The Ins and Outs of International Etiquette

How to best avoid insulting people in countries across the globe
Swiss fondue


In Switzerland, when dipping your fork into fondue, never let the tines touch the fondue itself.

In a world where one-third of the people eat with their fingers, one-third with chopsticks, and one-third with forks and knives, it gets pretty tricky knowing how to handle yourself at tables abroad. Sometimes you can really, really offend your host and his entire family by doing something you believe wholly innocent, yet to them is a horrible display of uncivilized behavior. 

Here are some etiquette guidelines so that even your fiancée’s father will like you...


-Never tip in a British pub. (Photo: Flickr/Kake Pugh)

 -In England always pass a decanter of Port to the left, as done in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, until it arrives back at your host’s place. Never let it sit in front of you.

 -In England during teatime you should not pour your own, but ask instead for the hostess or waiter to do so.

-In Hungary never clink glasses for a toast. Back when Austrian troops occupied Budapest, they'd always do that just before shooting another Hungarian.

-In Turkey place one half of your napkin on the table and leave the other hanging down. Use only the right hand to pick up food and wipe that hand on the napkin. Never use your left hand, which is used for quite another purpose.

-In Arab countries, belching is considered a sign of your enjoyment of a meal. So feel free to let go.

-In Egypt, pour your tea into the cup until it spills out into the saucer.

-When served shish kebabs in the Middle East, steady the skewer between the tines of your fork above the food items, then slide the skewer out. (Photo: Flickr/mahbub kabir)

-In Morocco, tables may be covered with a sheet of plastic onto which one throws the bones and other inedible parts of the meal.

-If you ever find yourself eating with Bedouins, never gnaw the meat from the bone. Tear the meat off (with your right hand!) and toss the bone away

-In France, the only foods you may eat with your fingers are frites, asparagus, raw shellfish, and frogs' legs.

-In Marseilles, France, the home of bouillabaisse, never eat the fish and the broth together. They are eaten as separate courses.


-In France, never ask for leftovers from your meal at a restaurant to be packed to go. Eat it or leave it.