Unexpected Table Manners Around the World

Do's and don'ts for the international traveler that go way beyond keeping your elbows off the table.


Observing local table manners while traveling usually demands a little pre-meditation and a willingness to wing it, but it demonstrates respect and often brings a tasty meal, a new and unlikely set of friends, and memories for life.

Eating with locals “sets you apart from most tourists,” says Matt Berna, who heads the U.S. office for the international tour operator, Intrepid Travel. “It's guaranteed to be one of the most memorable parts of your trip.” Moreover, few experiences deliver as much insight into a foreign culture and, ironically, into oneself. “It may be uncomfortable at times,” says Berna, “but stepping outside your comfort zone can be incredibly rewarding and eye-opening.”

We collected 10 interesting table manners from disparate parts of the world, including when it’s OK to belch and spit, and which hand to use in the Middle East. While some Western rules you may have to un-learn, like trying not to slurp your soup, others reflect the social structure of the culture, like waiting until you're asked to sit down in the Philippines or eating from the hand of your host in Ethiopia. Now you can be an in-the-know diner around the globe.

Click here for the Unexpected Table Manners Around the World Slideshow.


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9 Comments

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mostly true with the slide about the philippines, though different areas have different cultures. in one province, it's even perceived rude if you'd take a seat before your asked the third time. and don't worry about being offered seconds, because you'll be offered thirds, fourths, . . until either there is no more food left, or you're too stuffed to even leave the dining table.

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I couldn't see any of the slides.
I've lived in Indonesia for 8+ years and people eat either with the right hand only or with spoon&fork. No knives are on the table as any meat is cut up in bite sized chunks before it's put on the plate.
There is always a place to wash your hands if you choose to eat with your fingers, but that doesn't mean there will always be soap!

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I know that Sri Lankin &Indian peoples eat with their hands and often mix all the dishes on their plate together.

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Too hard to find each slide. Only got the Korean table manners and tried all sorts of ways to get to the rest of the article, to no avail.

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Very difficult, I couldn't do it either.

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The Korean article about the fishbones is wrong! I am of Korean descent and the bones are usually placed on the rim of the plate and on napkins!

The narrator's mother-in-law sounds like someone from the lower strata who was not educated in PROPER KOREAN table manners!

It is only with westernization that Koreans started to talk at the dinner table. They did not want spit or other food projectiles flying around so conversation was kept to a minimum. People usually at in silence. To say that people would spit out their fishbones when they were concerned about spit and projectiles tainting their food??? Does that make sense? Conversation is kept to a minimum during food preparation, as well... to protect from spit and other possible contaminants.

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Only in the rural parts of the Middle East is it normal to eat food with your hands. I spent three months with a Jordanian family in Amman and we always ate with forks.

Monica 's picture

Great Ms. Manners Loved the dining tips, the Chinese was particularly relevant since we are in Chinatown once a week for dinner. The photography is beautiful.

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Uh...where's the rest of the article??

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