Cultural Dining Etiquette

Dining Etiquette in Afghanistan

  • If eating at someone’s home, you will be seated on o the floor, usually on cushions.
  • Food is served on plastic or vinyl tablecloths spread on the floor.
  • If
    you can, sit cross-legged. Otherwise sit as comfortably as you can. Do
    not site with legs outstretched and your feet facing people. 

  • Food is generally served communally and everyone will share from the same dish.
  • Do not eat with the left hand.
  • Always pass and receive things using your right hand too.
  • Food
    is eaten with the hands. It will be a case of watch and learn. Food is
    usually scooped up into a ball at the tip of the fingers, then eaten. 

  • Leave food on your plate otherwise it will keep getting filled up again.

Dining Etiquette in Bangladesh

  • Many people eat with their hands and it may be that you share food from a common dish.
  • It would not be seen as impolite if you asked for utensils.
  • Guests are generally served first then the oldest, continuing in order of seniority.
  • Do not start eating until the oldest person at the table begins.
  • You
    will constantly be urged to take more food. Simply saying "I’m full"
    will be taken as a polite gesture and not accepted at face value. It is
    therefore always best to pace yourself to allow for more servings!

  • The left hand is considered unclean so only eat, pass dishes or drink with the right hand.

Dining Etiquette in Brazil

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes late if the invitation is for dinner at someone’s house(!)
  • Arrive up to an hour late for a party or large gathering(!!)
  • Brazilians
    dress with a flair and judge others on their appearance. Casual dress
    is more formal than in many other countries. Always dress elegantly and
    err on the side of over-dressing rather than under- dressing.

  • If you did not bring a gift to the hostess, flowers the next day are always appreciated.

Dining Etiquette in Germany

  • If you are invited to a German’s house arrive on time as punctuality indicates proper planning. Never arrive early. Never arrive more than 15 minutes later than invited without telephoning to explain you have been detained. 
  • Send a handwritten thank you note the following day to thank your hostess for her hospitality.
  • Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
  • Table manners are Continental:
    – the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
    – Do not begin eating until the hostess starts or someone says ‘guten appetit’ (good appetite).
    – wait for the hostess to place her napkin in her lap before doing so yourself.
    – Do not rest your elbows on the table.
    – Cut as much of your food with your fork as possible, since this compliments the cook by indicating the food is tender(!)
    – Finish everything on your plate.
    – Rolls should be broken apart by hand.
    – Indicate
    you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across
    the right side of your plate, with the fork over the knife. .

  • Toasts: The most common toast with wine is ‘Zum Wohl!’ (‘good health’). The most common toast with beer is ‘Prost!’ (‘good health’).


Dining Etiquette in Greece

  • Table manners are Continental
  • The oldest person is generally served first.
  • Expect a great deal of discussion. Meals are a time for socializing.
  • It is considered polite to soak up gravy or sauce with a piece of bread.
  • Toast: The
    most common toast is "to your health", which is "stinygiasou" in
    informal situations and "eis igían sas" at formal functions.Table manners are rather relaxed in Hong Kong, although there are
    certain rules of etiquette. When in doubt, watch what others do and
    emulate their behaviour.


Dining Etiquette in Hong Kong

  • Food is served on a revolving tray..You should try everything.
  • Never eat the last piece from the serving tray.
  • Burping is considered a compliment Open-mouthed
  • Chopsticks should be returned to the chopstick rest after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak.
  • Always refuse a second serving at least once if you don’t want to appear gluttonous. Leave some food in your bowl when you have finished eating.
  • When
    you have finished eating, place your chopsticks in the chopstick rest
    or on the table. Do not place your chopsticks across the top of your


Dining Etiquette in Italy

  • Always take a small amount at first so you can be cajoled into accepting a second helping.
  • Do not keep your hands in your lap during the meal; however, do not rest your elbows on the table either.
  • It is acceptable to leave a small amount of food on your plate.
  • Pick up cheese with your knife rather than your fingers.
  • If you do not want more wine, leave your wineglass nearly full.


Dining Etiquette in Japan

  • On the rare occasion you are invited to a Japanese house
    – Remove your shoes before entering and put on the slippers left at the doorway. Leave your shoes pointing away from the doorway you are about to walk through.
    – Arrive on time or no more than 5 minutes late if invited for dinner.
    – Unless you have been told the event is casual, dress as if you were going into the office.
    – If you must go to the toilet, put on the toilet slippers and remove them when you are finished. Light bulb
  • The honoured guest or the eldest person will be seated in the centre of the table the furthest from the door.
  • The honoured guest or the eldest is the first person to begin eating.
  • Chopstick etiquette!
    – Never point your chopsticks.
    – It will yield tremendous dividends if you learn to use chopsticks.
    – Do not pierce your food with chopsticks.
    – Chopsticks should be returned to the chopstick rest after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak.
    – Do not cross your chopsticks when putting them on the chopstick rest.
  • Try
    a little bit of everything. It is acceptable to ask what something is
    and even to make a face if you do not like the taste.

  • Don’t be surprised if your Japanese colleagues slurp their noodles and soup. Wink
  • Mixing
    other food with rice is usually not done. You eat a bit of one and then
    a bit of the other, but they should never be mixed together as you do
    in many Western countries.

  • If you do not want anything more to
    drink, do not finish what is in your glass. An empty glass is an
    invitation for someone to serve you more. Coffee cup
    But this doesn’t apply to everything: if you
    leave a small amount of rice in your bowl, you will be given more. To
    signify that you do not want more rice, finish every grain in your

  • Conversation at the table is generally subdued. The Japanese like to savour their food.



Cultural Meet & Greet

Meet and Greet in Afghanistan

  • The handshake is the most common form on greeting.
  • You will also see
    people place their hands over their hearts and nod slightly. 

  • Women and men will never shake hands let alone speak directly to one another. Also eye
    contact should also be avoided between men and women. Between men eye
    contact is acceptable as long as it is not prolonged – it is best to
    only occasionally look someone in the eyes.

Meet and Greet in Bangladesh

  •  The hand shake is common although they may feel rather limp. Women
    will only really be met within business contexts and even so, it is
    best to wait to see if a hand is extended before doing so.

  • The traditional greeting for Muslims is "Asalamu alaikum" to which the response is "wa alaikum salam".
  • Bangladeshis will append a suffix to a person’s name to denote respect and the level of closeness between the two people.
  • In general, age dictates how people are addressed.If people are of the same age, they use first names. If
    the person being addressed is older than the speaker, the person is
    called by their first name and a suffix that denotes the family

Meet and Greet in Russia

  • The typical greeting is a firm, almost bone-crushing handshake while
    maintaining direct eye contact and giving the appropriate greeting for 
    the time of day.

Meet and Greet in Germany

  • Shake hands with everyone – even children

Meet and Greet in Japan
Greetings in Japan are very formal and ritualized. It is important to show the correct amount of respect and deference to someone based upon their status relative to your own.

  • If at all possible, wait to be introduced. It can be seen as impolite to introduce yourself, even in a large gathering.
  • While
    foreigners are expected to shake hands, the traditional form of
    greeting is the bow. How far you bow depends upon your relationship to
    the other person as well as the situation. The deeper you bow, the more
    respect you show. A foreign visitor (‘gaijin’) may bow the head
    slightly, since no one expects foreigners to generally understand the
    subtle nuances of bowing.


Humour differences between Nations

The LaughLab joke survey revealed that Germans were the nation most likely to rate jokes as funny, whilst Canadians gave the lowest ratings.

Cultural GIft-Giving Etiquette

Gift Giving Etiquette in China

  • It is the proper etiquette for gifts to be exchanged for celebrations,
    as thanks for assistance and even as a sweetener for future favors. It is however important not to give gifts in the absence of a good reason

  • Gifts should be given in front of a witness.
  • When the Chinese want to buy gifts it is not uncommon for them to ask what
    you would like.

  • Business gifts are always reciprocated. Not to do so is bad etiquette.
  • When giving gifts do not give cash.
  • Do not be too frugal with your choice of gift otherwise you will be seen
    as an ‘iron rooster’, i.e. getting a good gift out of you is like getting a
    feather out of an iron rooster.

  • Depending on the item, avoid giving one of something. Chinese philosophy
    stresses harmony and balance, so give in pairs.

Gift Giving Etiquette Japan

  • The emphasis in Japanese business culture is on the act of gift-giving not
    the gift itself.

  • Expensive gifts are common.
  • The best time to present a gift is at the end of your visit.
  • A gift for an individual should be given in private.
  • The correct etiquette is to present/receive gifts with both hands.
  • Before accepting a gift it is polite to refuse at least once or twice
    before accepting.

  • Giving four or nine of anything is considered unlucky. Give in pairs if

  • Gift-giving is important in Japan that if you innocently compliment people’s home
    decor, jewelry or clothing, you just may end up walking out the door
    with it, literally.

Gift Giving Etiquette in Saudi Arabia

  • Gifts should only be given to the most intimate of friends.
  • Gifts should be of the highest quality.
  • Never buy gold or silk as a present for men. Silver is acceptable.
  • Always give/receive gifts with the right hand.
  • Saudis enjoy wearing scent – ‘itr’. The most popular is ‘oud’ which can
    cost as much as £1000 an ounce.

  • It is not bad etiquette to open gifts when received.

Gift Giving Etiquette in Germany

  •  If you are invited to a German’s house, bring a gift such as chocolates or flowers.
  • Flowers: Yellow roses or tea roses are always well received.
    Do not give red roses as they symbolize romantic intentions.
    Do not give carnations as they symbolize mourning.
    Do not give lilies or chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals.
  • If
    you bring wine, it should be imported, French or Italian. Giving German
    wines is viewed as meaning you do not think the host will serve a good
    quality wine. 

  • Gifts are usually opened when received.

Gift Giving Etiquette in Argentina

  • Since taxes on imported spirits are extremely high, a bottle of imported spirits is always well received.
  • Do not give knives or scissors as they indicate a desire to sever the relationship.

Gift Giving Etiquette in India

  •  Indians believe that giving gifts eases the transition into the next life.
  • It is not the value of the gift, but the sincerity with which it is given, that is important to the recipient. 
  • If invited to an Indian’s home for a meal, it is not necessary to bring a gift, although one will not be turned down.
  • Do not give frangipani or white flowers as they are used at funerals.
  • Yellow, green and red are lucky colours, so try to use them to wrap gifts.
  • A gift from a man should be said to come from both he and his wife/mother/sister or some other female relative.
  • Hindus should not be given gifts made of leather.
  • Gifts are not opened when received.

Gift Giving Etiquette in Italy

  • Do not give red flowers as they indicate secrecy.
    Do not give yellow flowers as they indicate jealousy
    Do not give chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals.

  • If you bring wine, make sure it is a good vintage. Quality, rather than quantity, is important.
  • Do not wrap gifts in black, as is traditionally a mourning colour.
  • Do not wrap gifts in purple, as it is a symbol of bad luck.
  • Gifts are usually opened when received.


Cultural Differences: Saying “no” in Japan

In Japan saying “no” means losing status.
For this reason a Japanese gentleman named Ueda wrote a paper called “Sixteen Ways to Avoid Saying ‘No’ in Japan”.
So if a mother sees her kid gleefully smashing eggs on the kitchen floor, instead of saying "no" she’d say something like "why drop eggs on the floor? Mr Egg is saying ouch!".

-Leil Lowndes

Gender Differences

I was just reading a book where they suggested some gender differences. Interesting ideas – and I think they sound about right, but I have yet to 100% confirm these 🙂

  • Listening: Women show they’re listening by being animated, nodding, and making "listening noises" like "uh huh", "really?" etc. Men listen in still-life and only nod if they agree with what is being said. Both genders can be great listeners – they just listen in different ways. Men can see women’s supportive noises/ words as interruptions. So it’s recommended for women to cut out the nodding and uh huhs and for men to insert them when speaking to the opposite sex.
  • Talking frequency: There have been countless studies on verbosity, and not one was able to prove that women spoke more. But talking frequency may vary in different contexts. As a massive generalization, men tend to talk a lot more than women at work because this is how they express their natural competitive tendencies. Then when they get home they take a vacation from talking by eg watching the tv or reading the newspaper etc. Women spread out their talking frequency between work and home-life equally.
    To many men, talking is to win something—an argument, the respect of a boss or his colleagues, a woman. And, when he is feeling completely comfortable, there is no need to talk. To many men, life is a talk show—and everything he says must be right. But that’s work! And when he’s with
    the woman who loves him, he can happily relax, and be quiet.
  • Bonding strategies: men bond by doing things together eg watching a game together, women bond by talking. I suppose this links in a bit with the talking frequency point…
  • Talking subject matter: Most males don’t consider their every passing thought important enough to impart, so only talk about what they consider the important things. Most women would be quite content drifting along on her man’s stream of consciousness—whether the stream ended up any place he thought important or not.
  • Sympathy: When growing up, when a girl hurts herself after doing something stupid (eg petting a hissing stray cat), she is likely to get sympathy from her parents. When a little boy does the same thing, gender differences in upbringing mean that he is more likely to be chided for doing something that is a bit unwise. The result is that later in life, men are less likely to be sympathetic to what they’d consider a lesson that needs to be learned. eg if a woman complains her feet hurt from walking in high heels all night – some males may show little sympathy.

– Leil Lowndes

Cultural differences in Touching

You may have noticed that Italians often touch each other when they talk, and like many you may have assumed Italians are therefore very friendly or intimate. Culturally however, many Italians touch in an attempt to indicate that they want you to stop talking because they want to take the floor!


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