Let’s say you are preparing for a trip to another country. You educate yourself on all the aspects of the local culture and feel confident that you know everything you need to in order to have a great time there.
But no sooner are you there, you realize that no amount of reading could have possibly prepared you for what was to come. The most puzzling (and interesting) part of any foreign trip is always getting round to the different kinds of foods that are eaten, but more importantly how they are consumed.
Food customs are a great tool for social bonding and the act of eating together (regardless of how they differ from place to place) is often seen as an expression of camaraderie, friendship and social status. So, without further ado, here are 6 food customs from around the world that illustrate perfectly just what a diverse world we live in…
While the venerable forks are a staple part of western eating traditions, did you know that many eastern cultures prefer to stay away from them? In Thailand for instance, you might draw puzzled or even non-approving glances if you used a fork to put food in to your mouth. The practice is considered crude or low-so in the country. Sticking to the age old practice of using a fork to push food to your spoon is a safer bet.
Slurp All You Want
As youngsters, we were often reminded of how rude and unbecoming slurping while eating was. Not so in Japan. Slurping is indeed a welcome table manner there as it is considered to improve the taste of what you are eating and tells your hosts that you are enjoying it.
Tea has been an integral part of British culture for a long time now. Suffice to say, drinking tea is not as simple as it might seem to others. When using a spoon to stir your tea, you should never let it touch the sides so that it doesn’t clang with the cup (and potentially break it).
You’re Doin’ It Right
In many eastern cultures especially middle-eastern, eating is done entirely by hands. But a lesser known fact is most of these cultures also forbid the use of left hand for eating which is reserved for cleaning purposes. If you did inadvertently end up eating or taking food with your left hand, your host might take it as a disrespectful gesture.
Respect Your Elders
Every culture the world over teach great respect for elders. In Korea for instance, no one begins eating until the eldest member of the family has taken the first bite. The same is also found on Indian dinner tables as eating usually begins only when the eldest family member is offered the first serving of each food item and eating does not begin until he/she has started.
Don’t Stick Em Up
In China, bowls of rice with chopsticks set upright are used as offerings in funerals. Suffice to say, doing the same on a dinner table will not win you a lot of respect. It is also very disrespectful to wave chopsticks at someone or leave them pointing towards a person after you are done eating.
These are obviously just a few of the many examples that cultures the world over present. If you have experienced food customs that stood out, feel free to let us know what they were and what your thoughts on them were down in the comment section.