Unique Food Etiquette Rules For Dining Around The World

Every country has its own signature dishes that show off its history and culture. However, there are several food etiquette rules that are often respected all over the world. Dining habits such as slurping, who eats first, and not using utensils differ in many countries, so read on to discover some of the world’s strangest food etiquette rules.

Don’t Use Your Left Hand

four girls eating food with their right hands
Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images
Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

While Americans don’t likely think about which hand they’re using to eat their food, other countries have rules about it.

Countries such as India, Africa, and areas of the Middle East do not allow people to eat with their left hand. However, sometimes left-handed people are allowed to use it, but they can’t switch between their left and right.

Who Takes The First Bite In South Korea?

boys eating food in south korea
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

It’s usually customary to wait until everyone receives their food before people start eating. In South Korea, they add another rule that could make mealtime go a bit longer.

Those who are familiar with South Korean dining etiquette know that a group should never start eating until the eldest member takes their first bite.

A Glass Half Empty In Kazakhstan

Close-up of a Kazakh woman drinking traditional suutei tsai
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

The tea-drinking habits in Kazakhstan might confuse some people, especially if they are really thirsty. In Kazakhstan, they usually only fill a teacup halfway.

Getting a half-full teacup is actually something good because in their culture a full cup most likely means the host wants you to leave.

Don’t Put Your Hands In Your Lap

maria-shanina-BsmsRdW_hEk-unsplash
Unsplash/Maria Shanina
Unsplash/Maria Shanina

Dining in Russia comes with several rules. While some may be used to resting their hands in their lap at the dining table, Russians frown on this.

Instead, it’s customary for people to rest their wrists at the edge of the table. Also, people should keep their fork in their left hand their knife in their right.

Getting A Table Is Difficult In Spain

people eating outside in Spain
Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images
Cristina Arias/Cover/Getty Images

Most fancy sit-down restaurants in Spain will get people seated in no time, but that all changes when it comes to other crowded and casual venues.

The wait staff is usually very busy, so they don’t have time to deal with reservations or seating. Instead, people need to keep an eye on who is almost done and rush to their table as they leave.

Don’t Clean Your Plate In China

people eating at a table in China
Zou Qing/AFP via Getty Images
Zou Qing/AFP via Getty Images

Some people were likely told to eat all of the food put on their plate while growing up. That rule isn’t taught in China.

In China, it’s actually good manners to leave some food on your plate. This shows that you’re full and that you were given more than enough food.

Slurping Is Appreciated in Japan

elderly japanese woman eating noodles
Owen Franken/Corbis via Getty Images
Owen Franken/Corbis via Getty Images

The western world often associates slurping with bad manners, but that changes when looking at the eastern side. Countries such as Japan encourage slurping with dishes like noodles or soup.

Also, don’t get caught blowing your nose in Japan because it is a sign of rudeness, especially during a meal.

Never Ask For Parmesan In Italy

a person sprinkling parmesan on pizza
Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images

When it comes to food, Italy seems to know what they’re doing. They have some strict food etiquette rules when it comes to how people eat their food.

Italians do not want people putting any parmesan cheese on pizza or pasta dishes because it can ruin the authenticity and flavor.

Don’t Use A Knife While Eating A Potato

potatoes on a plate
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Cutting open a giant potato may seem like a job for a fork and knife, but that isn’t considered good manners in Germany.

They believe that only forks should be used to cut into or smash potatoes. This is because a knife signifies that the potato wasn’t cooked to satisfaction.

Salting Food Is Bad Manners In Egypt

a woman putting salt in a pot
Becca Tapert/Unsplash
Becca Tapert/Unsplash

It may be tempting to add some salt to a bland dish, but that should never be done in Egypt.

Those in Egypt consider salting to be a huge insult because the chef has prepared the dish to taste a certain way. If there aren’t any salt or pepper shakers available, don’t ask for them.

Avoid Splitting The Bill In France

a receipt for a meal in France
Caroline Ventezou/AFP via Getty Images
Caroline Ventezou/AFP via Getty Images

It’s very common for people to go out to eat their meals in France, but there’s a major difference when it comes to how people handle the bill.

While some countries don’t mind when groups split the bill, it’s not appreciated there. The French consider people who split the bill unsophisticated.

Don’t Bring Yellow Flowers In Bulgaria

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Unsplash/Maatla Seetelo
Unsplash/Maatla Seetelo

It’s usually appreciated when people bring things such as drinks or flowers when they go out to eat with someone. These types of gifts aren’t the best idea in Bulgaria.

One thing that should never be brought to another person in Bulgaria is yellow flowers because they symbolize hatred and evil energy.

How To Order Appropriately In Thailand

people eating in Thailand
Christophe Archambault/Getty Images)
Christophe Archambault/Getty Images)

If you plan on going to a restaurant in Thailand, there are some food etiquette rules to know beforehand. First, ordering the food is the responsibility of the eldest woman at the table.

People don’t usually order their own food. Even if you want something particular or have dietary restrictions, the eldest woman should order enough options for everyone.

Don’t Drop The Bread In Afghanistan

bread that's partially sliced on a table
Duminda Perera/Unsplash
Duminda Perera/Unsplash

Accidents happen, especially when it comes to the dining table. Bread is a staple in most parts of the world, but Afghanistan has some sacred customs for it.

If you end up dropping the bread on the floor, it needs to be immediately picked up. Then, kiss the bread and place it on your forehead before putting it back somewhere other than the floor.

Never Talk Business In Australia

people eating outside in australia
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

There really aren’t too many dining etiquette rules in Australia. The country is one of the friendliest around, so they have some guidelines to keep it that way.

One important rule is to not talk business while dining in order to keep things civil and casual. Business meals or going out with colleagues are the only exceptions.

The Wrong Way To Eat A Taco

GettyImages-929073612
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Tacos are one of the most popular traditional Mexican dishes and citizens have found that foreigners eat them in a weird way.

Tacos are meant to be eaten with your hands, so Mexicans strongly dislike it when people dig into them with a fork and knife. It’s actually more polite to eat them with your hands.

Avoid Flipping The Fish

a raw fish placed on its side
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There are several things to remember while dining in China. If you plan on eating or cooking fish, there are some rules to know.

It’s important to never flip a fish over to the other side of a pan or plate while cooking or eating it. Flipping the fish brings bad luck in Chinese culture.

Refrain From Saying “Thank You”

a family eating dinner in India
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

When people are being taught to be polite, they will most commonly say either “please” or “thank you.” While these phrases are usually expected at a meal, some countries don’t think they are polite at all.

People in India believe that saying “thank you” can be insulting because it implies that someone went out of their way to do something special for you. In India, these things should just be second nature when it comes to friends or family.

Accept A Plate With Both Hands

Gordon Ramsey licking a plate
ITV Entertainment/Fox
ITV Entertainment/Fox

There are some rules to consider when dining out in South Korea. If you’re with a large group, you’ll most likely end up splitting dishes.

When each plate is being passed around, it’s customary to accept them with both hands. In South Korean culture, using both hands symbolizes respect and gratitude.

Put Your Hands Away

a man eating a burger with a hands-free contraption
Vicky Beeching/Twitter
Vicky Beeching/Twitter

While some countries encourage people to eat with their hands, others expect the opposite. In countries such as Chile and Brazil, people are supposed to only eat with utensils.

People who use their hands are thought to have bad manners. That means eating typical finger foods such as fries, pizza, and burgers must be done with a fork and knife.

Shake Your Coffee Cup When Finished

Close-up of a woman drinking a cup of black coffee
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’re an avid coffee drinker and plan on going to the Middle East, there are some tips that will come in handy.

It’s usually expected that servers will pour you more coffee when your cup becomes empty. In order to signify that you’re done, you need to shake the cup a few times when handing it back to the server.

Thailand Favors The Spoon

a bowl of soup with a spoon
Leisa Tyler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Leisa Tyler/LightRocket via Getty Images

While some might think that chopsticks are the most likely choice in Thailand, there are actually other ways they prefer people to eat their food.

Forks are meant to move the food around on the plate. Next, people should take that food and place it onto their spoon before consuming. It’s bad manners to put a fork up to your mouth.

Wait For A Refill In Egypt

someone pouring water into a glass
Tom Weller/picture alliance via Getty Images
Tom Weller/picture alliance via Getty Images

Manners matter a lot when it comes to dining in Egypt. While other countries find it normal to take care of their own drinks, Egypt is more community-based.

It’s actually rude to go refill your own drinking glass while dining with others. Instead, wait for someone to offer or offer to do it for another person.

Bread Is Used As A Utensil In France

Petula Clark holding a baguette at a dinner table
Michael Hardy/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Michael Hardy/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Forks, spoons, and knives aren’t the only utensils when it comes to French dining. Not only is French bread delicious, but it’s actually used as another utensil.

Bread is there to help people scrape food on their forks. Also, bread should be torn, instead of directly taking a bite. When bread isn’t being used, it should rest on the table or tablecloth.

Throw Garbage On The Floor

people eating at a restaurant in Spain
Jaime Reina/AFP via Getty Images
Jaime Reina/AFP via Getty Images

While it may seem disgusting, throwing garbage on the floor is actually a good thing in Spain. Prospective customers use this to gauge the popularity of a restaurant.

The more garbage on the ground, the higher likelihood that the restaurant is doing a lot of business with good food. Be careful not to do this at every Spanish restaurant, though.

Don’t Order A Cappuccino After Dinner

cappuccinos with floral designs
Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images
Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

Italy has a lot of strict rules when it comes to its food. First, people should never order a cappuccino after they are finished with dinner.

Instead, they should opt for an espresso. Most Italians believe that coffee is a digestive and shouldn’t be replaced as a snack or dessert.

Join The Clean Plate Club In Spain

a plate that has been cleared of food
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While places such as China want people to leave some food on their plate when they’re done, things are different in Spain.

It’s actually rude and wasteful for people in Spain to leave any food on their plate, which can upset their host. This means that if you want another serving of food, you should eat all of it.

No Need For Tips In Japan

a person counting yen in Japan
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Tipping is almost always expected in most countries around the world. In America, it’s considered a genuine thank you for the service of restaurant staff.

On the other side of the world, tipping is more lenient. People in Japan don’t usually expect to get a tip and will sometimes even return it to the customer.

Burping Is A Good Thing In China

people eating at a restaurant in China
Hector Retamal/Getty Images
Hector Retamal/Getty Images

Since it’s frowned upon for people in China to finish all of the food on their plate, they have other ways to show their satisfaction.

One way to show they loved the food is to let out a burp loud enough for the chef to hear. Also, it’s actually encouraged to make a mess on the table.

Tardiness Isn’t Important In Tanzania

three men eating food in tanzania
Ericky Boniphace/Getty Images
Ericky Boniphace/Getty Images

There are certain areas of the world where time is very sacred and isn’t meant to be wasted. Other countries think the complete opposite because they value other things.

For example, arriving late for a meal in Tanzania isn’t given a second thought and is usually pretty common among the citizens.