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Thread: Cultural table manners

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    Cultural table manners



    While I've seen numerous threads detailing Japanese table manners, I haven't seen one regarding the rest of the world and how those who travel or immigrate have had to adjust their style.

    This thread was inspired by a rather disheartening story regarding the treatment of a Filipino boy in a Canadian school (link). Basically, the kid was singled out repeatedly for using a fork to push food onto a spoon, which apparently goes against the Canadian style of using a single utensil at a time. Pretty ridiculous, but even moreso was the principal's statement: ""If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time."

    Casual American table manners are pretty easy to follow. Eat quietly, chew with your mouth closed, cut large portions into bite-sized ones, etc. Some of the more specific rules, like breaking off small portions of rolls to butter individually instead of buttering the whole thing and just biting into it, are easily overlooked by all but the most astute.

    How does your cultural upbringing affect table manners? Accounting for personal differences, what major aspects of eating behavior are generally agreed upon? I know in some parts of the world, a certain hand is not used because that hand typically performs other specific duties (pun not intended). Finally, do you believe people have a responsibility to adjust their eating style to the country where they reside, to "do as the Romans do" so to speak?
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    I've heard that pointing your pinky finger up while drinking is improper.

    It gets me nervous to visit other countries due to the fear that I might disrespect them by burping or not burping, sipping or not sipping. Not a big fear but something that I think about from time to time.

    Nothing that some research can't handle.

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    I read that story too and found it really disturbing. Poor kid. I wish people were more openminded to differences in upbringing between cultures.


    Anyway, Here's a short list of table manners in the Philippines:

    1. Use a spoon and fork. Use a knife if necessary to cut food into manageable portions.
    2. Do not put one's elbows on the table. Also do not extend one's elbows to the side so as not to crowd other people.
    3. Do not talk while one's mouth is full.
    4. Eat quietly. No slurping or chewing noises
    5. Always use a serving spoon.

    I'm lost in my own mind...

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    In the UK it varies a lot depending on the situation. If it is just me and my husband, pretty much anything goes, although I do sometimes nag him to eat more slowly and quietly! We always eat on the sofa in front of the TV, most times just with a fork. I wouldn't think twice in that situation to pick up a whole sausage with my fork and bite into it. My husband makes sandwiches of everything, which I would never let him do in company! I still apologise if I burp though!

    We have Sunday dinner with my parents, and that is a bit more formal, but still quite relaxed. We sit at the table, use a knife and fork, and politely ask if anyone else wants more before taking seconds. We also keep our elbows off the table, eat slowly and quietly and don't burp But we still scoop up our peas with a fork and dip our bread in our soup.

    If we are eating out or in less familiar company then we wouldn't dip our bread or scoop food up with a fork, but eat it 'properly' with a fork and knife. You are also supposed to hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. My mum kept telling me off for holding them the wrong way round when I was a kid, but I could never get the hang of it - so I still hold them the wrong way round, even at a formal meal. When you eat soup you are supposed to tip the bowl away from you to get the last bit of soup. Your napkin should go on your lap. When you have finished eating you should put your knife and fork together. If you put them apart, it means you haven't finished yet.

    The most formal meals I have been to are wedding breakfasts. At those you have to use the cutlery from the outside in. One custom that confuses people is whether you should start as soon as your food is served or wait until everyone has been served. I think you should start straightaway, as there is no point letting your food go cold! I think it would be impolite to the chef not to eat his food at its best.

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    I never really worried about any specific rules, but my parents beat a few into me as a kid.

    1. No elbows on the table.
    2. Chew quietly
    3. Never talk with your mouth full
    ...basically the same things everyone else has said.

    But, I always cut my food with my fork...why use a knife if it isn't needed. I use my fork for everything except soup.

    In mixed company, I revert to my more civilized manners though.

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    I know a lot of table mannors from when i used to go to school many years ago (it was quite a strict school), but don't really use them that much as they are mostly for formal eating (like when you are in the company of important people), and i don't do enough of that- english table manners i can think of at the top of my head are;

    a. Don't put your elbows on the table why eating or cutting up food.
    b. Hold your fork and knife correctly (most people actually use their fork like they are using a spoon, but this is actually apparently bad manners).
    c. If you are christian, you should pray before you eat to thank god for the food.
    d. When you set the table, if you are using more than one type of knife and fork you should lay them out correctly i.e. for example, the knife blade should be facing away from the plate and not towards it.
    e. Do not cross your knife and fork over after you have finished eating- you should put them neatly together in the middle of the plate to indicate you are finished.
    f. Don't lean back in your chair while sitting at the table (like when you lean back on the chairs hind legs).
    g. Don't slouch at the table- you should sit up straight.
    h. Don't pick your plate/bowl up to eat- you should bring the food to your mouth via the fork or spoon etc and not vice versa.
    i. Don't belch/burp loudly at the table if you can help it.
    j. Eat food in the correct order- starters (like soup or salad) first, followed by the main course, and then followed by the desert/sweet course (this is actually quite practical, as it is thought that eating sweet food before you eat the savory food can upset digestion).
    k. If you are eating at a friends place or somthing, you should offer to help clean up the dishes or take them to the sink after you have finished eating- its just considered polite and good mannors to do this.
    l. Don't eat with your mouth open.
    m. Don't eat noisely.
    n. Don't take or ask for more food than you can eat- being able to finish all the food you have chosen/been given is a sign that you enjoyed the meal. If you leave loads of food left its somtimes seen as you did not enjoy the food- even if you are not that hungry though, if you are eating a 3 or more course meal you should try and leave a bit of room for each meal to show appreiciation of the food.
    o. Always sit on a chair at the table to eat- its considered lazy or bad mannors to eat at the sofa or on the floor etc.
    p. Sit properly on your chair in general- like always have you legs together and not wide open, but with your feet on the floor etc.

    "Sigh" , these are just some general table manners i can remember at the top of my head- both my mother and most of the rest of the family always told me to have good table manners, and my schools did the same too.
    Generally now days i just eat at the sofa in my home holding a plate/bowl and fork or chopsticks or somthing, watching tv, 'cos most of these manners are only really applied when you are in the company of other people who care- IMHO, it doesn't really matter how you eat at home or on your own.

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    I eat any way i damn well please, if anyone like that school-cafeteria watcher gave me that crock of s*** ide smack her across the face and give her a look that says "you can tell how to eat you self rightous know it all imposing b**** over my dead body, so piss off, before i make you".

    Seriously, that is beyond rude in my book, not only telling someone how to eat but imposing/punishing them and talking about someone like that, especially a kid, these are the rules i do follow though.

    1. When im finished eating i put my fork and knife together in a diagonal fashion on the plate.

    2. I eat with my mouth closed (sometimes i can talk but, if im eating im ussually not interested in talking).

    3. If theres free-for-all food at the table thats exactly what it is, i dont however take food from other peoples plates and i will generally ask if anyone wants whats left over in the communal serving dish.


    Apart from eating with your mouth open, getting yourself right messy around your mouth with food, or just downright piggish eating, i general dont mind how you eat your food.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nurizeko
    1. When im finished eating i put my fork and knife together in a diagonal fashion on the plate.
    A acquaintance of mine, I believe he's Egyptian, once told me that crossing your knife and fork over your plate was a sign of appreciation for the food, while business etiquette states you should leave them at a 10:20 position specifically. Anyone else ever heard of this?

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    Though I and the European - but use I only "hashi" - practically always. To me the Japanese relation to kitchen and to " procedure of the use of food " in general is more comprehensible.
    To " the European culture of a feast " I concern as, proceeding from an abundance of "tablewares" as to the "residual" phenomenon of " an epoch of education " when " the part of procedure of cutting of food stuffs " " has been transferred on a table " in quality of " the additional anatomic act " for using I peep... (with an easy shade of humour)

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    Quote Originally Posted by MeAndroo
    .
    How does your cultural upbringing affect table manners? Accounting for personal differences, what major aspects of eating behavior are generally agreed upon?
    I am an Easterner whom has had many years of experiences in the West. I would say the table manners are quite different between the East and the West.

    Like for example in Western foods bones and shells are removed before serving but very often in Chinese foods and some other Asian foods they are not. I know this is annoying for European people.

    The main difference between Chinese and Western eating habits is that unlike the West, where everyone has their own plate of food, in China the dishes are placed on the table and everybody shares, I am pretty sure the Thai also do this.

    As we have discussed before in another thread, Chinese and Japanese suck their noodles but I find many other Asian slurp when they are consuming food/liquid too. When I was studying in Sydney my landlord was a Philipino family, and their suck when they drink juice.

    I know in some parts of the world, a certain hand is not used because that hand typically performs other specific duties (pun not intended).
    Yes I think that's a Muslim table manner. I am born in Malaysia, a multicultural country with 63 percent Malays who are Muslims. The Muslims always eat with their right hand, they use their left hand for dirty and impure things like wiping their butt after they gone to the loo and the right hand for eating, drinking and shaking hands.

    Finally, do you believe people have a responsibility to adjust their eating style to the country where they reside, to "do as the Romans do" so to speak?
    I think so, I definitely have made many adjustments since my parents decided to immigrate to Australia, when I made the decision to marry an European I have made further Adjustments.

    In general I think Western manners are pretty much the same, but there is one specific thing I notice about the French table manner that is different than others is that they don't eat their pizza with hands but with knife and folk.

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    Many of these proper etiquettes apply to most of the world. Pretty cool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MeAndroo
    This thread was inspired by a rather disheartening story regarding the treatment of a Filipino boy in a Canadian school (link). Basically, the kid was singled out repeatedly for using a fork to push food onto a spoon, which apparently goes against the Canadian style of using a single utensil at a time.
    I got used to eating with a spoon and fork when travelling in S-E Asia. Since then, I have continued to do it to it whenever eating S-E Asian food (even at home). It's the same about eating some Japanese food with chopsticks (e.g. ramen, bento, sushi), others with a fork and knife/spoon (e.g. ome-rice) and others just with a spoon (e.g. karee). And of course sandwich and bakery stuff with my hands...

    I believe that the way of eating should only depend on what is most appropriate, not rigid manners that rule all.
    Casual American table manners are pretty easy to follow. Eat quietly, chew with your mouth closed, cut large portions into bite-sized ones, etc. Some of the more specific rules, like breaking off small portions of rolls to butter individually instead of buttering the whole thing and just biting into it, are easily overlooked by all but the most astute.
    You did well to point out that there were "casual" table manners, as opposed to "formal" ones. It's pretty obvious that one doesn't behave the same way with family and friends, or at a business lunch or an official reception. If one really ones to be fussy, there are books about proper Western table manners (e.g. the one by David Rothschild). That's the kind of book that describe the exact "proper" way to hold your little spoon, bring the wine glass to your lips, or not forget to pass food counterclockwise. The only utility of such rules is to remind people who might make fun of you that their own "proper manners" are far from perfect.

    I personally dislike rigid rules, as they underlie a rigid (read "senile") mind set. I prefer to always proceed on a case by case basis. I wonder how Mr Rothschild would eat ramen, though.
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    How do you guys eat spaghetti? I always use a fork in my right hand and wind the spaghetti round it in a spoon held in my left hand. I don't know if that is the 'right' way to do it, but that's easiest for me. The rest of my family just use a fork and half-suck, half-shovel the spaghetti into their mouths. I think they're dirty, they think I'm posh

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    I used to use fork and knife, just try my best or cut up the spaghetti, but since ive been in japan ive elarned to use a spoon to great effect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsuyoiko
    The rest of my family just use a fork and half-suck, half-shovel the spaghetti into their mouths. I think they're dirty, they think I'm posh
    Ha! That's good stuff! My brother is a shoveler, especially with spaghetti, and I always find it fairly amusing.

    With pasta noodles, I tend to just wind them up on the fork without the use of a spoon. The spoon is nice for restaurants and the like, but at home it's just another utensil to wash.

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    When eating spaghetti(which I rarely do), I just use my fork. I never use a spoon, although I guess that's "proper". I never use a knife, either. I just use my fork to cut it and pick it up/wind it.

    I do not do any shoveling!

    My maternal grandmother has always been big on table manners and etiquette. Even for a very casual dinner, say take-out pizza and salad on paper plates, she still insists on having all the utensils, napkins, cups, etc. in their proper places. And that's just the beginning. I have a whole list of what is and is not accepted at my grandmother's table....
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsuyoiko
    You are also supposed to hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. My mum kept telling me off for holding them the wrong way round when I was a kid, but I could never get the hang of it - so I still hold them the wrong way round, even at a formal meal.
    I do this, hold a knife and fork left handed. Drove my parents nuts when I was young, but I never could get it right. The first thing I do when I go out for a meal is change the knife and fork around. It has thrown some waiters in the past, some have even tried to change it back. In fact a few years back, when I was in Canada, three of us went the Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto. The first thing we all did was change the knife and fork around when we sat down. It can cause some problems when I lay a table, as I naturally put them out the wrong way for everyone else, I have to think about it. A couple of weeks ago I put everyones the left handed and my own right handed. Definate senior moment.

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    As a left hander i always enjoyed reminding folk how to properly hold their utensils.
    It was my way of getting my own back on a rightist world that descriminates against the obvious superiority of the left hand.
    <- Lefties for teh winzies!

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    Quote Originally Posted by nurizeko
    As a left hander i always enjoyed reminding folk how to properly hold their utensils.
    It was my way of getting my own back on a rightist world that descriminates against the obvious superiority of the left hand.
    <- Lefties for teh winzies!
    Lefthandedness always striked me as "odd". My sister is lefthanded, so is my dad I think. At the table it can bring conflicts !
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockLee
    Lefthandedness always striked me as "odd". My sister is lefthanded, so is my dad I think. At the table it can bring conflicts !
    My sister is born left handed but my mother changed her to a right handed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nurizeko
    As a left hander i always enjoyed reminding folk how to properly hold their utensils.
    It was my way of getting my own back on a rightist world that descriminates against the obvious superiority of the left hand.
    <- Lefties for teh winzies!
    How do you lefties typically deal with the problem of having your eating arm in the same basic location of a righty on your left side while eating? I've seen people hit elbows, of course, but do you ever switch seats, or are you conscious of it while being seated?

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