One of the best parts about traveling is diving into a new culture and learning about the people and traditions specific to the region. An easy way to do this is through food. Meals connect us as humans and provide us with a common ground to bond, make new friends, and learn about the culture. That being said, dining without being aware of the proper etiquette or manners associated with a specific location is an easy way to be categorized as a rude, sometimes offensive tourist. Brush up on your destinations etiquette and display an open mind to have the best experience while dining. Here are a few surprising tips for dining around the world.
Thailand observes similar table manners to Western countries, like keeping your mouth closed while eating, but there are a few important additions to note next time you find yourself dining in Thailand. If you dine with a group of people, the meal will be shared. It is often ordered by the eldest women at the table and will usually include meat, fish, vegetables, and rice. Chopsticks are reserved for noodle dishes, while a fork and spoon are saved for all rice based dishes. Your fork should be kept in your left hand while your spoon is kept in the right and serves as the main utensil. You should not use the fork to eat. Instead, the fork is meant to push food onto your spoon. Northern parts of the country may also serve sticky rice which can be compressed with your right hand to pick up food.
If you are traveling to Japan, there are a few important skills to master and be aware of when it comes to dining. First and foremost, learning to use chopsticks correctly will be essential, especially if you are dining in a more formal situation. While it may be common sense to most, avoid pointing or waving your chopsticks around. Take some time to learn how to properly use chopsticks during a meal for the most success. Two important things to avoid when using chopsticks are not to pass food using chopsticks and to not stick your chopsticks upright in your rice. Both symbolize aspects of traditional Japanese funerals and should be avoided at all costs. You may be provided with a wet towel at a restaurant. This should be used to wipe the hands, not the face. During the meal, use separate bowls for dipping into soy sauce. Additionally, slurping your soup right from the bowl is a common practice and shows you are enjoying your meal.
Rice and meat are a common meal in Brazil, with tons of steakhouses around the country serving mouth-watering cuts of meat. If you find yourself in a Brazilian steakhouse, make sure you are aware of the token system and plan accordingly. Servers will walk around continuously with different cuts of meats. Diners receive tokens which they put out, green side up if they would like more. Be sure to flip the token over to avoid more meat ending up on your plate. While eating, keep your knife in your right hand as your fork remains in your left.