Food and Table Etiquette Around the World

Spoon and fork

By ewageck

Table etiquette and food consumption is just as important to a culture’s identity as is every other aspect (i.e. religion, lifestyle, fashion, music, et cetera).

For example, some different cultural food customs are Thailand’s thoughts on forks. They consider it to be obscene to put food in your mouth using a fork. Instead, they use the fork to slide the food onto a spoon and then eat from the spoon. Odd? Maybe to those who use silverware, but to those from Thailand, this is a part of their culture and how they see and respect their food.

In Japan, it’s well respected to slurp your soup, making your hot meals more enjoyable and intensifying. The louder the better.

Chopsticks on top of a ramen bowl
Chopsticks on top of a ramen bowl (via Pixabay)

In an interview with Koya Cheng, she talks about her table etiquette at home:

We sip our soups with our hands but also use chopsticks all the time.

South Koreans believe it is unacceptable to eat until the oldest or most senior member at the table takes their first bite.

And never, by any means, ask your waiter to top your seafood dish with cheese in Italy! Italians see it as “a cardinal sin” to mix the two together.

Sarah Buchnaq talks about her home life and her culture table etiquette from the Middle East:

Fork full of Spaghetti
Fork full of spaghetti

We strictly eat with our right hand. When I served coffee, I had to pour with my left hand into the cup so I could serve it with my right.

In most countries, releasing any form of bodily function is considered disgusting and disrespectful. However, in Canada, farts are seen as a form of appreciation after eating. That’s probably good news for those that enjoy passing gas.

Now, in India it is a societal taboo to eat any dish, any food using your left hand.

Due to the division of labor between hands, the right hand is reserved for picking up food while the left is reserved for cleaning yourself.

Arun Venugopal of National Public Radio in the United States tells a story about his wife and daughter, an Indian family living in Queens, New York, about “Americanizing” the way they eat meals when dining with people that are not Indian. His daughter knows she can eat with utensils if she pleases but prefers not to because that’s not how she was raised within the Indian culture. She asks her parents if she can use her hands during meals when eating with non-Indian folk because she feels uncomfortable.

Arun finally decided to take his eating habits public and watch how people reacted to the use of his hands:

So what makes eating with your hands so amazing?

  • Eating is supposed to be a sensory experience
  • Hands are just as effective
  • Helps to manage portion sizes
  • It’s an exercise
  • Manages digestion problems
  • Helps you to stay fit
  • Helps prevent diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes
  • More hygienic

It’s amazing what each culture has to offer and has to teach us. Our world is slowly becoming a shared culture all on its own — we just have yet to realize it.


Raised in California and Colorado, U.S.A. Wageck believes each state has its own culture. In traveling the world, she is able to learn what she can share with society and other people. After traveling and truly experiencing the world, she plans one day to return “home.”


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