, it’s best to avoid asking for extra cheese. Unless it’s offered, assume that it isn’t needed. Once your meal has begun to wind down, feel free to order an after-dinner shot of espresso. If, however, you would prefer a cappuccino or latte, try and wait until morning. Generally speaking, milk-heavy coffees are reserved for the daytime only.
When holidaying in Mexico, opt for a truly hands-on experience and skip the silverware. Tacos, a national gastronomical treasure, are meant to be eaten with your hands. Using a knife and fork is considered to be a faux pas and looks rather silly, not unlike using cutlery to consume a sandwich.
In Japan, the way that you handle your chopsticks matters. Between bites or during a pause in the meal, always rest your chopsticks on the table, parallel to the edge. Better yet, use the chopstick rest that may be provided. Never, under any circumstances, stick your sticks into your bowl of rice. Japanese funeral customs have the deceased’s bowl of rice placed in front of the casket with the chopsticks standing on top. Not exactly a thought you want to invoke during dinner, is it?
Chances are that if you notice an absence of salt and pepper shakers on the table in Portugal, there’s a reason for it. Adding seasoning to your dish after it’s been served is frowned upon and considered insulting to the chef. Luckily, Portuguese food is known for its fabulously flavourful nature which means that salt and pepper will be the last things on your mind.
Should you find yourself sitting down to enjoy a meal sans silverware in India, always remember to eat with your right hand and never your left. Better yet, keep your left hand off the table, preferably at your side. Never pour your own drink, instead keep an eye on your neighbours’ glasses and top them up when you see the need. Don’t worry, they’ll do the same for you.
Kate Walker
Who is Kate Walker? She’s a freelance writer, yoga addict, and citizen of the concrete jungle. When not on the mat, Kate can be found at the dog park or on the dock in Muskoka. She is also pretty fond of running, skiing, and Settlers of Catan.

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