As an international brand, supplying some of the very best restaurants and hotels around the world with our award-winning cutlery designs, it should come as no surprise that discovering all the idiosyncratic dining customs from across the globe is a Studio William passion. We love to fully immerse ourselves in different cultures to get a true understanding of the experience of dining, from all perspectives, to enable us to create instruments for the dining table that complement your meal, wherever you are.
When travelling, breaking bread with locals is one of the best ways to get to know a country and the people in it, but knowing your stuff when it comes to cultural dining etiquette is absolutely essential. What may be considered polite in Europe might be a cardinal sin elsewhere! And what Brits might deem to be going against ‘proper’ dining etiquette may actually be another culture’s code for sharing great appreciation for fantastic food. It is a truly fascinating subject and one that all foodies should take the time to explore.
Ready to discover some new traditions? Let’s look at a few dining customs from around the world…
Leaving a little food on the plate at the end of a meal is an old dining tradition here in the UK, although not one that is always necessary to stick to any more. The morsel you leave indicates that you have been served the perfect amount of food and could not possibly manage another bite (until dessert arrives, of course!). In the Philippines, however, leaving food is considered impolite, as is refusing food if you are offered more – which you probably will be.
Forks and spoons are frequently used to eat meals in Thailand, since their introduction in 1897 by King Chulalongkorn after a visit to Europe, but not it the same way you might be used to. Rather than skewering a mouthful with your fork’s tines, in Thailand the fork is only used to guide the food onto a spoon which is then used to eat off. Prior to forks and spoons being used and still in some more rural parts of Thailand, food is eaten with the hands.
We do like to be prompt in Britain, but arriving early or on time for a dinner party in Mexico is frowned upon. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a local’s house to eat in this beautiful part of the world, take measures to keep your arrival time half an hour late.
France is famous for it’s exemplary cheese boards, which can appear at the dining table before or after a main course (so make sure to wear your baggiest trousers to dinner!). If you are given the honour of serving cheese to guests, particularly locals, don’t make the mistake of simply cutting the end off and working your way up the slice. The French always ensure that the rind and dough of cheese is fairly distributed among everyone, so cut at a diagonal.
Chopsticks are the utensil of choice in Japan, whatever the meal, so get your skills up to scratch before you pay a visit. When using your chopsticks, remember to always leave them uncrossed when laid on the table and never stick them into a bowl of rice – this is not only considered rude, but terrible bad luck as this is how food offerings are made to the dead. It is also bad practice to pass food using chopsticks – something that is only done at funerals. When faced with soup, you may feel at a loss with what to do as it is likely that no spoon will be present! Contrary to European dining customs, patrons are expected to pick up their bowl and slurp! Yes, audibly slurp – it shows your appreciation to the chef.
Just as at a British dinner party, dinner guests in China are expected to dress in smart attire to show respect to their hosts. Another similarity is that they also have the custom of leaving a small amount of food on the plate. One thing that is quite different though? It is polite to belch! This bodily function at the dinner table, which may be considered the height of rudeness in the UK is actually a great compliment in China and demonstrates that the guest has had a satisfying meal.