The world is a strange and surprising place full of history that is being explored daily by wanderers and adventure-seeking foodies. With so many cultures to explore, each with its own set of social rules and unique backgrounds, it’s no surprise that what is considered to be acceptable etiquette varies culturally depending on the country, region, and tradition. But, if you don't know what's considered acceptable versus what is considered rude, you could be breaking a lot of etiquette rules!
Sometimes what one sees as disrespectful, such as running late to dinner plans or a lunch date, others see as common courtesy — as is so in Venezuela, where showing up early or on time is seen as a rude gesture. In China, if you burp, it indicates to your host that you enjoyed your meal, and the same is true for making loud slurping noises in Japan, whereas in the U.S. it's considered tacky. Regardless of what your thoughts may be of the food itself, it’s important to be careful how you come across in other cultures while traveling. That's why before you dine across the globe, you must check out why burping is good manners and 25 other etiquette surprises from around the world.
Showing up fashionably late is socially acceptable in Canada, while showing up on time or early is not.
Chileans always use utensils. It’s bad manners to touch any part of your meal with your hands.
In China, a host can tell that you enjoyed the meal when you’ve made a mess around your table. And leaving just a bit of food on your plate shows that you’re full and you had enough to eat. Although, it’s rude to leave any rice leftover in your bowl. Belching is another way of complimenting the host on the food and isn’t considered rude.
When you're eating a whole fish in China, never flip it over after finishing one side. People associate it with a capsized fishing boat, which is obviously bad luck. If you're trying to get to the meat on the other side, remove the bones completely!
It’s customary in Egypt to wait for someone else to refill your glass and for you to refill your neighbor’s glass when needed. If a glass is less than half full, it needs refilling. If your neighbor forgets to refill your glass, you can let them know it needs to be refilled by pouring a little more drink into their glass. It’s never acceptable, however, to refill your own glass.
In England, port is continuously passed to the left side of the table until it’s finished. Some say this has to do with naval tradition — the port side of a boat is on your left if you’re facing the helm — but the true reason is unclear. If the port is not passed, it’s considered impolite to ask for it. Instead, a neighbor can ask the person who has it, "Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?" If they reply that they don’t know him, the response is, "He’s a very good chap, but he always forgets to pass the port."
Ethiopians consider it wasteful to eat with utensils or with more than one plate for a group. Diners share one plate and eat with their right hand. In some parts of Ethiopia, a tradition called "gursha" is practiced, in which people feed each other.
The French never eat bread as an appetizer. Instead, it’s eaten with the meal and is used as a utensil to scoop up food off the plate and into your mouth. Bread is even placed directly on the table as a knife or fork would be.
In the country of Georgia, toasting lasts for hours. Everyone at the table goes around in a circle making toasts before emptying their glasses in one big sip. Once every person at the table has made a toast, they go around the circle again. Ten to 15 (small) glasses per person are typically consumed in an evening, and Georgians only toast with wine or vodka, or with beer if they wish someone bad luck.
You’re probably not visiting any Inuit tribes soon, but it’s interesting to know that this culture shows appreciation through… flatulence? Yup, a good meal is praised by letting one rip afterward.
Slurping, usually when eating noodles or soup, is a sign of appreciation for the chef. In Japan the louder the slurp, the greater the thanks.
If you want to be seen as sociable in Korea always say yes to the first drink, but don’t be the first pour. You must first pour for others before you go for that refill, or just ask someone to do it for you if you just can’t wait.
In Korea, it is considered polite to wait to eat until the oldest person has begun eating. It's also polite to keep pace with them the entire meal, so if they're eating slowly–so are you.
In Russia, vodka is always drunk neat. Adding any mixer — even ice — is seen as polluting vodka’s purity. The only exception is beer, which, when mixed with vodka, produces a drink called "yorsh." Also, offering someone a drink is a sign of trust and friendship, and turning it down is very offensive.
In parts of Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia, diners pay respect to Pachamama, the Andean goddess of fertility and harvest, by spilling a few drops of their drink on the ground and saying, "Para la Pachamama." This ritual is called "ch’alla." To make an offering, some tip their glass over, while others flick it with two fingers.
Eating on a carpet or mat in Tanzania is customary. But showing the soles of your feet is seen as impolite.
If you find yourself in Venezuela and are asked to make plans to eat, make sure to arrive to the gathering about 15 minutes late. Being on time, or even early, is seen as rude in these countries. Worried about breaking dining rules abroad? You might as well stay safe and order a beer from our list of the world's 50 best beers.