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Travel etiquette 101: dining and drinking

Although most locals will excuse breaches in etiquette, wouldn’t you rather be informed and impress them with your cultural know-how?
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You think that emptying the bottle into your guest’s glass is polite … little do you know that you just designated them as the buyer of the next round! Although most locals will excuse breaches in etiquette, wouldn’t you rather be informed and impress them with your cultural know-how? Read below for a list of etiquette tips to help you eat and drink in different parts of the world without accidentally offending the locals.

Table Manners

1. When you eat noodles in Japan, it’s perfectly okay — even expected — to slurp them.

2. Never stick your chopsticks into a bowl of rice upright — that’s how rice is offered to the dead! It also looks like the incense sticks that are burned for the dead. It’s also bad form to pass food from your chopsticks to someone else’s — another Buddhist funeral right which involves passing the remains of the cremated deceased among members of the family using chopsticks. This is true in China and for almost all of Asia.

3. In Russia, put your wrists on the edge of the table (not in your lap) while eating, and keep your fork in your left hand and knife in your right.

4. In Nepal, do wait to be served and be sure to ask for seconds when eating at someone’s house. In general, when eating in a group, no one gets up until everyone has finished their food. If you have to leave early, make your apologies by saying bistaii khaanus, or "please eat slowly."

5. In restaurants in Portugal, don’t ask for salt and pepper if it is not already on the table. Asking for any kind of seasoning or condiment is to cast aspersions on the cook. And cooks are highly respected people in Portugal.

6. In France, never, ever discuss money over dinner. And splitting the bill is considered the height of unsophistication.

7. Whenever you catch the eye of someone who’s eating in Mexico, stranger or not, say "buen provecho" (enjoy). Don’t avoid this custom. It’s good manners and feels nice.

8. Eating from individual plates strikes most in Ethiopia as hilarious, bizarre and wasteful. Food is always shared from a single plate without the use of cutlery. Greed is considered uncivilized so try not to guzzle. The meat dishes are usually the last things eaten, so don’t hone in on them immediately.

1. When drinking in Japan, don’t fill your own drink; fill the glass of the person next to you and wait for them to reciprocate. Filling your own glass amounts to admitting to everyone at the table that you’re an alcoholic.

2. In Armenia, if you empty a bottle into someone’s glass, it obliges them to buy the next bottle — it’s polite to put the last drops into your own glass.

3. In Australia, shout drinks to a group on arrival at the pub. "Shouting" is a revered custom where people rotate paying for a round of drinks. Don’t leave before it’s your turn to buy!

4. In Russia, vodka is for toasting, not for casual sipping; wait for the cue. Men are expected to down shots in one gulp, while women are usually excused. Never mix your vodka or dilute it. And don’t place an empty bottle on the table — it must be placed on the floor.

5. In Sweden, it’s considered vulgar to clink your glasses aside from formal "skals" (cheers).

Especially for vegetarians
1. In Peru, many tourist-heavy cities have vegetarian restaurants that offer a version of popular national dishes with soy substitutes. In regular restaurants, veggie options can often be found on the menu. To be safe, ask for un plato vegetariano (a vegetarian dish) and be aware that the term sin carne (without meat) refers only to red meat or pork.

2. Russia can be tough on vegetarians. Your best bet is to visit during Lent, when many restaurants have special non-meat menus. Restaurants in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other large cities are the most likely to have meat-free items on the menu, but in general vegetables are boiled to death and even veggie soups are made with meat stock.

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