Friday, November 9, 2012

What Table Manners?

The subject of 'table manners' is interesting because behavior that is considered rude in one culture may actually be the polite thing to do in another. Burping is the perfect example and one that comes to mind because I had a conversation about it today. In most Western cultures, this is rude and definitely regarded as disgusting. I'm usually OK with it but I did find it a little gross when we were surrounded by it during meals out in Indonesia. Although, after awhile, I hardly noticed it. A quick check through Google seems to show that some Eskimo tribes and South Sea Island tribes burp as a sign of politeness at the end of a meal.

I also came across this fun site for kids. Its in the form of a quiz about the table manners from different countries. Give it a go here.

And if you want to do even more reading on this, here are a few from

Dinner guests are treated like royalty: they’re seated farthest from the door, they’re offered food first and expected to eat the most, and they’re always given the prime portion from each dish.
If you drop bread on the floor while dining at a table, pick it up, kiss it, and touch it to your forehead before putting it somewhere other than the floor.
Never wave chopsticks at another person, bang them like drumsticks, use them to move plates or bowls, or stab them vertically into a bowl of rice. This last gesture indicates that the food is meant for the dead.
To serve a guest, use the blunt ends of your own chopsticks to transfer food from a communal dish to the guest’s plate.
When chopsticks are not in use, place them neatly on the table, side by side, with the ends even.
When picking food out of a communal dish, select only food that is on the top of the pile and the closest distance to your plate. Do not rummage through the serving dish to select specific food items for yourself.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating.
In general, eat with your right hand and use your left hand to pass communal dishes.
You must finish everything on your plate.
Do not leave the table until all guests have finished eating or your host asks for your help.
Before you commence a meal, wait for your host to tell you three times to begin eating.
The youngest person at the table should pour alcohol for the other diners, beginning with the most senior person. A senior should then pour the server’s beverage.
Never transfer food from one pair of chopsticks to another. When women transfer food with chopsticks from a serving dish to their mouth, they should cup their hand beneath the food; men should not.
Rubbing chopsticks together to remove splinters is a sign of disrespect to the restaurant or host.
When eating hot noodles, you are encouraged to make a slurping noise; the Japanese believe that this inhalation of air enhances the noodles’ flavor.
Pieces of sushi should be eaten in a single bite whenever possible; if you must eat a piece in more than one bite, never place it back down on your plate between bites.
Before each meal, Muslim Pakistanis always recite this phrase: “Bismillah Ar-Rahman al-Rahim.” (“In the name of Allah, who is most beneficial and merciful.”) Afterward, they say, “Al-Hamdu-lillah.” (“Thanks be to God.”)
Do not begin eating until the eldest member of the family is seated at the table.
Always chew quietly enough that no one else can hear you.
Always tear bread into pieces before eating it, and use only your right hand.
Before you enter a dining room, select a seat at a table, or serve yourself food, always wait for an invitation from the host.
Never refuse a sample of food from the host; always clean your plate.
When you have finished eating, place your fork and spoon side by side on your plate, facing up.
Always help your host clear the table.
Never stare at another person’s plate or saucer.
It is polite to leave a little bit of food on your plate at the end of a meal, as a tribute to the host’s abundant hospitality.
Always cultivate a vivacious, relaxed dining atmosphere.
Upon leaving the table, always compliment the person who cooked your food.
There you have it. Make sure you remember correctly which country you should OR shouldn't finish all the food on your plate. And practice burping in case you need to have dinner in a community where it is necessary. 


Bilbo said...

Wonderful advice for travelers! We have a great many Russian and Filipino friends, and these rules are spot on!

Mike said...

I got 7 out of 11 on the little test only because I read your post first.

Amanda said...

Bilbo - Phew! I tried to cross check the information on different sites but I was still a little worried that they might be wrong.

Mike - I didn't do well on that test at all.