People around the world have developed unique traditions of table manners and dining etiquette. Much like any other form of etiquette, it’s incredibly important to respect and follow these customs when you’re travelling abroad.

Dining abroad can often make people feel uneasy, with the host of unfamiliar rules and foods. Here are some extremely specific do’s and don’ts from around the world that you should brush up on before you travel.

1. In India, always eat with your right hand 
Dining Etiquette India

In India, and across the Middle East and parts of Africa, always make sure to use your right hand to eat meals, as the left hand is considered unclean. Also, don’t actually put the fingers in your mouth; use your thumb to push the food in.

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2. In Egypt, wait for someone else to refill your glass

Getting from a meal or a gathering to refill your glass is considered bad manners in Egypt. Instead, you should wait for someone else (usually your neighbour) to offer to do so. Similarly, you should also offer to refill your neighbour’s glasses.

3. Don’t eat your bread before your food in France
Dining Etiquette French bread baguettes in wood basket

In France, if bread is put on the table, it is not an appetizer; it’s meant to accompany your food. You’re meant to tear off pieces and use it to push food onto the fork or to mop up sauces.

4. Don’t offer to split the bill in France
Close-up Of Bill With Euro Note On Wooden Table

Eating out is a fairly common occurrence in France. But, whether you’re out with friends or acquaintances, splitting the bill is considered highly unsophisticated. Either offer to pay the bill fully or let someone else do so.

5. Never order a cappuccino after a meal in Italy
Cappuccino coffee. (could also be a latte)

Italians never order milky beverages after a meal, as milk is seen to hinder digestion. Instead, they stick to espresso or black coffee, which is seen as a digestive. Ordering a cappuccino won’t result in outrage, but will definitely mark you out as a tourist.

6. In Italy, don’t add extra condiments to your pizza
Wood fire pizza Margharita

Also in Italy, don’t ever ask for cheese, ketchup, or other condiments to put on your pizza if they aren’t offered to you.

7. Tipping in Japan is frowned upon upon
Japanese Yen

Tipping is a common and even a desired custom in many countries, but quite the opposite is true in Japan. It is quite rare, and in some places, they might even reject the money.

8. Never stick your chopstick upright in a bowl of rice
Japanese food rice chopsticks

In Japanese culture, chopsticks placed vertically in rice in offerings made to the dead and at funerals. It is therefore considered bad manners and bad luck to do so during the course of a meal.

9. Also, don’t pass the food using chopsticks
Kyoto man eating traditional Japanese cuisine - takoyaki balls from a take out container while people watching on Cat Street (Kyu Shibuya-gawa Promenade) near Harajuku Street, in Tokyo, Japan. The takoyaki is covered with mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce.

Another funeral ritual in Japan consists of the passing of bones from one set of chopsticks to another. So, it is considered extremely rude and even taboo to pass food this way.

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10. Accept plates of food that are offered to you with both hands
Close-up of waiter serving salmon

If you’re offered a plate, or even a large bowl, of food in Korea, make sure to accept it with both hands and to hold it firmly. This shows respect and gratitude to your hosts and to the food.

11. Always use the blunt end of the chopsticks when picking up food from a shared plate
Steamed Dim Sum (Yum Cha) dumplings served from bamboo steamers

In Japan, and in China, many plates of dishes are shared amongst a group. Apart from avoiding passing food from chopsticks to chopsticks, in such cases, you should also never use the pointed end of the chopsticks (that go into your mouth) to dip into shared dishes. Use the other blunt end instead.

12. Leave behind a little food on your plate when dining in China
Tasty Vietnamese food Bo bun rice vermicelli

When you’re dining out in China, make sure to leave a little food on your plate after you’re done eating. It shows that you have been given more than enough food by your hosts and that you are full.

13. If a whole fish is served in China never flip it over
Chinese style marinated steamed fish with onion.

Don’t flip the fish over after eating one side, as this is said to resemble a capsizing boat and it is considered bad luck. So, if you wish to finish the other side of your fish, remove the bones and continue eating on to the other side.

14. In Thailand, don’t use your fork to put food in your mouth
Woman eating Thai food Pad Thai in cafe

When you’re in Thailand, eating with a fork is seen as unacceptable. Instead, you’re expected to use the fork to push the food onto a spoon and use that to eat with.

15. Don’t ask for salt or pepper in Portugal
salt and pepper dining etiquette

If salt and pepper aren’t provided on the table, don’t ask for them, as it is considered insulting to the seasoning skills of the chef.

16. Never use your hands to eat in Chile
hands using knife and fork to eating french fries and fried chicken

In Chile, it is seen as extremely ill-mannered to touch your food with your hands. This is also often the case in Brazil. So, make sure to eat everything with your fork and knife, even burgers and French fries.

17. Never mix the wasabi and the soy sauce when you’re having sushi
Sushi with soy sauce on black rock

It is considered bad manners to mix the wasabi and the soy sauce in a bowl to dip your sushi in. If you must have the wasabi, it goes directly on top of the fish, while the fish (and NOT the rice) is to be dipped in soy sauce. Meanwhile, ginger is eaten between pieces of sushi as a palate cleanser.

18. Don’t expect a full cup of tea in Kazakhstan
Uzek Tea Dining Etiquette

If your host in Kazakhstan serves you a cup of tea that is only half full, don’t feel bad. It is a good sign, unlike a full cup of tea that is seen as a sign that the host might want you to leave.

Do you know any other rules of dining etiquette that are surprising or good to know? If so, be sure to share them in the comments below.

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