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9 extraordinary food etiquette rules from around the world

Mind your manners – because your usual food habits may need adjusting within other cultures. For example, the way you approach or/and eat food and drink may offend locals in another country. For example, did you know it’s rude to ask for salt and pepper in Portugal? So to eat like a local in different countries (as true travellers should) – here are some fascinating food etiquette rules from different foo cultures to take with you on your next trip.

Food etiquette rules all traveller’s must know

Italy – Don’t mix seafood and cheese

You read that right. It’s important to resist asking for cheese on your frutti di mare (seafood pasta) or any other seafood dish. It’s deemed very rude by locals – who believe these two were never meant to be wedded because they combat the flavours of one another.

Secondly, one should never ask for parmesan to sprinkle on an Italian pizza. Why? Because the chef has produced you a masterful, tastebud-tingling pizza with his own hands – and each ingredient has a purpose. Whoever needs to hear this: there’s such a thing as ‘too cheesy’.

The last Italian food etiquette rules to remember are: never drink a cappuccino after a meal (the milk halts your digestion), never ask for ketchup (save it for French fries elsewhere) and do not request chicken with pasta (the textures are too similar).

RELATED CONTENT: A brief history of Italy’s longstanding love affair with pasta

Thailand – Don’t put a fork in your mouth

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We know what you’re thinking… surely not? This is one of the hardest food etiquette rules to get used to, particularly for Westerns. As the proper way to eat in in Thailand is to transfer food from your fork, onto a spoon and then into your mouth. Or eat with chopsticks or just a spoon (which is easier said than done sometimes). Conquer this unique food custom, and you might notice street food vendors giving you an extra big portion of pad thai next time.

RELATED CONTENT: Can you handle Trafalgar’s spiciest food experiences?

Middle East – Only eat with your right hand

When visiting the Middle East, it’s important to think twice before eating. This is because people’s left hands are traditionally used for in the bathroom in Islamic cultures and so are considered unclean. That being said, you must concentrate on passing plates and using your right hand (only) when using utensils and eating Middle Eastern food.

China – Leave some food on your plate

If you grew up within a Western culture – perhaps you were told to eat all the food on your plate because it’s polite. Well, if you tried to do this in China… it tells your host so you haven’t been served enough. So they will keep handing you delicious Chinese food for days! You must remember to leave a small amount of food in China.

You must also never flip a fish because this symbolises a boat capsizing. Instead, if served a whole fish: eat one side, then pull the bone out and carry on eating. Lastly, never stick your chopsticks vertically in rice (this resembles  a funeral practice that involves sticking burning incense into rice), and is very inappropriate.

South Korea – Respect your elders

South Korean culture cares about age. Put simply: the eldest deserve more respect as they have higher social rank. And so there are food etiquette rules around you should make a note of should for your food experiences in South Korea. You must take your eat only after the eldest has sat down; pass dishes and pour drinks with both hands to the eldest first; and – you guessed it – the you must wait for the eldest to start eating before you begin. Lastly, it’s always good food etiquette to eat at the same pace as others – so be conscious if you’re a fast eater!

India – Leave an empty plate

One of my personal favourite food etiquette rules: make sure to leave an empty plate when in India. It is polite to appreciate all foods as they have been prepared with upmost care by your hosts. It is also proper dining etiquette to wash and dry your hands before the meal, compliment the host after eating, and wait until the eldest stands up before you leave the table.

Chile – Don’t use your hands!

That’s right. It is considered poor cultural food etiquette to eat with your hands in Chile. Even with a sandwich, French fries or pizza. Remember to grab a trusty knife and fork. Oh, and try to avoid touching the table with your hands.

Egypt and Portugal – Don’t ask for salt and pepper

It’s easy to instinctively reach for salt and pepper. Especially for Westerners. But in both Egypt and Portugal’s food cultures, it is considered poor food etiquette because it tells the chef their food isn’t seasoned well enough. It’s okay – it’ll help you focus on the beauty of the dish.

GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Portugal tour

Britain – Don’t clink your spoon as you stir tea

Get ready for a quintessentially British tea etiquette rule. Try not to clink your spoon on the sides of cup of tea as the clink sound is seen as improper by some. It is also rude to chew or talk with your mouth open.

Did you enjoy these unique food etiquette rules? Tell us which one’s you’ll use first in the comments below!

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