Dining Etiquette: A Pocket Guide to Table Manners & Tipping in 47 Countries

Dining Etiquette: A Pocket Guide to Table Manners and Tipping in 47 Countries

Our need to regulate eating habits with (seemingly arbitrary) rules and customs is universal. Less universal, however, are the rules themselves…

Burping at a Chinese dinner party is the ultimate compliment, but dare to over Sunday roast at Grandma’s house and you’ll be sent outside to think about what you’ve done. From cutlery to cuisine, manners to mess, and going hungry to going dutch, we’ve eaten our way around the world to create the ultimate global guide to dining etiquette. 

Whether you’re dining with a local or chowing down in a Michelin starred restaurant, we’ve got you covered. And since there is nothing more awkward than arriving in a foreign country without being familiar with the customs, particularly when it comes to currency and tipping etiquette, we’ve included pointers on this sometimes prickly topic.

So, pull up a chair, tuck in a napkin and make sure you’re on your best behavior.

Dining etiquette in Africa

This post is massive! Be sure to expand the table of contents if you’re looking for a specific country.

Dining Etiquette Around the World

AFRICA

Egypt

  • Bring your host a sweet dish, such as pastries, chocolate, or a cake.
  • Remove your shoes before entering someone’s home.
  • Dress well and conservatively. Appearances are important to Egyptians.
  • Compliment the host on the house.
  • Don’t eat with your left hand as it is usually the one used to ‘clean up’ in the bathroom.
  • Don’t expect that alcohol will be served.
  • Never look at someone else’s dinner. In fact, don’t ever look at anyone else’s food for any reason.
  • Leave some food on your plate. It’s a sign that your host has been generous.
  • Expect to be served ‘Shai’ (black tea) at the end of the evening. Pour your tea until it spills over into the saucer.

If service and food were good, 10 – 15% in restaurants. If you see a service charge added to your bill, this amount goes to the restaurant and not to the waiter.

Ethiopia

  • Ethiopians are hospitable and like to entertain friends in their homes.
  • An invitation to a private home should be considered an honor.
  • Punctuality is not strictly adhered to although considerable lateness is also unacceptable.
  • You may have to remove your shoes at the door.
  • Dress well.
  • Shake hands with each guest individually.
  • A woman should offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served.
  • You will always be offered a cup of coffee. It is considered impolite to refuse.
  • Ethiopians are relatively formal and believe table manners are a sign of respect.
  • Do not presume that because food is eaten with the hands, there is a lack of decorum.
  • Expect a small earthenware or metal jug to be brought to the table before the meal is served. Extend your hands over the basin while water is poured over them.
  • Only use the right hand for eating.
  • Hierarchy dictates that the eldest person is the first to take food from the communal plate.
  • Guests are often served tasty morsels by another guest in a process called “gursa”. Using his hands, the person places the morsel in the other person’s mouth. Since this is done out of respect, it is a good idea to smile and accept the offering.
  • Expect to be urged to take more food. Providing an abundance of food is a sign of hospitality.
  • The meal ends with ritual hand-washing and coffee.

A 10% service charge is added to all restaurant meals so there is no need to tip, but if you find the service exceptional, you can leave a couple of birr (1 birr is about 50 cents in USD).

Kenya

  • Kenyans table manners are relatively formal.
  • Dining etiquette vary tremendously according to ethnicity, location and socio-economic position of the host.
  • The best course of action is to behave formally. When is doubt, watch what others are doing and follow their lead.
  • Except for formal functions, there is generally not a seating plan. However, there may be a special place for the most honored guest.
  • Guests are expected to wash their hands before and after the meal. In some homes, a washing basin will be brought to the table. If so, hold your hands over the basin while water is poured over them.
  • The honored guest is usually served first, followed by the men, children, and women.
  • Servants often bring the courses to individual guests who are expected to take what they want.
  • Do not begin eating until the eldest male has been served and started eating.
  • It is a good idea to take a small amount the first time the platters are brought so that you may take second helpings when urged.
  • Beverages are not generally served with meals since Kenyans think it is impolite to eat and drink at the same time. They are generally served at the completion of the meal.
  • Eat with your right hand.
  • Always accept tea.
  • It is considered polite to finish everything on your plate, although it is not mandatory.

Tip 10% for good service.

restaurant in Morocco

Morocco

  • If you are invited to a Moroccan’s house:
    • You should remove your shoes.
    • Dress smartly. Doing so demonstrates respect towards your hosts.
    • Check to see if your spouse is included in the invitation. Conservative Moroccans may not entertain mixed-sex groups.
    • Shake everyone’s hand individually.
  • Food is served at a knee-high round table or served on a carpet on the floor around a large communal plate.
  • The guest of honor sits next to the host and is offered the choice cuts.
  • Do not begin eating until the host blesses the food or begins to eat.
  • Wash your hands with the washing basin and towel provided before eating. Hold your hands over the basin while water is poured over them. Dry your hands on the towel provided.
  • Do not begin eating until the host blesses the food or begins to eat.
  • Water is often served from a communal glass. If you want your own glass, ask for a soft drink.
  • Never put your hand into your mouth as you will be using it to touch the communal food.
  • Eat from the section of the communal plate that is closest to you. Never reach across the bowl to get something from the other side.
  • Scoop the food with a piece of bread or the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand. Eat and drink only with the right hand.
  • If there are bones in the Moroccan stew, suck out the marrow.
  • Don’t wipe your hands on your napkin.
  • The washing basin will be brought around again at the end of the meal.
  • Expect to be urged to take more food off the communal plate. Providing an abundance of food is a sign of hospitality.

Tip 10 – 15%.

South Africa

  • Arrive on time if invited to dinner.
  • Contact the hostess ahead of time to see if she would like you to bring a dish.
  • Wear casual clothes. This may include jeans or pressed shorts. It is a good idea to check with the hosts in advance.
  • It is considered rude to leave your shoes on.
  • In Johannesburg, casual is dressier than in other parts of the country. Do not wear jeans or shorts unless you have spoken to the hosts.
  • Take a small gift as a token of appreciation for being invited to dine at the home of the host.
  • Place your napkin on your lap.
  • Place your cutlery on the plate to indicate you are still eating.
  • Avoid making eye contact when dining.
  • Offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served.

Tip 10 – 15%.

Dining etiquette in Asia

ASIA

Cambodia

  • Table manners and dining etiquette are fairly formal.
  • If unconfident with the dos and don’ts simply follow what others do.
  • When invited to the dining table wait to be told where to sit as you would not want to upset any hierarchical arrangements.
  • The oldest person is usually seated first.
  • Similarly, the eldest person should start eating before others.
  • Do not begin eating until the eldest person starts.
  • Slurping and lip-smacking is a good thing. They convey your enjoyment of the meal.

Tip 5 – 20%.

China

  • In China, everything stops for tea. Chatting over a brew, however, doesn’t have to. Drinkers will subtly tap their fingers on the table to thank those serving without having to pause a good gossip.
  • Your teacup will be refilled continually. Leave your cup full if you are finished. Please the teapot lid upside down to signal the waiter for more tea.
  • For meals, arrive on time and dress nicely out of respect for your fellow diners.
  • Only use chopsticks. It is impolite to use them to point, move bowls or plates, or bang them like drumsticks. When not in use, chopsticks should be placed in a chopstick rest/holder or across your bowl. Never on the table. Never stick them vertically in rice as it is considered a dark omen.
  • Always serve others before serving yourself. 
  • Don’t be afraid to dirty the tablecloth. Bones, shells, etc are put on the table. Don’t put them in your rice bowl.
  • Rice is served as a filler. Don’t eat large amounts, which implies the host has not served enough food.
  • If served a whole fish, don’t flip it over once you’ve finished eating one side. Either leave it untouched or pull off the bones to get to the bottom.
  • Rare beef is considered barbaric by the Chinese.
  • Don’t dig through your food for anything in particular. It’s considered very rude.
  • Belching is seen as a compliment to the chef for creating a satisfying meal, but slurping is a faux pas.
  • Don’t finish all your food. Leave a small amount on your plate to show that your host gave you more than enough to eat.
  • Oranges or other fruits are served to signal the end of the meal. Leave soon after the meal ends.

Tipping is becoming more commonplace, especially with younger workers although older workers still consider it an insult. 

Indian food on a metal platter

India

  • Take off your shoes before entering the house.
  • Dress modestly and conservatively.
  • Traditionally, meals are served on a rug on the floor and people sit around in a circle. Wait to be told where to sit.
  • Wait for the eldest person to start eating first.
  • When your host offers you food or refreshment, it’s normal to decline a couple of times before letting yourself be persuaded.
  • Wash your hands before and after eating. Pay close attention to the fingernails.
  • The thumb is used to push food, particularly rice, onto the fingers in India, but avoid getting it on your palms. In Northern India, only fingertips are used for eating.
  • Instead of taking big bites into your naan bread or roti, break it into smaller portions and use it to scoop up the condiments and curries.
  • Don’t eat too quickly or too slowly, a medium pace is important.
  • Food envy is futile when out for dinner in India. As soon as any meal touches the plate it must only be eaten by whoever ordered it, so make sure to choose wisely.
  • Use only your right hand when eating.
  • Leaving a small amount of food on your plate indicates that you are satisfied. Finishing all your food means that you are still hungry.

Tip 10%.

Japan

  • Meals are often eaten at low tables while seated on cushions on the floor.
  • It is polite to say that you gratefully receive the meal before eating and to say thanks for your meal afterward.
  • Try all the food that is offered to you and never refuse sake.
  • It is polite to slurp your soup.
  • Don’t cross, lick, or stick chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. These are considered rude.
  • Don’t pass food using chopsticks. This practice takes place at funerals only.
  • Pointing at someone with chopsticks is not polite. In fact, it implies “ Do you wanna step outside?”
  • When taking food from a communal bowl, it is proper to use the opposite, thick end of your chopsticks.
  • Bowls of rice and noodles should be brought towards your mouth to avoid spilling food.
  • Sashimi and sushi should be dipped into soy sauce poured into a separate dish and should be eaten whole.
  • Nigiri-zushi should be dipped upside-down so the first enters the sauce.
  • Dishes, where eating is too difficult with chopsticks, such as curry rice or rice mixed with sauces, are often served with large spoons.
  • If you’re after a refill at any Japanese table, it’s a game of give and take. Subtly hint that you’ve run dry by topping up the glass of another diner, and wait for them to return the favor.
  • Neatly refold the ‘Oshibori’ (hand towel).
  • Eating while walking around or in public is very uncommon and can be considered rude.

Tipping is considered an insult. Don’t leave a tip.

dumplings

Kazakhstan

  • Kazakh’s are very hospitable people and enjoy hosting dinners at their homes.
  • You will be served tea and bread, even if you are not invited to a meal. Since Kazakhs consider bread to be sacred, serving bread is a sign of respect.
  • When served tea, your cup will often only be filled halfway. To fill the cup would mean that your host wanted you to leave.
  • It is not imperative that you arrive on time, although you should not arrive more than 30 minutes late without telephoning first.
  • Dress conservatively in clothing you might wear to the office. Kazakhs value dressing well over comfort. To dress too informally might insult your hosts.
  • Dining etiquette is not terribly formal in Kazakhstan.
  • Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Some foods are meant to be eaten by hand.
  • Your host or another guest may serve you.
  • In more rural settings, you may sit on the floor.
  • You will be given a bowl to drink broth or tea. When you do not want any more, turn your bowl upside-down as an indication.
  • If alcoholic beverages are served, expect a fair amount of toasting.
  • Meals are social events. As such, they may take a great deal of time.
  • Leave something on your plate when you have finished eating. This demonstrates that you have had enough, whereas if you finish everything it means you are still hungry and you will be served more food.
  • Expect to be served second helpings.

Tipping is not necessary, as most restaurants and hotels include a service charge. You may leave an additional amount if the service was exceptionally good.

South Korea

  • Meals are usually eaten communally, so dishes are placed in the center of the table and diners put a little from each common dish in their own bowl.
  • At some traditional restaurants, customers sit on cushions on the floor.
  • Take off your shoes in traditional restaurants where everyone sits on floor cushions.
  • Proper dining etiquette dictates that nobody at the table eats until the oldest or most senior person takes a bite.
  • Always accept a dish or glass using both hands. It’s more respectful.
  • Pour drinks for others if you notice that their glasses are empty. Don’t pour drinks for yourself, unless you’re alone.
  • Avoid making any noise by hitting your spoon or chopsticks against the bowl.
  • Use a spoon rather than chopsticks to eat rice.
  • Ask for gawi (scissors) if you’re trying to cut something and your spoon won’t do it.
  • Keep pace with all of the other diners. Don’t eat too fast or too slow.
  • Koreans don’t like to talk a lot during dinner. Periods of silence are common and appreciated at dinner.
  • Prepare to sing a solo number after dinner, no matter what kind of voice you have. Any song is acceptable, as long as you sing with spirit.
  • After dinner, the host may invite his guests to go drinking. Don’t refuse this invitation.

Wherever you see a ‘No Tipping’ sign, don’t tip. Koreans find tipping offensive, although it is becoming expected in Western hotels.

Philippines

  • Don’t arrive early. Be there 15-30 minutes later than told.
  • Never refer to your host’s wife as the hostess. This has a different meaning in the Philippines.
  • Wait to be asked several times before moving into the dining room or helping yourself to food.
  • Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
  • Do not start eating until the host invites you to do so.
  • Meals are typically eating with a fork and spoon.
  • Always refill your neighbor’s drink if it is half empty.
  • Getting drunk is considered greedy and rude.
  • Leave a small amount of food on your plate when you are finished eating. Place your fork and spoon on your plate.

Tip 10%.

rice and seafood in a bowl with chopsticks

Singapore

  • Wait for your host to start eating.
  • Food is usually put on the table with all dishes served at once and to be shared by all. Drinks and appetizers are uncommon, though they are available in Western restaurants.
  • Don’t rotate your plate when eating fish.
  • Don’t linger at the table after tea.

10% for good service (optional).

Thailand

  • Sharing a table in a restaurant is a common practice.
  • Expect to receive all dishes at once rather than in set courses.
  • Be ready to share. Sharing food is very common and dishes will often be served to split amongst the table.
  • Don’t eat from the fork. Use it only to push food onto the spoon.
  • Balls of sticky rice are eaten with the right hand.
  • Never leave your chopsticks inside an empty bowl as it symbolizes death.
  • Leave a little food on your plate after you have eaten to show that you are full. Finishing everything indicates that you are still hungry.
  • Never leave rice on your plate as it is considered wasteful. The words for food and rice are the same. Rice has an almost mystical significance in addition to its humdrum ‘daily bread’ function.
  • Don’t take the last bite from the sharing bowl.
  • Wait to be asked before taking seconds.
  • To attract a waiter, wave quietly with your palm down or say ‘Nong’. Never snap your fingers or raise your voice.
  • Rather than splitting the difference at the end of a meal, it is customary for the diner perceived to be the richest to pick up the bill.

Tips are appreciated but not expected. Tip a minimum of 10% at expensive restaurants.

Vietnam

  • Don’t eat or drink until the elders are served and have given permission for everyone to begin.
  • Meals are typically served family-style.
  • Add spices, extras, pickles, and chilies to your meal from the small bowls provided.
  • Keep both hands above the table so that one hand holds your rice bowl and the other holds your chopsticks. 
  • Hold your rice bowl in your hand. It is considered lazy to eat from a rice bowl that is on the table.
  • Chopsticks should be placed on the table or a chopstick rest after every few mouthfuls or when breaking to drink or speak.
  • Pass dishes with both hands.
  • A small dish or shaker of white crystal on the table is more likely to be MSG than sugar or salt.
  • The Vietnamese eat with gusto, and with noise. Slurping is not considered impolite, although belching is.
  • Try to finish everything on your plate.
  • When you are finished eating, rest your chopsticks on top of your rice bowl.
  • Cover your mouth when using a toothpick.

Tip 5 – 10% to your waiter.

dining etiquette around the world

EUROPE

Austria

  • Austrians insist on punctuality for social occasions.
  • In someone’s home, remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
  • Put your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess says ‘mahlzeit’ or ‘Guten Appetit’.
  • Never cut a dumpling. Instead, hold the dumpling with your knife and break it apart with your fork.
  • Finish everything on your plate.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate with the handles facing to the right.
  • The host gives the first toast. Everyone lifts and clinks glasses, looks the person making the toast in the eye and says, ‘Prost!’.
  • An honored guest offers a toast of thanks to the host at the end of the meal.
  • The person who extends the invitation pays the bill in a restaurant. Austrians will not appreciate a struggle over the bill.

Tip 5% for good service.

Belgium

  • Hosts seat guests. Husbands and wine are generally not seated together.
  • Hosts and hostesses sit at opposite ends of the table.
  • Accept any drink offered by your host. Don’t ask for a drink not offered.
  • Keep your wrists above the table when eating.
  • Never leave food on your plate. It is seen as both rude and wasteful.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate, tines facing upwards, with the handles facing to the right.
  • Belgians take pride in their cuisine, so praising a meal is a sincere compliment.
  • To beckon a waiter or waitress raise your hand and make eye contact.

Don’t tip at restaurants.

Bulgaria

  • Don’t bring yellow flowers to dinner. Yellow flowers symbolize hatred.
  • Table manners in Bulgaria could be considered casual, but there are certain rules of dining etiquette that should be appreciated.
  • When invited to sit at the dining table wait to be shown your seat.
  • Napkins should be left folded next to the plate. If others unfold them and place them on their laps, do the same – you will be at a more formal meal.
  • Wait for the hostess to give the green light before starting to eat.
  • Although you may be the guest of honor it is polite to insist the eldest person at the table starts proceedings.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible at all times.
  • Eating more food shows appreciation for it, so on the initial serving take little to allow you a second serving.
  • Glasses will always be refilled – leave a mouthful at the bottom of your glass if you don’t want more.

Tip 10%.

Croatia

  • Wait to be shown where to sit.
  • Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • At formal meals, the napkin is unfolded and placed on the lap.
  • Do not begin eating until the host signals to begin.
  • Refusing second helpings initially is polite. After the host insists you should take more.
  • Leaving a small amount of food on your plate indicates that you are finished eating.

Tip 10%.

Denmark

  • Dinner is generally long and slow with many conversations. Plan to stay at least one hour after a meal ends.
  • Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
  • Do not begin eating until the host toasts with ‘Skol’.
  • Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
  • Try everything.
  • Never take the last item on any given plate. You must continue to halve it until only crumbs are left.
  • Asking for seconds at a Danish dinner is a simple flip of the fork, placing yours face-down on the table indicates that you are ready for more, after all, one serving of smørrebrød is never enough.
  • Finish everything on your plate. Danes do not like wasting food.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork across your plate with the tines facing up and the handles turned to the right.
  • The man seated to the left of the hostess generally offers a toast of thanks during the dessert course.
  • When toasting, raise your glass about eye level and make eye contact with the people seated closest to you.

Don’t tip.

Danish smorrebrod

Estonia

  • Dining etiquette and table manners are relatively formal in Estonia.
  • Remain standing until invited to sit down.
  • Don’t start eating until your host says ‘head itsu’.
  • Keep your elbows off the table.
  • It is polite to clean your plate completely.
  • Compliment the hostess on the meal.

10% for great service (optional).

France

  • Food is one of the great passions of the French people.
  • French cooking is highly refined and involves careful preparation, attention to detail, and the use of fresh ingredients.
  • Don’t begin eating until the hostess says ‘bon appetit’.
  • Don’t rest your elbows on the table. Your hands should be visible and not in your lap.
  • Don’t eat your bread as an appetizer before the meal. It is an accompaniment to your food, especially to the cheese course served at the end of the meal.
  • The fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Use bread to assist the food to the fork. Always tear a piece of bread off instead of biting directly into it. When not in use, bread belongs on the table, not on the place.
  • Cut cheese vertically. Don’t cut off the point of cheese.
  • Do not cut salad with a knife and fork. Fold the lettuce onto your fork.
  • Peel and slice the fruit before eating it.
  • Taste everything offered.
  • Finish everything on your plate. Leave your wine glass nearly full if you Don’t want more.
  • Don’t split the bill. It’s considered the height of unsophistication. Offer to pay the bill in its entirety or someone else will.

Tip 10% for good service.

Germany

  • Don’t wait to be seated in restaurants. In most places, you’re expected to choose your own seat. 
  • Water is generally not complimentary in restaurants.
  • Don’t be afraid to try foods that are new to you. Refusing to even try is an insult to your hosts.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table.
  • Germans rarely eat with their hands. Even sandwiches and fruit are eaten with a knife and fork.
  • Don’t use a knife to cut potatoes. The potatoes should be tender enough that you can smash them with a fork. Cut as much of your food with your fork as possible, since this compliments the cook by indicating the food is tender.
  • Never cut fish with anything but a fish knife. If a fish knife isn’t offered, use two forks.
  • Never cut lettuce in a salad. Fold with a fork instead.
  • Rolls should be broken apart by hand.
  • Don’t take more than you can eat. It’s considered impolite to leave food on your plate.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate, with the fork over the knife.
  • Knock on the table for applause after a toast or speech.
  • The most common toast with wine is ‘Zum Wohl!’ (‘good health’).
  • The most common toast with beer is ‘Prost!’ (‘good health’).

In most restaurants and cafes, tipping is optional. It’s customary to round up the bill, or tip approximately 10%. If you were very happy with the service, give slightly more. Put tips in the waiter’s hand, not on the table.

Greece

  • The oldest person is generally served first.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.
  • Keep your elbows off the table and your hands above the table when eating.
  • Accepting a second helping compliments the host.
  • It is considered polite to soak up gravy or sauce with a piece of bread.
  • Eat everything on your plate. If you cannot eat everything on your plate, you must tell the hostess that it is too much food the moment you are given your plate.
  • People often share food from their plates.
  • Expect a great deal of discussion. Meals are a time for socializing.
  • Finish everything on your plate.
  • Put your napkin next to your plate when you have finished eating.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate with the handles facing to the right.
  • Eat more, stay longer, join in Greek dances.
  • Be careful of your wine intake.

Tip 10 – 15%.

table manners in 47 countries

Hungary

  • The hostess will wish the guests a hearty appetite at the start of each course.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible at all times.
  • Hospitality is measured by the amount and variety of food served. Try everything.
  • If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork across your plate.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.
  • The guest of honor usually proposes the first toast which generally salutes the health of the individuals present.
  • At the end of the meal, someone toasts the hosts in appreciation of their hospitality.
  • Don’t leave your glass empty if you don’t want anymore to drink. It will be filled immediately.
  • Don’t clink beer glasses, a tradition shunned since the Hungarian Revolution. Say cheers with any other type of drink.

Tip 10 – 15%. 

Italy

  • The host is the first to sit, eat, give a toast, and get up at the end of the meal.
  • Before eating, wish one another ‘Buen appetite”.
  • Always take a small amount at first so you can be cajoled into accepting a second helping.
  • Don’t keep your hands in your lap during the meal, or rest your elbows on the table.
  • Never cut pasta with the side of your fork, and don’t expect to be offered a spoon to eat your pasta with as locals consider this practice to be quite rude.
  • Don’t make slurping noise while you suck pasta into your mouth.
  • Don’t ask for cheese if it’s not explicitly offered. It’s a huge faux pas to put extra cheese on top of your pizza, and worse still to add it to seafood.
  • Cutlet bones can be handled with the fingers.
  • Pick up cheese with your knife rather than your fingers.
  • If you do not want more wine, leave your wine glass nearly full.
  • It’s considered rude to leave the table during a meal.
  • Using your bread to wipe your plate clean of sauces is a sign you’ve really enjoyed the meal.
  • Place cutlery on the right side of the plate to signal your finished.
  • It is acceptable to leave a small amount of food on your plate.
  • The only time it is considered acceptable to have a cappuccino is in the morning.

No need to tip as a service charge is usually included in the bill. If you want, you can leave an additional 5-10% for exceptional service. 

More food rules for Italy.

Netherlands

  • Dining etiquette is fairly formal in the Netherlands.
  • Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat. Men generally remain standing until all the women have taken their seats.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.
  • Take a small quantity of food to start. A second helping will be offered and it is polite to accept.
  • Keep your elbows off the table, but both hands above the table.
  • Use a knife and fork to eat all food including sandwiches, fruit, and pizza.
  • Salad is not cut; fold the lettuce on your fork.
  • It is considered rude to leave the table during dinner, even to go to the bathroom.
  • If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork in the middle of the plate with the fork over the knife.
  • Finish everything on your plate. It is offensive to waste food in the Netherlands.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.
  • “Go Dutch’ and split the bill.
salad of salmon, red onion, cream, and capers on a plate with brown bread

Tip 5 – 10%.

Poland

  • Table manners are Continental, i.e. hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Wait for the hostess to invite you to start eating.
  • Most meals are served family-style.
  • Take small amounts of food initially so you can accept second helpings.
  • Try a bit of everything.
  • Make sure you can handle your liquor. Toasts are usually made with straight vodka.
  • Alcohol is served in small glasses so you can swallow in one gulp, shooter style.
  • Don’t bring chrysanthemums (a funeral flower) or an even number of flowers as a gift for your hostess. It’s considered bad luck.

Tip 10-15% for good service.

Portugal

  • If invited to a dinner arrive no more than 15 minutes after the stipulated time.
  • You may arrive between 30 minutes and one hour later than the stipulated time when invited to a party or other large social gathering.
  • Dining etiquette and table manners are formal.
  • Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
  • Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess says “bom apetite”.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible at all times.
  • Most food is eaten with utensils, including fruit and cheese.
  • Fish is eaten with a special knife and fork.
  • Don’t ask for salt and pepper if they are not provided on the table. It is considered an offense to the chef’s seasoning skills.
  • Keep your napkin to the left of your plate while eating. Do not place the napkin in your lap. When you have finished eating, move your napkin to the right of your plate.
  • If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.
  • Leave some food on your plate when you have finished eating.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate, tines facing up, with the handles facing to the right.

Tipping is not the norm in Portugal but you will not offend anyone if you add 10% for good service.

Russia

  • If you are invited to a Russian home arrive on time or no more than 15 minutes later than invited.
  • Remove your outdoor shoes. You may be given slippers to wear.
  • Dress in clothes you might wear to the office. Dressing well shows respect for your hosts.
  • Don’t begin eating until the host invites you to start. 
  • Expect to be treated with honor and respect.
  • Expect plenty of toasting and be prepared to offer a toast yourself.
  • Dining etiquette and table manners are generally casual.
  • The oldest or most honored guest is served first.
  • Do not begin eating until the host invites you to start.
  • Don’t rest your elbows on the table. Your hands should be visible at all times, though.
  • The fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • It is polite to use bread to soak up a sauce.
  • Men pour drinks for women seated next to them.
  • You will often be urged to take second helpings of food and drink. Plan to go home stuffed, drunk, and happy.
  • Leaving a small amount of food on your plate indicates that your host has provided ample hospitality. Don’t get up until you are invited to leave the table.
  • Do not get up until you are invited to leave the table. At formal dinners, the guest of honor is the first to get up from the table.

Tip 10 – 15%.

Fideuà

Spain

  • Tapas are free in some but not all bars. A good rule of thumb: If you have to ask for tapas, then you’ll probably have to pay for it.
  • In Spanish tapa bars, rubbish bins are seldom seen. Patrons would rather you throw your litter on the floor. This stems from a long-held belief that a rubbish covered bar is a popular bar.
  • Dinner is eaten very late (9 or 10 pm)
  • Always keep your hands in view, never let them be hidden in the folds of your napkin or under the table.
  • Never did bread into your soup as it is considered very rude.
  • Always use silverware as eating with your hands is very uncommon.
  • No bread and butter plate is used. Bread is set directly on the table. Restaurants generally charge for bread by the piece.
  • If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.
  • Spaniards don’t waste food. It is better to decline food rather than leave it on your plate.
  • Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate, tines facing up, with the handles facing to the right.

Tip 10% in restaurants. Round up the bill.

Further reading about food in Spain: An Insider’s Guide to the Classic Flavors of Catalonia

Sweden

  • To beckon a waiter, wave your hand and make eye contact.
  • Don’t take a drink until your host has given a toast. When toasting, make eye contact before sipping, then nod to others before setting your glass down.
  • Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal – not in your lap. Keep your elbows off the table.
  • A butter knife is usually provided. Don’t use a dinner knife for butter.
  • It is polite to try everything served.

Tip 5 – 10%.

Switzerland

  • Don’t request salt and pepper. It’s an insult to the chef.
  • Don’t wave your hand to beckon a waiter. It is considered rude.
  • Cut potatoes, soft foods and salads with a fork, not a knife.
  • Use eating utensils at all times, including to eat fruit.
  • Break bread with your hands if possible. Don’t use a knife.
  • Sample everything offered to you. Try to finish everything on your plate when dining in someone’s home. 

Tips are not expected.

United Kingdom

  • Unlike many European cultures, the British enjoy entertaining people in their homes.
  • Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table.
  • Wait for your host to begin eating before you eat.
  • When eating soup, tilt the bowl away from you, scoop away from you, then sip daintily from the side of the spoon. Don’t slurp.
  • Eat asparagus with your fingers.
  • The fork is held tines down so food is scooped onto the back of the fork. This is a skill that takes time to master.
  • Mash your peas with a fork.
  • Always pass the port around the table to the left.
  • If you’re at a meal and the decanter stalls, then ask the person with it, “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.”
  • You should not ask to sample the dishes of others.
  • Talking with your mouth full is never recommended, but it is particularly offensive in Britain.
  • Summon a waiter by raising your hand. Don’t wave or shout
  • You should leave a very small amount of food on your plate when finished eating.
  • When the host folds his napkin, this signals that the meal is over.
  • When in a pub, it is common practice to pay for a round of drinks for everyone in your group.
  • If invited to a meal at a restaurant, the person extending the invitation usually pays. Do not argue about the check; simply reciprocate at a later time.
  • When having tea, don’t touch the side of your cup with the spoon when stirring, and don’t leave the teaspoon in your cup. Place it on the sauce in the same direction as the cup handle.

Tip 10% for good service.

Dining etiquette in the Middle East

MIDDLE EAST

Iran

  • In adherence to taarof (Iranian politeness), if you are ever offered something, like a tea or sweet, even if you want it, at first decline it until their insistence becomes greater.
  • If you are invited to an Iranian home, check to see if the host is wearing shoes. If not, remove yours at the door.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • Try to arrive at the invited time. Punctuality is appreciated.
  • Show respect for the elders by greeting them first.
  • Check to see if your spouse is included in the invitation. Conservative Iranians do not entertain mixed-sex groups.
  • Expect to be shown into the guests’ room. It is usually lavishly furnished with European furniture.
  • Shake everyone’s hand individually.
  • Accept any offer of food or drink. Remember to do ‘taarof’.
  • Iranians are rather formal. Although some meals in the home are served on the floor and without eating utensils, it does not indicate a lack of decorum. In more modern homes, meals are served on a dining table with place settings.
  • Wait to be told where to sit.
  • Eat only with the right hand.
  • Try a bit of everything that is served.
  • Meals are generally served family-style.
  • Most tables are set with a spoon and fork only.
  • There is often more food than you can eat. Part of Iranian hospitality is to shower guests with abundance.
  • Expect to be offered second and even third helpings. Initial refusals will be assumed to be polite gestures (taarof again!) and are not taken seriously.
  • Leave some food on your plate when you have finished eating.
  • Restaurants generally have two sections – “family” where women and families dine and “men only”. 

Tips of between 10 – 15% are appreciated in hotel restaurants.

Lebanon

  • Dress well.
  • Avoid sensitive topics of conversation such as politics, religion or the civil war unless you know the hosts are comfortable talking about it.
  • Greet elders first.
  • Lebanese table manners are relatively formal.
  • Wait to be told where to sit.
  • Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • You will be expected to try all the food at the table.
  • Expect to be urged to take second or even third helpings. It is best to eat less on your first helping so that a second helping is possible. This shows your host you are enjoying the food and are being taken care of.

Tip 15%.

Saudi Arabia

  • Dining in Saudi Arabia is more likely to occur in restaurants and international hotels but people that are known well can be invited to the home.
  • Dining events will generally be same-sex only. If both sexes are included, they will be in separate rooms.
  • If the meal is on the floor, sit crossed-legged, or kneel on one knee.
  • Eat only with your right hand. The left hand is considered unclean. Keep it off the table and away from food.
  • honored guests are often offered the most prized pieces, like the sheep’s head.
  • Meals are generally served family-style.
  • Alcohol and pork will typically not be available or included with the meal.
  • Conversation is kept to a minimum in order to relish the food.
  • Accept the offer of Arabian coffee and dates even if you Don’t normally drink coffee.

Tip 10 – 15% when not included in the bill.

Turkish delight with figs and nuts

Turkey

  • Turks enjoy food and the meal is a time for relaxing and engaging in some good conversation.
  • Hosts will expect you to eat a great deal and might be offended if you don’t.
  • Wait for the oldest person at the table to begin eating.
  • Fill your neighbor’s cup, never your own.
  • When finished eating, leave no food on your plate, and place your knife and fork side by side on your plate.
  • The protocol of Turkish hospitality dictates that the host always pays for the meal. The concept of sharing a bill is completely alien. You may try and offer to pay, which may be seen as polite, but you would never be allowed to do so. The best policy is to graciously thank the host, then a few days later invite them to do dinner at a restaurant of your choice. It may be a good idea to inform the restaurant manager that under no circumstances are they to accept payment from your guests.
  • Turks smoke during meals and will often take breaks between courses to have a cigarette and a few drinks before moving onto the next.
  • Tea or Turkish coffee is served at the end of a meal sometimes with pastries. Turkish coffee is a national drink and should at least be sampled. It comes either without sugar, a little sugar or sweet. Turkish coffee is sipped and allowed to melt into the taste buds so do not gulp it down. Never drink to the bottom of the cup as it will be full of ground coffee and taste awful.

Tip 5 – 10%.

dining etiquette and table manners in north america

NORTH AMERICA

Canada

  • Dining etiquette is relatively relaxed and informal in Canada, although Quebec tends to be a little more formality.
  • Table manners are generally Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Wait to be shown to your seat.
  • Before you begin, make sure that everyone is served food and wine.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table.
  • Feel free to refuse individual foods or drink without offering an explanation.
  • Leaving a small amount at the end of the meal is generally acceptable.
  • In Quebec, it is considered bad form to ask for a martini or scotch before dinner. French Canadians consider them palate numbing.
  • In some Inuit cultures of Canada, it’s an act of appreciation to fart after a meal. Never keep your gloves on at the table, no matter how cold. (Keep in mind that less than 1% of Canadians are Inuit.)

15-20% in restaurants.

Mexico

  • Never arrive on time for meals. It’s rude. Arriving 30 minutes late is actually expected.
  • Don’t start eating until the host says “Buen Provecho!” which essentially means ‘enjoy your meal’.
  • Do not sit down until you are invited to and told where to sit.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess starts.
  • Men should stand when a woman arrives or leaves.
  • Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
  • Don’t ever eat tacos with a knife and fork. It’s considered snobby.
  • Only men give toasts.
  • It is polite to leave some food on your plate after a meal.
  • Agree in advance who will settle the bill to avoid a show of paying it.

Tip 10-15%.

Meixcan food

USA

  • Americans tend to eat more quickly than people from other countries. Dining in the United States is seldom the long, lingering event it is in much of the world. The point is often to eat rather than socialize and savor the meal.
  • Arrive on time if invited for dinner; no more than 10 minutes later than invited to a small gathering. If it is a large party, it is acceptable to arrive up to 30 minutes later than invited.
  • Dining etiquette is more relaxed in the U.S. than in many other countries.
  • Always wait for the host to sit down before you take your seat.
  • Keep your elbows off the table and one hand in your lap.
  • Your napkin should be placed across your lap.
  • The fork is held in the right hand and is used for eating. The fork is held tines down. The knife is used to cut or spread something. To use the knife, the fork is switched to the left hand. To continue eating, the fork is switched back to the right hand.
  • If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife. Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.
  • If you are more comfortable eating in the Continental manner, go ahead. It will not offend anyone.
  • Put your knife down before taking a bite..
  • Many foods are eaten by hand.
  • Food is often served family-style, which means that it is in large serving dishes and passed around the table for everyone to serve themselves.
  • Never blow on your food. If your food is too hot, just wait for it to cool.
  • Feel free to refuse specific foods or drinks without offering an explanation
  • Raise your hand or index finger and make eye contact to signal a server.
  • Leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.

Obligatory 10-20% in restaurants. $1-$2 per drink for the bartender.

seafood lunch

OCEANIA

Australia

  • Always arrive on time or a few minutes early for dinner.
  • If you’re invited to a barbecue, it’s good manners to take along a bottle of wine or a few cold beers. Very informal barbecues may suggest that you bring your own meat! It’s also common to bring your own beer to restaurants.
  • Arrive on time if invited to dinner; no more than 15 minutes late if invited to a barbeque or a large party.
  • Keep your elbows off the table.
  • Break your bread into smaller pieces.
  • Match the pace at which you eat with diners at your table.
  • Place your utensils on your plate to indicate you’re full.
  • Leave your napkin to the left side of your place when you leave the table.
  • Don’t say “I’m stuffed” after a meal. This means you are pregnant.
  • Offer to help your host clean up or prepare.

Tips are not expected.

Traditional Chilean soup

SOUTH AMERICA

Argentina

  • If you are invited to an Argentine home:
    • Dress well. Men should wear a jacket and tie. Women should wear a dress or a skirt and blouse.
    • Arrive 30 to 45 minutes later than invited for a dinner party. Arriving on time is not the norm.
    • Telephone your hosts the following day to thank them.
  • Wait for the host or hostess to tell you where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
  • Table manners are Continental – hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Do not begin eating until the hostess invites you to do so.
  • Always keep your hands visible when eating, but do not rest your elbows on the table.
  • Wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink.
  • It is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork across your plate with the prongs facing down and the handles facing to the right.
  • Pouring wine is beset with many rituals and cultural taboos. If at all possible, avoid pouring wine.
  • Be careful ordering imported liquor as taxes are exorbitant.

Tip 10%.

Brazil

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes late if the invitation is for dinner.
  • Arrive up to an hour late for a party or large gathering.
  • Brazilians dress with flair and judge others on their appearance. Casual dress is more formal than in many other countries. Always dress elegantly and err on the side of over-dressing rather than underdressing.
  • Never eat with your hands. This applies to all food including burgers, pizza, and fries.
  • In a Brazilian steakhouse, use your token to signal the server that you would like more meat. Green side up means you’d like another serving. If you don’t want more, flip it over so the red side it up.
  • Using toothpicks in public is not acceptable unless you cover your mouth with your other hand.
  • Expect long meals.
  • Waiters generally don’t bring checks until they are requested.

Tipping is not customary. A nominal 10% may be included as a service fee in the bill, but it is not mandatory to pay.

Planning a trip to Brazil? Check out the 16 best Brazilian foods to eat before you die>

Chile

  • Dining etiquette can be quite formal in Chile. As a general rule, observe and follow if ever unsure.
  • Always let the women set down before the men.
  • Water is not automatically served at the table. If you want water, ask for it.
  • Keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
  • Taste everything that is served.
  • Touching food (even fries!) with your hands is considered ill-mannered. Always use utensils to eat.
  • Never speak with cutlery in your hands.
  • Don’t lick your fingers or use toothpicks. Both are considered vulgar.
  • Chilean table manners dictate that second helpings must be offered by another diner, and never just taken. Spooning extra grub onto your own plate is a definite foodie faux-pas.
  • It is considered polite to finish everything on your plate.
  • Pour wine with the right hand only.
  • There are no separate checks. The person who invites pay.  You will not be presented with the bill until you ask for it.

Tip 10-15%.

Columbia

  • Wait to be seated by the host and pass all the dishes to your left when at the table.
  • When not holding utensils, your hands should be above the table, with your wrists on top of the table.
  • It is polite to try everything you are given.
  • Unusually all food is eaten with utensils – even fruit is cut into pieces with a knife and fork.
  • It is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.
  • When you are finished, place your silverware parallel and horizontally across the plate.
  • Never use a toothpick when at the table.

Tipping is not customary in Colombia, however, you can always tip for good service and it is always appreciated.

Why Dining Etiquette Matters

Table manners are the ultimate way to show respect to your gracious host. Whether you are sitting down with old friends, or new partners, there are always certain manners to follow. The rules that apply ensure that you do not offend your host, dining guests, or the culinary establishment you frequent and those rules vary significantly depending on where you are in the world.

So keep this dining etiquette guide handy during your travels and make Miss Manners proud!

There’s also a set of rules for flying! So don’t forget to review these tips to avoid a mile-high meltdown.


Whether you’re dining with a local or chowing down in a Michelin starred restaurant, our dining etiquette guide has you covered.

Sources

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