Don’t Be Rude: 10 Cultural Food Blunders to Avoid When Traveling the World

Never assume that table manners are universal

Thinkstock / sutichak

Chopstick ettiquette is a study of its own.

There are a whole lot of American table manners that are totally rude abroad. We decided to make that list more general to provide a basic overview of the practices you should be mindful of when traveling. In other words, when you pick up that wine bottle, remember: Refilling glasses is one of those customs that have very particular etiquette rules. Here are 10 food blunders to avoid when traversing the globe.

Don’t Be Rude: 10 Cultural Food Blunders to Avoid When Traveling the World (Slideshow)

To compose this list, we looked through a few of our previous lists on table manners across the world — the expected and unexpected ones — and identified areas in which such table manners go wrong, such as tipping or the use of chopsticks.

It is handy to have an app or two that proves useful when you travel, especially some sort of translation tool. However, sticking your phone in front of your server’s face and demanding him or her to read your order is rude, even if you’re doing so to convey your dietary restrictions, as one can do with the v-card app (seriously, that’s what it’s called).

The best way to avoid making blunders abroad? Pay attention to what everybody else is doing. And if you make a mistake, don’t overthink it. Locals will understand you’re from abroad. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to be polite on another country’s terms, though.

So next time you’re traveling, make sure you brush up on the customs of your destination.

Being on Time

Watch your watch!

Photo Modified: Flickr / Peter / CC BY 4.0

Watch your watch!

Don’t make the mistake of ringing the doorbell right on the dot. In Mexico, Greece, and even Canada, arriving late to a party is not just fashionable; it is expected. In fact, in Mexico, it’s best you arrive at least 30 minutes behind schedule. If not, well, get ready for some uncomfortable small talk.

Being Too Chatty

Don't blabber away.

Thinkstock / monkeybusinessimages

Don't blabber away.


Meals are for eating, not chitchat. In Finland, Japan, and some African nations, launching into a story about that crazy thing you saw that afternoon during dinner is not appreciated.