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Etiquette Surprises From Around the World

Nov 29, 2021

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Travel

richard

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! Here are some etiquette surprises from around the world. 

Slide 1Overview
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!
Here are some etiquette surprises from around the world.
Afghanistan:
Kiss bread
that is
dropped on
the floor
In Afghanistan, when bread is dropped on the floor, it’s then lifted and kissed. If
you're worried about germs, try not to be clumsy when passing those rolls around!
Canada:
Arrive
Fashionably
Late
Showing up fashionably late is socially acceptable in Canada, while showing up on time
or early is not.
Hands
Chileans always use utensils. It’s bad manners to touch any part of your meal with
your hands.
hands before
you enter
Shaking hands would seem to be the polite way to greet someone, and yes, it often is.
However, when in Russia, do not offer to shake hands in a doorway; always enter the
room first, or have the other person come fully outside. It’s said that the house
spirit lives in a home’s entryway, and crossing over it for a greeting would be bad
luck.
left hand
When in India, avoid eating with your left hand because the left hand is seen as
disgusting, as it’s normally used for wiping in the bathroom. The same is true for
countries in the Middle East and parts of Africa.
United Kingdom:
your left
But guess what? If you’re in Great Britain, the left is important—you should only pass
the port in that direction. Passing the dessert wine to the right is considered a breach
of etiquette. So is forgetting to pass the port, period. But don’t worry. If you do forget
to pass the port, the person who’s waiting for it may remind you, You know the
Bishop of Norwich? He’s a good chap, except he always forgets to pass the port.
If you’re traveling to Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, the
Ukraine, Morocco, Egypt, or Beijing, please note that the plumbing may not be
designed for flushed TP, and restrooms will have special waste bins to place used
toilet paper instead. Failure to heed this bit of toilet etiquette could lead to clogs
and even floods.
Do not flush
in any of
show of respect
In Korea, when one of your elders offers you a drink, the proper etiquette is to
receive it with both hands, and then turn your head away as you take your first sip.
It’s a show of respect, and respecting one’s elders is taken seriously in Korea.
India: Text
instead of
calling
It may seem surprising, but the fact is that most small businesses in India don’t
even have landlines, which has led to a culture in which texting is considered
appropriate, and not just for personal communications. So, if you’re in India and wish
to find out, say, a particular shop’s business hours, send a text, rather than calling.
France:
hug
In France, hugging can be considered more intimate than kissing. Instead, when you
greet someone you’re not that close to, be prepared to shake hands or kiss them
(twice—once on each cheek—or in some regions, even more). Along with the no-
hug rule, you also should never bring your host chrysanthemums (which are
associated with funerals) or any yellow flower at all (which sends a message that the
hostess’s husband has been cheating!).
China: Make a
Mess and Belch
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.
Flip a Fish
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!
Egypt: Don’t
Refill Your
Own Glass
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.
Ethiopia: Eat
Plate
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.
France: Use
Utensil
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.
Georgia: Make
Sip
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.
Hungary:
Toasting
It’s said that Austrians celebrated Hungary’s defeat in the 1848 revolution by clinking
their beers together, and some Hungarians are still hung up on it. So be courteous
and don’t clink your beer glasses. As for other drinks, it’s rude if you give cheers
without making direct eye contact.
Italy: Don’t
Pizza
If your pizza doesn’t have Parmesan on it, it’s not a good idea to ask for it. Putting
Parmesan on pizza is considered a culinary sin in Italy.
Italy: Never
Order A
After A Meal
When you're dining the Italian way, be sure to order an espresso or a coffee after a
meal. Do not order a cappuccino, as Italians believe milk beverages slow down
digestion.
Inuit Tribes:
Passing Gas
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.
You
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.
Japan: Never
Stick Your
Up
The Japanese associate food that is presented this way with funeral offerings to
ghosts. It created quite a stirr last year when a takeout box emoji was designed with
the chopsticks sticking straight up!
Korea:
Accept the
First Drink
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.
Korea: The
Oldest Eats
First
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.
Portugal: Step
Away From
the Salt
It would make sense that if your food is perfect you wouldn’t add more seasonings to
it. With that said, in countries such as Portugal and Egypt the chef will be offended if
you use salt or pepper on their dish — so steer clear of the shakers!
Russia: Drink
Always Accept
a Drink
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.
South
America: Pay
Respect to
Mother Earth
InThailand, forks are mainly used to push food into a spoon. They should only be
used to put food that is not rice-based into your mouth. Also, chopsticks are
considered tacky eating utensils.
Arrive 15
Minutes Late
If you find yourself inVenezuela 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.
Conclusion
Sometimes what one sees as rude, such as running late to dinner plans or a lunch
date, others see as common courtesy — as is so inVenezuela, 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. 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.
Welcome message from author
Sometimes what one sees as rude, such as running late to dinner plans or a lunch date, others see as common courtesy — as is so inVenezuela, 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. 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.