Avoid Being Rude While Dining Internationally With These Food Etiquette Tips

Your mother taught you well when it comes to table manners, but did she tell you to never to fork food into your mouth in Thailand? Probably not, which is why you should pay attention to a few handy etiquette tips if you’ll be dining out internationally. No one wants to (intentionally) be a rude American, right?

BudgetTravel.com has a handy list of 15 tips to keep in mind if you’re visiting a foreign country, so you can eat like a native and avoid shocking your fellow diners.

Thailand: Putting food into your mouth with a fork is a no-no. Instead, you only use the fork to push cooked rice onto your spoon. If an item is standing alone, separate from the rice, then it’s okay. And also never use chopsticks for a rice-based meal.

Japan: Speaking of chopsticks, don’t stick yours upright in your rice in between bites. That kind of set-up is seen at funerals in Japan, in the rice bowl set in front of the coffin of the deceased.They should be set together in front of you, parallel to the edge of the table, and absolutely nowhere else.

Mexico: Eating tacos with a fork and a knife looks silly and snobby to locals there, so just suck it up and use your hands.

Britain: The port is always passed to the left here, for whatever reason. Even more fun, if someone fails to pass the port, ask them, “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” If they say they don’t know him, reply, “He’s a very good chap, but he always forgets to pass the port.” Makes total sense!

Russia: Vodka is always to be accepted and never mixed with anything, not even ice. Other liquids are seen as pollutants, corrupting the purity of the vodka. Unless you’re mixing beer with it — that’s fine. Accepting a drink is a sign of trust and friendship, so it’s a bad move to turn it down, even if it’s seven in the morning.

For more international dining tips, check out BudgetTravel.com.

15 International Food Etiquette Rules That Might Surprise You [BudgetTravel.com]

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  1. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    Mary Beth, you’ve been hanging around with Phil again, haven’t you.

    • mauispiderweb says:

      My first true lol of the day … thank you! :)

    • Velifer says:

      Phil is just a nom de plume all the consumerist staff use to post retarded crap. Mary Beth just forgot to log in to the right account.

    • nbs2 says:

      Poorly written articles that all to often seem to be a platform for spouting nonsense instead of useful information?

      Ever since MB became Mary Beth, she’s been giving Phil a run for his money. And like Phil posts, I can’t resist reading the articles to see how bad the train wreck is going to be this time.

  2. sufreak says:

    I can vouch for the vodka aspect. Personal experience, when we visiting family there. I was barely 14, but as a sign of friendship, I was given some good vodka.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’ve experienced the same thing when visiting my cousins in Poland. Refusing a drink is a massive sign of disrespect.

      Other random tidbits…

      - In rural Hungary, when drinking beer don’t clink glasses for a “cheers”. It’s a negative trait associated with Germans and Austrians.

      - In the former Yugoslavia, never turn down coffee, especially with coffee with sugar in it. It’s essentially saying “fuck you, you’re too poor to be offering me that” or “you’re too dirty to drink with me”. It’s basically the same thing with booze too. Though to be fair, things may have changed since I played Globo-Cop there back in the 90’s.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        I’m a recovering alcoholic who can’t drink anymore. Any experience or thoughts on what to do if offered alcohol in my situation?

        • The Lone Gunman says:

          “I’m sorry, due to an illness, my doctor has forbidden any alcohol consumption, as it could kill me.”

          • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

            Yeah I know the lines I can say, just wondered if anyone has actually been in that situation, and how it played out.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              From what I’ve witnessed, it’s a lot like being a vegetarian in Eastern Europe. People will be more confused than anything (“oh, you don’t eat meat? Have some pork then”… “you don’t drink, would you like some vodka”?). I think it really just depends on who you’re with — If someone is being annoying, just say your doctor told you not to drink.

              If you’re visiting family, just be honest and say you don’t drink. Just be polite and if offered another, non-alcoholic beverage, accept it. For my family, there are usually two options, vodka or carbonated water.

              • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

                Thanks, was just curious about the attitude, like if they would get real offended or just confused.

                • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                  Where will you be visiting?

                  I wouldn’t expect any hostility, just confusion. Vodka is taken very seriously in most of E. Europe — The word vodka roughly means “little water” in most Slavic languages. Though, with most younger people beer seems to be the drink of choice.

                  • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

                    Actually no plans just now, but hopefully Eastern Europe within a few years. Would love to check out Romania and Czechoslovakia.

              • bobloblaw says:

                ha, actually, my husband is first gen ukranian – his mother did NOT understand ‘vegetarian’. when i told her, she made sure to carefully go out of her way to buy me mozz & prosciutto sandwich. but i think this is more her not understanding prosciutto= meat.

            • tooluser says:

              They’ll take you out back and beat you on the soles of your feet.

              The correct response in this situation is “I said socket, not sprocket!”, which largely sounds like a Russian expression indicating you have some very big friends who will be stopping by later for a chat up.

        • iblamehistory says:

          That’s a good question. Also, those who are pregnant, or those who have made the personal decision to never consume alcohol. My husband is 26 and as far as he has gone was when his older brother made him take a sip of beer at age 12. He’d turn it down if Christ himself was offering the drink.

        • ajaxd says:

          Alcoholism is a big and old problem in Russia. You don’t have to accept a drink, explain your situation but be prepared that it will cause some chilling effect. Basically you can’t be a true friend if you didn’t share a drink, no matter the reason.

        • CubeRat says:

          Actually, you accept the drink to be polite; buy you don’t drink any. Or to be more polite, you pretend to drink. In you case, I don’t know if this is something you could do, however any pregnant ladies could fake drink.

          And, FYI, in most places in the world, it’s rude to refuse any drink offered, it doesn’t matter if it’s alcoholic or non-alcoholic. You are being offered a drink, which is a host’s way of welcoming you – to refuse is to refuse their welcome. Yep, I’ve had all sorts of stuff and learned quickly not to ask what it was. Learning that I was drinking goat’s milk mixed with honey & seasonings – while all fine separately, was very off tasting and mentally difficult. After that, I never asked, I just said thank you and drank it.

        • Blueskylaw says:

          Tell them you’re allergic to alcohol – everytime you drink you break out in handcuffs :-)

      • j2.718ff says:

        One lesson I’ve learned — drink what you’re offered slowly. (This is somewhat more challenging if it’s in a shot glass.) Because you’re the guest, and because you’re a foreigner, people will tend to pay more attention to your glass — as soon as someone notices it is empty, it will promptly be refilled.

        Be gracious, by taking what they give you. But savor it (or failing that, try to look like you’re savoring it).

        Na zdrowie!

      • Sunrisecarole says:

        and here in the US, we worry aout being “politically correct” ?????

  3. The Brad says:

    What the spoot is a port?

  4. mister_roboto says:

    Who the hell eats tacos with a fork and knife?

  5. Karney says:

    Thanks Phi- Mary? DON’T GIVE IN TO THE DARK SIDE.

  6. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    What about eating a snickers with a fork and knife?

  7. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    I get it… When you’re eating food, you’re consuming it, so this is helping us to be good consumers!

  8. shthar says:

    Man, how much do I not want to travel with some one who uses a knife and fork to eat tacos.

  9. tinadoll says:

    Would you stop stealing non-stories from Yahoo…k thanks

  10. The Lone Gunman says:

    ..or you could just observe how the other folks, who are natives, deal with their food and simply copy them.

    Maybe even ask about table etiquette with the apology that you don’t wish to offend?

    BTW–can anyone explain to me how the three seashells thing works?

  11. smo0 says:

    If you don’t pass the hookah in Turkey, you’ll get shanked.

    • Shinchan - Please assume that all of my posts are sarcastic unless indicated otherwise says:

      I always forget, do you get shanked with a shiv or shivved with a shank?

      • DJ Charlie says:

        Shanked with a shiv. Always.

        • Jchamberlain says:

          A shiv and a shank are two different items, so you get shiver with a shiv and shanked with a shank. My question is, if you put a pig in a poke, what do you get poked with?

    • Cat says:

      Like it’s any different in Detroit.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        Actually it is. In Detroit, you’ll get shanked anyway, then thrown into a car trunk and lit on fire. It’s called ‘Stewardship’, get with it already.

  12. ReverendLoki says:

    RE: Passing port wine to the left – could this be related that in nautical and aeronautical terms, “port side” refers to the left side of the vessel craft as one on board faces the bow?

  13. tinmanx says:

    What BS is this? Don’t flip the fish in China/Hong Kong? My family is from China and Hong Kong and we flip the fish all the time, at home, at restaurants, where ever there’s a fish to be flipped.

    • Fishnoise says:

      Agreed — my wife’s family is from Hong Kong and Guangzhou and from millionaires to taxi drivers they’re all a bunch of fish flippers.

    • j2.718ff says:

      Flipping the bird can be frowned upon in several cultures, though.

    • Cicadymn says:

      It’s probably just stupid advice.

      Like someone telling people visiting the US from china to “Never step under ladders or open an umbrella inside! This is considered very bad luck and everyone will avoid you if you do!” When in reality only a few people are still that superstitious.

  14. Bob Lu says:

    The “don’t stick yours upright in your rice” thing is also true in China and Taiwan.

    But if you are white people will just think you are silly cute anyway.

  15. Mach42 says:

    If you eat soup and noodles at a Chinese or Japanese place, feel free to slurp the noodles and make some noise. It won’t be impolite at all, and is taken as a sign that the food is good.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      My Chinese secretary slurps everything she eats, anytime, right here in Phoenix.

    • kerry says:

      This is also true in South Korea, where everybody slurps everything always.

    • yagisencho says:

      After living in Japan for a time, I can no longer *not* slurp my (soup) noodles. Thankfully, I’ve regained my ability to eat spaghetti with minimal slurping. Due primarily to fear of tomato sauce stains though, rather than noise levels.

  16. KidRey says:

    Here’s a couple for when you might find yourself in in county jail; never slurp your cereal and never let anyone take your food, you will always get more respect by throwing your tray on the floor rather than letting someone take some or all of it.

    Seriously…

  17. wickedpixel says:

    Or everyone can just eat their food how they want to eat their food and not be irrationally offended by someone doing it differently than they do. Seriously, unless someone does something unsanitary, I couldn’t imagine a situation where I would be anything more than mildly amused at someone eating/drinking in a manner different from what I would consider normal. People need to relax a little.

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      this is for other countries, not here. Just stay here and you’ll be ok. Also don’t talk to me with your mouth full, that is really the only thing I hate, manners wise.

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        Eh, sorry, I don’t care if Thailand thinks it’s rude to eat with a fork. That’s how I eat. I’ll eat with chopsticks, if they’re around, but if I’m obviously from a different culture, that should be taken into consideration. I didn’t think it was rude when my Indian co-workers tore into their tikka masala with their fingers and naan, because that would make me an asshole. I wouldn’t make fun of a… Thai, I guess? for pushing rice onto a spoon with a fork and eating it that way, for the same reason. There are other things to be uptight about. I’ll respect their culture, they can respect mine.

        • tooluser says:

          Yes.

          Yet another in a long list of articles on the Internet designed to denigrate its audience, primarily Americans. Disgusting really.

          Nobody decent cares how someone else eats, unless they make a lot of noise or a big mess.

        • Southern says:

          Right, because we all know that every other country in the world is as “tolerant” about things as the United States is. Like, yeah, go ahead and give your girlfriend a quick kiss in a Dubai restaurant and see how fast you end up in jail. Or heaven forbid, have sex with her in your car in Singapore and you MIGHT get out of jail in 6-7 years.

          Just because we’re tolerant here in the States doesn’t mean that every other country is too. Many things that we’re forced to tolerate in the States will get you put in prison in other countries, or worse yet, SHOT or STONED TO DEATH in others.

          If you don’t want to learn the customs & laws of the country you plan on visiting, do yourself a favor and just don’t go.

  18. LightningUsagi says:

    Don’t rub your chopsticks together before using them. This is a sign that you think they are cheap and need the splinters broken off first.

    • Spaghettius! says:

      but what if they are cheap and need splinters taken off them? I got a nasty one wedged into my thumb today from the break-apart takeout chopsticks that came with my lunch.

      • Mxx says:

        This is related to eating in a restaurant, not in front of your computer.
        In a restaurant you should respect by tolerating splinter and never coming back there again.
        Or use a freakin fork..or bring your fancy chopsticks.

        • orion70 says:

          It is also acceptable to eat your sushi with your fingers.

          • Clyde Barrow says:

            I know that for Vietnamese, server’s will never hand you your chopsticks but lay them next to your plate. I think it is considered bad luck to hand them directly to you.

  19. lehrdude says:

    Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything!!!

  20. I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

    My home: Don’t reach over my food. Don’t speak directly over my food. Don’t look at my plate and frown because you don’t like it. I would hope these rules are universal. God forbid I go to a country where speaking directly into my plate is good luck.

    Russia doesn’t want water in their Vodka, but beer is acceptable… OK.

    If you can eat a taco with a fork and knife, I applaud you.

    That port thing.. seems a little passive aggressive…

  21. BBG says:

    In Canada, poutine should always be eaten with your hands, never a fork. To do so, Canadians believe, is to invoke the wrath Fromage, the god of cheese curds.

  22. BelleSade says:

    I live in Russia, married a Russian, and can say that’s BS. Vodka is often mixed with juice and so on.

    • Mxx says:

      And it’s perfectly ok to refuse vodka.
      Unlike stereotypes, not everybody in Russia/ex-ussr/eastern europe is an alcoholic.

  23. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    So is it a breach of etiquette when I order “the lot” and eat it out of a bucket??

  24. SheTastesLikesCigerecxh says:

    This just reminds me of the scene in Waiting with the ‘foreigner’ table. It makes me laugh that so many servers get stiffed, because people do not take the time to learn our custom of tipping in the USA. I laugh out of sadness, because it is sad.

  25. j2.718ff says:

    “did she tell you to never to fork food into your mouth in Thailand? “

    Nope, she never told me to never to fork food

  26. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Yeah whatever. Just for the love of Dog, don’t forget to pass the dutchie from the left-hand side.

  27. trencherman says:

    “Etiquette is a process of exclusion, chiefly practiced by the English, to make sure that people of a lower class than their own cannot enter their kingdom. Manners, especially in America, are a technique of inclusion, to make people feel welcome.”–Quentin Crisp

  28. QrazyQat says:

    I’ve been going to Thailand for months at a time for 5 years now, eating at restaurants with loads of Thai people — regular restaurants, market food courts, etc. — and there’s a lot of eating with forks. It’s true that many of the popular Thai foods in northern Thailand are better eaten with chopsticks and spoons, like big bowls of soupy noodles and veggies, but lots of fork use.

  29. Kensuke Nakamura says:

    Don’t rub your wooden chopsticks together. No-one does that in Japan.
    Don’t soak your sushi in soy-sauce and wasabi, that would be like dousing a filet mignon in salt. You’re supposed to taste the sushi.

  30. SilentAgenger says:

    I think the locals do whatever the heck they want, and make up these silly rules just to mess with the outsiders. ;-)

  31. Dallas_shopper says:

    I lived in England for years and never encountered the port situation described above.

  32. Rigby says:

    Port is the nautical word for “left”.

  33. sahovaman says:

    Why does everyone bitch about these random articles? Here’s a newsflash for you *THE ARTICLES ARE FREE, YOUR NOT PAYING FOR THEM SO QUIT BITCHING* These articles are neat, and do you REALLY expect for these writers to come up with 50 articles a day solely based on how bad BofA, netflix, charter, and best buy?

    Get off your high horse and let the writers do their job.

    If you don’t like the articles DON’T READ THEM! AND DON’T COMMENT! And don’t be that nitpicky person we all hate!

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      You should have used YOU’RE in place of YOUR.

  34. loueloui says:

    A good website for this kind of stuff is fastenseatbelts.eu . It is VERY good at socials mores and customs that even the best guidebooks miss out on.

  35. shepd says:

    I have spend the better part of a year in the UK and have NEVER heard of this “port”.

  36. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    What if I’m on a plane flying from Japan to Mexico and we’re currently over Thailand. Who exactly do I pass the port to?