Dining Etiquettes in Foreign Countries

I. Introduction

Food is one of the most essential part in human’s daily life. According to Oniang’o, Mutuku and Malaba, 2003, there are at least 3 functions of food. Firstly, not only as the base to relieve hunger it also affects to human’s health. Secondly, a good food also gives satisfaction, and social content. Lastly, food can portray and express a culture or tribe. As there are a lot of diversities in each tribe in the world, there are also variations on how people in each culture process, cook, serve and enjoy their meal.

The most effecting background in these diversities are cultural background that determines what, when and how to have a meal. These eating habits have been inherited from generation to generation. Other backgrounds are the availability, economy, social habits and many more. The habits that has been passed down for generations make these difficult to be changed as they have been an important psychological connection within the families, communities, or societies that adopt them.

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Through these diversities, it is interesting and important to learn and know others regulations on how they enjoy their food. Not only adding insights, from this we can learn to appreciate, keep manners so we know what to do and don’t in each diversity and also not embarrassing ourselves. To do so, there are several tribes in the world that has been chosen to be discussed in relation to their eating regulations which are South Africa, Mexico, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

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Ii. Content of Regulation

 1. South Africa

South Africans has their own regulations on when they have their meals. Breakfast is served from 6 to 9 a.m., lunch is from 12 to 2 p.m and dinner as the main meal of the day is from 8 to 10 p.m. In the etiquette of dining, it is very important to take of shoes before entering most South African’s homes. Before eating it is a must to wash hands first. While sitting (if it is on the floor) during the meal, it is also important to make sure that toes and feet are not pointing to the foods or others. During the meal, conversation is minimal but it is suggested to stay longer after meal to have conversation and eye contact is avoided. If there is one communal bowl offered, only eat from that part of the communal plates or bowls that are directly in front of you. Even though it has been a generations’ habits due to urbanization there are differences on how they enjoy their meal between urban and rural South Africans. Urban South Africans will dine with the adoption from Western while rural South African dine more conservatively for example using a wooden spoon, communal bowl or no utensils in other words by hand but only right hand. If two hands are needed, spoon or fork will be offered which must be held in the right hand. If there is a knife, it will be held on right hand and spoon and fork in the left. It is impolite to use your cutlery to point or gesture during a meal.

In traditional South Africans, the cultural influences the food sharing and distribution within the family. The head of the family will receive priority share compare to mothers and children (Oniang’o, Mutuku and Malaba, 2003), they also will dine separately. In a special occasion, honored guest will be served first continued with oldest male then the rest of the men, children and lastly women. To start the meal, the oldest man at the table must be the one who start to eat (Evason,2015). In informal restaurants, a polite way to summon the staffs is by raising your hand or by making eye contact but no to wave or call their names. The one that invites to the dining is usually the one who pays the bill and it is very important to say thank you and compliments to the host. Giving tip in South Africa could be a misleading but it can also be a positively accepted and appreciated. (Liniger,n.d.) It also suggested to avoid drinking tap water anywhere in the region, not to eat fresh fruits or vegetables that cannot be peeled or it is better to cooked it first before consumed, and avoid all dairy products except from the finest hotels. These are due to the bad environment in the country.

2. Mexico

Mexico is a country in North America that is one of the most unique country that use a lot of spices and chilies in their food. Mexicans also have meals mainly 3 times a day which are breakfast or called desayuno which is light meals, coffee, fruits, and sweet rolls, lunch or called comida, which is the most important meal of the day that normally had between 1 to 3 p.m., and supper or called cena which usually had after 8 p.m with light snacks. (diningforwomen.org)

In the seating arrangement, the most honored position, usually the host, is at the head of the table and followed with the most important guest to the right of the host. In enjoying their meal, Mexicans have their own way to start it. The dining will begin when the host says “Buen provecho!” which means enjoy your meal. Another uniqueness in Mexico is the usage of the utensils. Mexicans don’t switch knives and forks. They always use knife with right hand and fork with left hand. Once the meal is finished, the fork and knife are laid parallel to each other across the right side of the plate.

For the dining etiquette for plating and utensils settings, the fork and spoon above plate are for dessert. The same with the table manners from America, always use utensils from outside to inside. As there is a tradition in Mexico to drink white, red wine or beer, there will be different glasses that is used to drink water and those drinks. Another important manner is your hands position. Hands are expected to be visible above the table even when not holding utensils. Rest your wrist on top of the table but not your elbow.

Mexico is very famous for its tequila. There is a proper way to drink tequila with the addition of small plate of salt and a wedge of fresh lime. Firstly, take a pinch of salt with your right hand and put it on your left hand that has a hollow formed as you also hold your left hand thumb and crooked index finger together horizontally. Then lick the salt with one swipe of your tongue and drink the entire shot of tequila at once. Immediately bite the lime wedge and suck on the juice (Lininger, M. n.d.).

3. Germany

Table manners has appeared in many European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries as symbols of cultural development and class distinction. Until today, some families still adopt and do these heritances. Some of examples are dining etiquette to begin to eat by waiting the host to say”Guten appetit “or enjoy your meal and the usage of utensils. The knife will always be in the right hand and the fork in the left hand. To have a pause during the meal, you can cross your knife and fork on the plate and once finished, knife and fork are laid side by side at the edge of a plate (germanfoods.org). In placing the utensils there are several regulations such as fork and spoon above the plate are used for dessert, always start the meal by using utensils from outside to inside, and use separate glasses for water and white or red wine.

During the meal, hands should be visible above the table. Passing food is better done to left side and it is indicated more polite to pass salt and pepper directly to the person that asked for them. It is also preferred to have conversation in low voice and not making sounds while chewing the foods. Another important thing is, when eating in a restaurant, waving or calling the staffs’ name is very impolite so it is better to try to call them by making eye contact (Lininger, M. n.d.).

Mainly, Germans also have 3 main meals which are breakfast or frühstück , lunch or mittagessen and dinner or abendessen. For breakfast Germans usually consume bread, cold cuts such as ham, salami, and liverwurst, cheese eggs with the coffee or tea. In most houses that still adopting traditional habits, the main meal for the day is at lunch at 12 p.m. They consume meat and vegetables with potatoes. On the other for traditional eating habits as dinner is the smallest of all the meals, nowadays it has become the important meal as at 6 p.m for dinner, the families come together. They eat bread, meat, sausages, vegetables, etc. (tastessence.com).

4. Japan

Japan is one of the traditional chopstick cultures. Japanese chopsticks differ from Chinese chopstick, it is slightly shorter with square-edges. Chopsticks are used for eating soup, rice, meat and almost everything on the plate, and it is also used for cutting food such as meat or fish. There are several rules when using chopsticks in Japan: the chopstick must not be put vertically in the food since it is a serious affront to a superstition which means offering the food for the dead. Food must also not be passed from chopstick-to-chopstick because it is a part of a funeral ritual wherein mourness pass the deceased’s bones between chopsticks.

In traditional Japanese dining, the meals are usually taken in tatami room which is a reedlike mat inset on top of the floor. When the dining events are formal, the guests are usually sitting in a seiza position where the leg tucked underneath the buttocks. If the host of the event suggest to sit comfortably, male guests are allowed to sit cross- legged and female guests are allowed to get their legs tucked on one side. The host sits in the middle of the table, while the most honored guest sits on the other side of the host with the second most honored guest next to him or her. Japan is also famous for its tea ceremony and it requires strict adherence to rules in order to promote tranquility. Before entering the tea room, shoes must be removed and change into slippers. When entering the room, stepping on the center of the mats must be avoided thus the guest usually enters using their knees. It is also expected for the guest to eat and drink whatever is served.

5. South Korea

South Korea is known as the country that consume the most amount of alcohol in the world. There are some strict rules of etiquette in drinking alcoholic beverages in South Korea. Drinking is usually occured when doing business since it can mask off a person’s true self. Korean often find it difficult to trust a business partner until they have gone drinking together. There is also a traditional Korean rule that you cannot fill your own glass. When pouring an alcoholic drink to another adult, the person has to offer the drink respectfully using two hands. The drink should also be held with the right hand and the wrist of your right hand was held lightly with the left hand. When receiving drinks from elders, the same etiquette applies like when pouring drinks where the younger person should receive the drink politely and with gratitude by saying thank you. It is also expected for the younger person to turn their head not directly facing the elders when drinking. South Korea is also one of the countries with traditional chopstick cultures. Korean chopsticks are more like the Chinese chopstick where it has round edge and longer than the Japanese chopsticks. However, it has similar rules to Japan when using chopsticks. Chopsticks must not be placed vertically on top of a rice bowl because it means to offer the food for the dead. It is also a rule to not hold spoon and chopsticks together in one hand. When using chopsticks, the spoon is placed on the table and vice versa.

6. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a large and wealthy country in Middle East and the majority of the population is Muslims. Dining etiquette in Saudi Arabia includes religious laws which do not use alcohol and pork in any dishes. Before the meals the guest usually says “Sahtain” which means bon appetit or “Bismillah” which means in the name of God. When the meal is over, the guest usually says “Daimah” which means may there always be plenty at your table. Men and women are usually dined separately and if they are dining together, the women should not directly touch the food that is being served to a Muslim male other than their own relatives. Utensils that are used in dining event in Saudi Arabia are spoons, forks, knives or no utensils at all. The utensils are being held at the right hand not at the left hand. The left hand should not be used for eating and passing food thus it must be put on the side and not on the table.

Iii. The Effectiveness of Institution or Regulation

Until today, there are still some of the habits from each culture that is still used. As it is believed that from that regulations it keeps the manners and identity of each country or culture. But, due to the urbanizations there are some cross adaptations within cultures. Some of the elder in each culture still use and try to inheritate it to the younger generations. It is believed that every regulation in eating in every country have their own purposes so that it is passed down from generations to generations. By implementing these regulations, not only to respect others and keep the comfort in meal time, it also reflects our attitude and manner.

Iv. Suggestion or Opinion

From our opinion, it is very important to keep on the eating etiquettes and habits that is passed down for generations regardless in the difference of those in each country. Eating etiquettes are made to keep the men’s manners. Despite there are some differences in the etiquettes from those countries above, they have their own reasons and good purposes.

V. Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important to learn dining etiquettes in order to show good manners, respect and comfort to others. It is also important to learn dining etiquettes from other countries especially when visiting the country to show respect of following the regulations to the people there.


  1.  Drinking Norms - South-Korea - korea4expats. (1970, March 18). Retrieved from https://www.korea4expats.com/article-drinking-norms.html Evason, N. (2015). South African Culture - References. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/south-african-culture/south-african-culture-references#south- african-culture-references German Eating Habits. (2011, May 30). Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://tastessence.com/german-eating-habits Japanese Dining Etiquette. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/table- etiquette/pacific_dinner_etiquette/japanese.html Korea, L. in. (n.d.).
  2. Korean Table Manners. Retrieved from http://www.lifeinkorea.com/Food/f-manners.cfm Lininger, M. (n.d.). German Dining Etiquette. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/table-etiquette/europe- w_table_manners/german.html Lininger, M. (n.d.).
  3. Mexican Dining Etiquette. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/table- etiquette/na_table_manners/mexican.html Lininger, M. (n.d.). South Africa Etiquette. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/table-etiquette/africa- s_table_manners/south_african.html Oniang’o, R. K., Mutuku, J. M. and Malaba, S. J. (2003) ‘Contemporary African food habits and their nutritional and health implications.’, Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 12(3). n.d. Retrieved March 18, 2020 from https://diningforwomen.org/customsandcuisine/mexican- customs-and-cuisine-for-catw-lac/
  4.  Table Manners and Customs. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://germanfoods.org/german-food-facts/table-manners-customs/ table manner in Saudi Arabia. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://nurlaili3103.blogspot.com/2019/01/table-manner-in-saudi-arabia.html Yuki, Rhonda, & James. (2016, July 27). tea ceremony etiquette. Retrieved from https://matcha-tea.com/matcha/etiquette-for-guests-during-japanese-tea-ceremony
Updated: Dec 06, 2022
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Dining Etiquettes in Foreign Countries. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/dining-etiquettes-in-foreign-countries-essay

Dining Etiquettes in Foreign Countries essay
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