What is Dining Etiquette While Traveling?  

Dining etiquette can be a difficult thing to navigate when traveling, especially if you’re on the road or abroad. There are a variety of cultural norms and expectations when it comes to eating in different countries. Understanding different dining etiquette while traveling can be the difference between an enjoyable meal and an embarrassing situation.

Knowing key rules of dining etiquette to follow while traveling will help you make the most of your dining experiences and enjoy your time abroad.

Basic Rules of Eating Etiquette  

Before delving into specific dining etiquette tips for traveling, let’s review some of the basics of dining etiquette that should be followed regardless of your location.

  1. Use Your Napkin – A napkin is provided for you as soon as you sit down at the table. Napkins should always be used throughout the meal and placed on your lap. When finished with the meal, place the napkin to the left side of your plate.

  2. Don’t Talk with Your Mouth Full – Talking with your mouth full is simply bad etiquette and should be avoided at all costs, even when you are on the road.

  3. Close Your Mouth When Chewing – Chewing with your mouth open is considered bad etiquette and is frowned upon in any culture.

  4. Keep Your Phones Away – Refrain from using your cell phone while the meal is underway. It is the height of rudeness to text, talk, or browse the net while others are eating or conversing.

  5. Do Not Speak Ill of Food – While it may not live up to your standards or expectations, it is considered bad etiquette to say bad things about food that is served in a restaurant or private home.

Navigating Dining Etiquette in Different Locations  

When it comes to dining etiquette while traveling, the tips will vary widely depending on where you are and the cultural norms of the region.

America

The United States has fairly relaxed dining etiquette. Generally, people wait to eat until all the guests have been served and eating at the same time is encouraged. In most cases, it is considered polite to eat the entirety of a meal that is provided for you.

Europe

In Europe, there are specific rules to follow when it comes to dining etiquette. For instance, it is important to wait to start eating until after a toast has been made. Food should be eaten in courses and should be served from the left. It is also important to remember to leave a little bit of your meal uneaten on your plate as a sign to the host that you are full.

Asia

Dining etiquette in Asian countries is much different than in the United States. Many Asian cultures typically view the host as generous and it is important to accepting the food offered. The food is served communally and typically eaten with chopsticks. For the most part, it is considered impolite to pick up food with your hands, pour your own drink, or leave your chopsticks stuck in a bowl of rice.

Middle East

In some Middle Eastern countries it is considered rude to leave any food uneaten on the plate. When eating, it is important to keep your left hand tucked away as this is typically considered unclean. Meals should not be eaten hurriedly and once finished, the diner should gesture towards the food with their right hand to show appreciation.

Do’s and Don’ts When Eating Abroad  

With all these different cultural norms and expectations, it can be difficult to remember what to do and what not to do when eating while traveling. Here are some tips to keep in mind when eating abroad that will ensure the meal goes smoothly and without any issues:

Do:

  1. Respect the culture – Respect the customs and culture of the region you are visiting.

  2. Show gratitude – When the meal has been completed, express your gratitude for the food and the hospitality of your host.

  3. Sample new foods – Be open to trying new foods and flavors.

  4. Maintain eye contact – When conversing with a host, maintain eye contact as this is seen as a sign of respect.

Don’t:

  1. Talk too loud – Try to keep conversation to a minimum and make sure you maintain a reasonable volume.

  2. Play with the food – It is considered rude to play with the food or use chopsticks as skewers or drum sticks.

  3. Stick chopsticks in rice – Many cultures view this as an insult to the host.

  4. Reach across the table – If something is out of reach, politely ask someone to pass it.

Understanding and following the dining etiquette of a particular culture is the best way to ensure enjoyable dining experiences while traveling. Respect the customs, culture, and norms when eating in a foreign country and maintain a basic understanding of the do’s and don’ts of dining etiquette while traveling. Following these rules and tips will help ensure you navigate the dining etiquette minefield and get the most out of your meals abroad.