Food Etiquette Around the World

As a traveller, food etiquette may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you visit a new country. But don’t be naive to this, there are certain things individuals may find offensive overseas which would seem totally acceptable in other cultures.


Make sure you never cross your chopsticks over one another, lick them, or place them into a bowl of rice vertically; these are all seen as a rude gesture. Furthermore never pass food with chopsticks, this only happens during funeral ceremonies. Chopsticks should always be placed on holders, and where there’s none, place them on top of the wrapper they came in – it shouldn’t be placed on top of your bowl. Another taboo surrounding chopsticks is the order in which you pick up your utensils; it is said that you must always pick up your bowl first before picking up the chopsticks, and after you are finished with the bowl you place your chopsticks down before the bowl.


In most cultures it is considered to be polite for you to finish your entire meal, to show just how much you loved it. In China it is in fact polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate at the end of the meal. This signifies that the host provided you with more than enough food to eat for dinner. Contrary to western culture, burping is also a signifier of a satisfying meal by the chef, so let your belch be heard.


Was cheese placed in front of you to go with your meal? No? Then do not ask for it! In Italy it is considered highly offensive to add extra cheese to meals where it was not given to you (seafood especially). Italians also have rules about coffee; for instance, having espressos after 12pm or ordering a coffee before a meal are both no-nos.


The food etiquette in this country is one which would be easily broken by any visiting tourist. The main point is to not eat from your fork, as it is purely a tool to get food onto your spoon, which is allowed to be placed in your mouth. Thai cuisine is also very focused on sharing dishes, but remember, when sharing dishes never take the last bite from the sharing bowl!


When eating in India, there is no such thing as wasting food and if you do this it’s considered to be very disrespectful. So if you’re known to have eyes bigger than your stomach, maybe tone your ordering back a little. The second is to always eat with your right hand – the left is seen to be unclean due to its relationship to using the bathroom. In fact this applies not only to eating but for passing food to other people too.


Whilst most South American countries are not extremely formal with their etiquette, it is seen as rude to eat any type of meal with your hands in Chile. Where you have the option, be sure to pick up a knife and fork for your meal. There are other rules regarding using of hands: you’re not supposed to pour wine with your left hand, and while eating, you should always keep your hands on the table (not resting them on your lap or out of sight).