Food etiquette in different cultures

  • 14 January 2015 | Kolosa Vuso
People from different cultures have different food or dining etiquette.

Etiquette is defined as a code of behaviour that depicts expectations for social behaviour according to contemporary norms within a society, social class or group. 

Whether it’s at home or in a restaurant, people from different cultures have different food or dining etiquette.

Dean Allen, author of Global Etiquette Guide, says being aware of how other cultures dine is important because “it’s really a statement of your openness and awareness of the fact that the people you're with ... may in fact see the world differently”. 

Let’s take a look at dining etiquette across different cultures: 

For Japanese, slurping when eating noodles or soups is a sign of appreciation of the food.

If you are serving tacos to Mexicans, most of them will prefer to eat with their hands, not with a fork and knife.

Most Chileans, however, prefer formal dining and do not eat anything without a fork and knife.

When serving Russians vodka, most prefer to take it neat, without ice.

Thai people don’t normally use chopsticks. They typically use a fork to push their food onto a spoon.

The French will often use bread to put their food on a fork.

Ethiopians usually serve their food on one plate from which everyone eats, instead of on individual plates.

In South Korea nobody at the table starts eating until the oldest or most senior person takes a bite.

An empty plate can mean several things: Indians and Japanese will finish all their food to indicate that they’ve enjoyed their meal. Chinese people, however, consider it a sign that guests haven’t had enough food.

For the Turkish, dining is a social occasion, so you can expect your Turkish guest to be quite loud and animated.

Have you had interesting dining experiences with some of your guests? Please share.