Everyone knows to keep their elbows off the dinner table and to never talk with their mouths full. Mom told us not to slurp our soup, to wait until everyone’s been served before digging in, and to clean our plates. But while those are the rules stateside, these table manners aren’t exactly appreciated the world over. In fact, plenty of them are insulting to international hosts and go against local customs. So in the interest of not making fools of ourselves abroad, we decided to read up on some of the world’s most unexpected table manners.
While some basic table manners may seem universal, many are strangely specific and, some are just plain strange. In Mexico, being late is actually smiled upon — show up earlier than 30 minutes past the start time and you’ll likely be inconveniencing your host who’s still getting ready. We all know not to show up to a party empty-handed, but what you bring is equally important — in Portugal, bringing wine to a dinner party is insulting; in Bulgaria, bringing yellow flowers to your host expresses hatred, not gratitude.
Then, in Japan, there's no need to swipe your soup spoon away from you when eating that steaming bowl of udon soup — they encourage sluping. So here’s your heads up on 21 unexpected manners and customs we weren’t told to mind as kids. Following these rules will make you look like a polite insider in every country, but we can’t guarantee they’ll help with your dinner conversation skills; that’s on you.
This article was originally published on February 7, 2012.