Dining Etiquette Around the World
One of the quickest relationship builders is to break bread with someone. Regional and ethnic cultures place high importance on relationship building around a meal. Understanding the proper etiquette can make this opportunity to form strong bonds with others highly successful. Not understanding can lead to irreparable harm. Here are some things you should consider:
· Arrival: When given a dinner time in Denmark make sure that you do not arrive late because Danes will have the dinner on the table waiting for your arrival. Middle Eastern cultures are strong on relationship building therefore a seven o’clock dinner invitation is predicated on spending several hours building a relationship before they actually eat.
· Gifts: A gift is often welcome. In Turkey you should take a desert.
· Before the meal: To a Middle Easterner, hospitality is an extension of one’s self. A Middle Eastern host will take great honor in offering their guest extras. This may include tea or figs. Not partaking of the offer belittles the offer.
· How much to eat: In Norway, Malaysia, and Singapore it is rude to leave food on your plate. However in Egypt it is insulting to devour the complete meal as you’re telling your host they should have given you more.
· Apparatus: Middle Eastern cultures tend to eat from a common plate at the center of the table. Pita bread is used instead of cutlery. Guests break off pieces of pita to scoop or grab the food from the common plate. British cultures favor using cutlery for all foods. It is uncultured to use fingers to transport food of any type to one’s mouth. In the Philippines it is appropriate to eat with a spoon in your right hand, using your fork in your left hand to cut larger pieces of food. Russians frown upon using a knife when eating fish. Etiquette requires a fish to be broken up using either one or two forks.
· Drinking: Regional, Ethnic, and Religious cultures come in to play here. In Korea it is rude to pour your own drink. In Russia it is considered unlucky to pour your own drink. You should keep an eye on your neighbors’ glass and fill them if they are empty and they will do the same for you. If you do not wish any more to drink a handy trick is to leave your glass three quarters full. When pouring drinks in most cultures you should hold bottle in right hand, lightly place left hand on forearm near your elbow but far away from the mouth of the bottle. Remember many cultures view the left hand as unclean since it is used for hygienic purposes. In many cultures when someone of a significantly higher social position pours you a drink, it is considered proper to turn away from that person when you drink it. In Turkey it is acceptable to bring alcohol as a hostess gift only if you know the host drinks alcohol.
· Departure: It is common in many Chinese cultures to arrive promptly and leave soon after your meal. This is because a dinner invitation is precisely that — an invitation for dinner. However in Columbia is polite to stay a few hours after the meal. Leaving earlier than that signals you are only interested in a free meal.
A good rule of thumb to follow when you’re unsure of cultural norms at the dinner table is to follow the lead of your host or other guests (provided those guests are more experienced in the culture).