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.
This article was originally published February 03, 2011.