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Your mother always told you, don't talk with your mouth full and keep your elbows
off the table. Was she right? What are the correct table manners and proper dining etiquette to bring to the table?

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Cultural Dining Guide

When you travel to another part of the world, you might discover that in some cultures, the dining etiquette is very much different from yours. Here are some tips to make your dining around the globe a pleasurable experience.

Japanese Table Manners
  • In Japan, some restaurants and private houses have low tables and cushions on the floor, in leiu of Western chairs and tables.
  • Do not blow your nose in public and especially at the table.
  • Some restaurants provide an o-shibori, or damp hand towel, to wipe your hands before eating. Although you will see some men wipe their faces with them, women should only wipe their hands. When you're finished simply fold the towel and put it back on its tray.
  • It is polite and proper to lift small bowls of rice or soup when you eat. When you do not get a soup spoon, you can drink the soup out of the bowl (like you do with a cup) and eat the solid food with chopsticks. For large pieces of food, just bite a piece off and put the rest back onto your plate or you may separate the piece into smaller pieces with your chopsticks.
  • Alternate between dishes. Have a bite of fish, then a bite of vegetable, then a bite of rice rather than just starting with one dish, finishing it, and then moving on to the next.
  • A very small plate is used for dipping soy sauce. When you eat sushi, you dip sushi in the soy sauce by hands or chopsticks. When you eat sashimi (raw fish), you can add wasabi (Japanese horseradish) into the soy sauce and mix it to dip sashimi. When you eat tempura, a small bowl is used for dipping sauce.
  • Don't eat directly from a communal dish. Whatever you take must be set down on your own plate before you put it in your mouth. You should be using the other ends of your chopsticks to take things from a shared plate and you need to reverse your chopsticks before you can eat from them.
  • It is a Japanese custom to make some slurping noises while eating noodles such as Soba, udon, and somen.
  • It is considered good manner to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
  • After finishing eating, try to place all your dishes in the same way as they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lid of dishes which came with a lid and replacing your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or into their paper slip, if applicable.
Filipino Table Manners
  • If you are invited to a Filipino's house, it is best to arrive 15 to 30 minutes later than when invited for a large party.
  • Compliment the hostess on the house.
  • Wait to be asked before moving into the dining room or helping yourself to food.
  • Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
  • It is polite to wait for the host to invite you to start eating before doing so.
  • Meals are often served family- style or are buffets where you serve yourself.
  • A fork and spoon are the typical eating utensils.
  • Hold the fork in the left hand and use it to guide food to the spoon in your right hand.
  • Whether you should leave some food on your plate or finish everything is a matter of personal preference rather than culture-driven.
Indian Table Manners
  • Indians generally don't use cutlery or utensils for eating. They eat with the help of fingers.
  • The left hand is not used for eating, even if you are left-handed. It is considered unclean.
  • Wait until you are served. Never attempt to help yourself. Your right hand, with which you are eating, will leave the serving spoon sticky. And you mustn't touch it with your left hand.
  • Never offer anyone food from your thali, even if it is in one of the little bowls and you haven't touched it.
German Table Manners
  • When you are invited to someone's home for a meal, bring a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, or a box of chocolates.
  • Sit where you are told to sit.
  • It is polite to try everything offered to you although you don't have to finish the whole thing.
  • When the food for another person is brought to your table, say Guten Appetit or Mahlzeit. This means you are wishing them a good meal, and indicating that they should go ahead and start eating. Do not wait for others to be served.
  • Don't let your elbows touch the table although you can put your hands on the table if you want to.
  • Eat with fork in left hand, knife in right hand. When pausing and putting utensils down, set knife and fork down on opposite sides of plate. When finished, slide fork around to rest next to knife on right side of plate.
  • If wine or a beverage is served, wait until everyone has their glass, then raise your glasses together for a toast and take a sip.
  • Be sure to compliment and thank the host/hostess for the meal.
Chinese Table Manners
  • In China, it is improper to put the end of the chopstick in your mouth.
  • Don't stick your chopsticks upright in your rice. This is considered rude because it resembles joss sticks which are used at Chinese religious rituals.
  • When you're done eating, put the chopstick in the chopstick rest or on the table. Putting them on your plate is considered bad luck.