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Culinary Habits and Food Travel Etiquette in Foreign Countries

India is a food-industry insider who enjoys cooking, eating, and sharing food-related insights with others.

Find a variety of tips on how to behave if invited to eat a meal while in a foreign country.

Find a variety of tips on how to behave if invited to eat a meal while in a foreign country.

When traveling to a foreign country, knowing what culinary habits to be aware of and what etiquette to follow can help facilitate an enjoyable and exciting dining experience abroad.

Culinary habits in foreign countries can be very different from what a traveler is used to at home, which is exactly why knowing food travel etiquette will make any dining experience around the world less frightening and more enjoyable. Knowing when to eat everything with your right hand, and when to eat everything using only utensils, can save you from making an etiquette faux pas when dining in another country—no one wants to insult their host unintentionally.

Good Manners Make for Good Impressions!

Here you will find a few inside tidbits to help you manage your world dining adventures. The goal is to give you the information you need regarding culinary habits and etiquette in a few foreign countries. Good manners always make for good impressions, no matter where your vacation plans land you!


The fact that Australia happens to be the smallest continent on earth surely makes no impact on the culinary diversity and hospitality they offer. This little dynamo of a country has a wide variety of plant and animal life to choose from. The lack of rainfall does increase the risk of drought; due to this and because Australia supplies most of its own food, the agricultural offerings can struggle at times. Not to worry though, this resourceful country has many food sources to choose from, and yes, one of them is kangaroo.


  • Australians are not really formal, so greeting should be relaxed and casual, a smile and a handshake will do.
  • Avoid the Aussie greeting "G'day, mate" or "G'day" as these may come across as fake from a foreigner. A simple "hello" or "Hello, how are you?" is always best suited.
  • In the Australian culture, it is normal to use first names right from the start. So avoid the "Mr." "Mrs." "Miss" and "Ms" of things.
  • As expected, an Aussie BBQ will most likely be one of many invitations you will receive for dining.
  • You will want to arrive on time if invited to dinner, and no more than 15 minutes late for a big party or BBQ.
  • Make an effort to contact the host/hostess before the party to offer to bring any needed dishes or supplies.
  • It is customary to bring your own wine or beer to a BBQ, and in some informal situations, even your own meat.
  • Make certain to offer your help with set-up or clean-up.
  • Hold your fork in the left hand and knife in the right while eating; Aussie table manners are very continental.
  • Keep your hands above the table, and your elbows off the table while eating.
  • To indicate you are finished with your meal, set your fork and knife parallel on your plate with the handles facing to the right.
Brazil unique map

Brazil unique map


As the largest country in South America, Brazil should not be missed. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil with almost 100% of Brazilians speaking it. The difference between the Portuguese spoken in Brazil versus Portugal is about the same as between the English spoken in the United States versus England.

A quarter of the world's plants are found in Brazil, making for a culinary spectacle at times. You will find eggs in much of the culinary offerings, with the Portuguese putting their mark on the majority of Brazilian foods. Brazilians are very family-oriented, so much so that nepotism is considered a really good thing. If you are invited into a Brazilian home to dine, you have received a truly impressive honor.


  • Upon greeting, be sure to maintain eye contact, men shake hands firmly.
  • Women will usually kiss each other starting with the left cheek and then the right.
  • If friendly, hugging and back-slapping are acceptable greetings for men who know each other.
  • A woman who wishes to shake hands with a man will have to extend hers first, it's a macho thing.
  • If invited to dinner at a Brazilian house, you should arrive at least 30 minutes late.
  • Get there up to an hour late for a party or larger gathering.
  • Always err on the side of over-dressing rather than under-dressing. A little designer flair always helps when dining with Brazilians!
  • If you forget to bring a gift to the event, you should send flowers (no white flowers) the next day as a common courtesy.
  • Expect to be interrupted when speaking, it is not meant to offend.


Officially known as the People's Republic of China, this country has 60 small cities that have populations over 750,000, with some major Chinese cities having millions (Beijing has 12 million). Historically China has had problems feeding its vast population. With more than one-third of the world's total population, it's no wonder why. Meat was scarce, so smaller amounts were added to vegetables and rice which were more plentiful.

The style of cooking is mostly stir-fry, this is an ingenious way of conserving fuel by quickly cooking foods. You will find shark fins, frogs, snakes, seaweed, and even dogs on the menu. And everything is generally served with China's most prominent food source, rice. (Be sure to inquire about meat sources if you would rather NOT consume man's best friend.)


  • Always arrive on time when dining in China; it is very rude to do otherwise.
  • Dress very nicely, this gives your host respect.
  • Shoes off before entering any home.
  • Greet the oldest person first.
  • Do not start eating before the host.
  • It is good manners to serve those around you first, or if smoking, offer a cigarette to others first.
  • If you are full, feel free to say so. Your host will feel honored that he fed you well.
  • You may hear belching and slurping. Don't be offended this is an indication they are enjoying the food.
  • Women are not expected to drink alcoholic drinks.
  • Do not re-season your food with soy sauce, salt, or other condiments. If these are on the table, wait to see how they get used by those around you and follow suit.


Re-think using salt when traveling to Egypt

Re-think using salt when traveling to Egypt


The arid travel location of Egypt can be a very special culinary experience. The lack of rainfall and having only 2% of their land good enough to farm, makes the growing of crops quite difficult.

The Middle East has influenced Egyptian cuisine greatly over the centuries, but the proud Egyptian people have managed to maintain their own unique style through the years. You will find that rice and bread remain the staple food supply—as well as molokhiyya (a spinach-like veggie) and ful mudammas (a creamy cooked fava bean dish)—having remained on the Egyptian menu from the very beginning of time.


  • If invited to an Egyptian home, be sure to bring good quality chocolates, pastry, or sweets for the hostess. Failing to do so is a big insult.
  • Bringing flowers is generally reserved for funerals and weddings, so avoid bringing them unless you know for sure the hostess will enjoy them.
  • Bringing a token gift for the children shows affection. (Always give ANY gifts with the right hand, or both hands if heavy.)
  • Your gifts will not be opened until after you leave.
  • Normally remove your shoes before going into an Egyptian home.
  • Dress well and conservatively, appearances are quite important in Egypt.
  • Always give high prays about the house when speaking to the host.
  • Wait until the host tells you where to sit.
  • Eat with your right hand ONLY.
  • It's a compliment to take seconds.
  • Salting your food is a huge insult; instead, you are expected to enjoy the seasoning the host has already placed on the food. Re-seasoning your dinner is telling your host you are displeased with his/her offering.
  • If you are full, leave a small bit of food on your dish, or the hostess will continue to refill your plate.
  • Show appreciation for the meal.
French culinary poster

French culinary poster


I think that the French may have the most rules and regulations when it comes to dining etiquette. This would stem from Louis the XIV and those strict rules placed on dining in his court. These rules have become etiquette requirements in French homes as well as restaurants.

You will find that every region in France brags about its own best dish, wine, and of course cheese (with over 400 types of French Cheese to choose from, who wouldn't brag a little?). You will find three meals a day; breakfast (morning), lunch (noon to one), and dinner (around 8 pm) to be the normal eating ritual.

Be very aware that whether in a French home, cafe, or restaurant, the many lifestyle rules (etiquette and manners) are very important and should be followed or you may find onlookers scoffing at your caveman-like eating habits.


  • It is a really good idea to learn a little French before traveling there.
  • If invited to dinner, (especially in Paris), it is a good idea to arrive 15 minutes late.
  • When deciding on an outfit, consider that France is the fashion capital of the world, so take care with what you wear. Good quality accessories are appreciated. If invited to a formal dinner, men are expected to don conservative dark suits, and women nice pantsuits or dresses that offer gentle colors (keep your cleavage and thighs under wraps). Remember, the little black dress is a French icon!
  • The proper use of utensils is imperative, and an art to say the least.
  • No elbows on the table, hands in clear view but most certainly NOT in your lap. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table—never lean your forearms on the table's edge!
  • If you're not done eating, cross your fork and knife on your plate with the fork over the knife.
  • Never just "drop in" on the French. This is considered bad manners. Always call ahead.
  • Don't phone after 9 pm or before 10 am.
  • Never take flowers to your hostess; you are expected to send them before or after the event.
  • Do not bring uninvited friends (or pets) without getting prior permission.
  • You are only politely allowed to refuse two types of food in France—oysters and curry. To do so with any other food is a serious insult unless allergies are a concern (in which case you must inform your host/hostess in writing prior to the event).
  • Dinner usually takes 2 to 3 hours, with several courses being served. If you want to make it to the end, I recommend eating only small amounts of each.
  • Wine will always remain on the table. Should you be done drinking and do NOT want any more wine, leave your glass mostly full, or it is sure to be refilled again and again.
Santorini Greece poster

Santorini Greece poster

Use the thumbs-up gesture meaning "okay" when in Greece. Using the western style for okay: a circle using your forefinger and thumb is considered really vulgar and quite rude!

Use the thumbs-up gesture meaning "okay" when in Greece. Using the western style for okay: a circle using your forefinger and thumb is considered really vulgar and quite rude!


The pride in being Greek has been assessed as being the highest among all European nationalities. To a Greek, nothing is better than being Greek!

When overlooking the historically popular Greek shoreline, it's no wonder why. The beauty of the warm Greek Islands is hard to surpass. These hospitable and intelligent people have much to offer, and because of this, it is very important to understand what moves them and how to stay within the perimeters of good etiquette when dining with a Greek family. Most western manners will do nicely, but for your own sake, it is helpful to know some specific cultural and social customs that apply when vacationing in Greece.


  • In Greece, almost all conversations are accompanied by gestures of approval, usually by the hand sign of "okay". The indicator for "okay" in the western world (making a circle with your forefinger and thumb) is considered very vulgar to a Greek. Instead, the acceptable way to indicate "OK" to a Greek is to make a fist and point your thumb toward the sky. Should you decide to use the western style gesture, you might just get slapped by a Greek woman, or popped in the nose by a Greek gentleman.
  • When introduced to someone for the first time, shake hands and maintain good eye contact.
  • Getting to dinner 30 minutes late is considered good manners.
  • Dress above your station; this shows respect to your host.
  • Always offer to help set up or clean up. Your offer likely won't be accepted, but it will be greatly appreciated.
  • Compliment the home and expect to be treated like you are next in line for the throne; Greeks are very hospitable.
  • Remain standing; you may be shown to a chosen seat.
  • Table manners are continental (fork in the left hand, knife in the right hand while eating).
  • The oldest is generally served first.
  • Elbows off the table, hands above the table at all times (think French etiquette here).
  • Try to eat a second helping. This is a big compliment to the host.
  • Plan on having some vigorous conversation as dining is a time for socializing in Greece, and these fine debaters have much to say loud and clear!
  • Go ahead and sop up that gravy and sauce with a piece of bread. In Greece, that's what bread is for.
  • It's okay to share food from each other's plates. However, as a guest, you should wait to be invited to share from someone else's plate. But it's okay to offer to share from your plate first.
  • Place your napkin next to your plate when done eating or your plate will continue to be refilled.
  • The host will give the first toast, but the honored guest is expected to offer a second toast later in the meal. "To your health" will do just fine.

Holland (Netherlands)

The Dutch are a modern and modest people. They value hard work, education, ambition, and ability. Ostentatious behavior is looked down upon; while accumulating money is fine, flashing it or spending it can be perceived as a blunder. Spending freely can bring suspicion and make people feel you are wasteful.

The Dutch are very restrained in public, refraining from being demonstrative, exuberant, or angry (in public). You may consider them unfriendly, but they are more restrained when greeting strangers and will wait for you to make the first move; go ahead and initiate interaction. The Dutch will not disappoint you when it comes to hospitality and kindness.


  • The Dutch place tremendous value on being clean and neat.
  • Never brag about material possessions. Holland is an egalitarian society.
  • Self-control is highly regarded, so reign it in.
  • The common handshake is the best greeting. Repeat the person's name several times during this process. Shake hands with everyone individually, even the children.
  • Remain formal until you are invited to call someone by their first name. First names are reserved for more familiar relationships.
  • When invited to a home, bring nicely wrapped high-quality chocolates, books, or flowers (bring flowers in odd numbers only, but never 13, which is considered unlucky). Don't give pointed gifts (scissors or knives) as they are also unlucky. Expect gifts to be opened when received.
  • Avoid bringing white lilies or chrysanthemums; these are reserved for funerals.
  • Dinner is usually formal in the Netherlands.
  • Continental table manners here!
  • Men remain standing until all women have been seated.
  • Wait for the host to begin eating first.
  • Do not cut your salad—fold it on your fork.
  • It is offensive to waste food in Holland, but second helpings are flattering. So make sure you take small portions so you can manage to meet both of these good culinary etiquette requirements.
  • Place your fork and knife parallel across the right side of your plate to indicate that you are done eating.
Flag of India - Respect the home by removing shoes

Flag of India - Respect the home by removing shoes


Don't expect to hear only Hindi spoken when traveling in India—this country is rich with dialect and language—but Hindi is the official language. The Indian people are very conscious of hierarchy, whether it be family, friends, strangers, business, or politics. For instance, teachers in schools are called gurus and are considered the source of all knowledge. The men are considered the leaders of the family as India is a patriarchal society. Knowing the clear-cut hierarchy is very important to maintain social stability.

Eating and drinking are considered a very important and respected part of Indian culture. Some western women may find the culture to be offensive, but it is not intended to be as such.


  • Indian's find the word "no" to be disrespectful, and will avoid it at almost any cost. To them, it is simply rude to say no. You must be vigilant in your visual observations of body language and verbal avoidance to understand the actual meaning of a vague conversation. They just might be trying to politely tell you, "NO."
  • Always greet the most senior person first.
  • You must say goodbye to each individual when leaving or it is a great insult.
  • Men may shake hands with other men, and women may shake hands with other women; however rarely should a man and a woman shake hands. If you're not sure, wait to see what others do.
  • Indians believe that gift-giving helps the transition to the next life; so give away!
  • DO NOT give white flowers.
  • Yellow, green, and red are lucky colors, so wrap gifts with them.
  • Do not give pork or alcohol to those of the Muslim faith.
  • No leather should be given to those of the Hindu faith.
  • Be as close to on time as possible.
  • Remove shoes upon entering any home in India.
  • Always politely say "no thank you" to the offer of tea, coffee, or snacks the first time. Don't worry, you will be asked again. Saying no at first is part of protocol.
  • Guest are served in a particular order; guest of honor first, then the men, with the children being served last. Women will generally serve the men and eat later.
  • Lamb, chicken, and fish will be the main meats served. This avoids disrespecting any religious beliefs of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.
  • You may be asked to wash your hands before and after a meal.
  • Expect to eat with your (right) hand, but a tablespoon and fork may also be available.
  • Leave a small amount of food on your plate to indicate you are full. If you clean your plate, this is telling your host you are still hungry.


Southwestern Europe is a wonderfully Mediterranean location and is where you will land when visiting Spain. The official language of Spain is Castilian. It is the first language of over 70% of the population, while Roman catholic is the religion of over 94%. Spanish women are not only beautiful but are quite friendly, and intelligent, as is evident when you count the female population in large quantity at universities. The historical machismo of males has changed lately leaving the older generation of men to the macho aspects of Spanish family life. The new generation of men and women reside in a very equalitarian society with smaller combined family living as well as fewer children.


  • It is customary to shake hands upon meeting. Men will often use a two-handed shake, placing the left hand on the right forearm of the other person.
  • Female friends will kiss each other on both cheeks, starting with the left.
  • People are regularly referred to as Don or Doña and then their first name (as in; Don James or Doña Shirley) in formal company.
  • If invited to a Spanish home for dinner, bring a gift for the hostess (chocolates are always best), and don't forget to bring something for the children if applicable.
  • Remain standing until offered a seat, as you may be assigned to a particular spot.
  • Your hands always must remain in view, with your wrists resting on the edge of the table, never in your lap.
  • All food is eaten with utensils, including fruit.
  • It is acceptable for a woman to give a toast, but only after the host and honored guest.
  • Never get up from the table until the host does.
  • Dress neatly and conservatively. Accessories are important to Spanish fashion.

What Not to Eat When Traveling Worldwide

If there is any question about whether food or water might be safe to eat or drink, avoid consuming the following items:

  • Salads or raw vegetables
  • Unpasteurized Milk
  • Ice-cream
  • Ice in drinks (don't use ice at all)
  • Shellfish
  • Foods that have not been covered (flies can contaminate foods in quick time!)
  • Tap water

Tips for Avoiding Food Poisoning When Traveling Worldwide

Food TypeTacticRule


Hand washing 

Wash hands before and after eating


Eat where locals eat 

If only foreigners are there, you should NOT eat there 

Street food 

Eat where locals eat 

Always over-cook meat items, meat can sit out all day  

Non-local foods

Avoid imported exotic foods

Any strange or exotic food that's not local, should be skipped!


Cook food properly

Only eat properly cooked foods. Refrigeration may be an issue in some countries

Salads and fruits

Eat where locals eat

Try to avoid fresh salads and fruits that may have been washed with unsafe water

Frozen local water

Avoid ice

Freezing water does NOT kill bacteria (even in your Margarita)

How Much Do You Know About the World?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How many states border the state of Tennessee in the USA?
    • 4 - CA, AZ, MS, and AL
    • 3 - MS, AS, and GE
    • 6 - AG, AL, AS, GE, CA, and KY
    • 8 - VA, NC, GE, AL, MS, AR, MI, AND KY
  2. What city has the reputation of being the oldest city in the world?
    • Greece, being settle as long ago as 6,000 BC
    • Sao Paulo, located in South Africa around 4,000 BC
    • Damascu (or Dimash), which was possibly settled as long ago as 8,000 BC
    • Napa, located in California about 7,000 BC
  3. What country has the largest number of islands?
    • Hawaii
    • Finland
    • Cuba
    • Long Island
  4. What does Portugal produce more of than any other country in the world?
    • Cork
    • Gun Powder
    • Coffee
    • Pistachio nuts
  5. Which tourists spend the most money per capita when traveling worldwide?
    • Americans
    • Saudis
    • Japanese
    • Greeks
  6. Which continent has the most countries represented in the United Nations?
    • USA
    • UK
    • Asia
    • Africa
  7. What airline saved over $40,000 in 1987 by removing one (1) olive from every salad served in first class?
    • American Airlines
    • Quantis
    • Air Scotland
    • Gryphon
  8. What are the 3 most densley populated countries in the world?
    • Japan, Belgium, and then Netherlands
    • Korea, India, and then Mexico
    • India, Japan, and then Korea
    • Netherlands, Belgium, and then Japan
  9. What does "ORD" stand for when regarding Chicago's O'Hare airport?
    • No ORDinary airport
    • Comes from the name "Orchard Field"
    • Comes from the name "Old Field"
    • Military ORDinance air-bunker site
  10. What is the worlds' oldest airline, established in 1919?
    • United Airlines
    • Air Japan
    • KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines)
    • German Wings

Answer Key

  1. 8 - VA, NC, GE, AL, MS, AR, MI, AND KY
  2. Damascu (or Dimash), which was possibly settled as long ago as 8,000 BC
  3. Finland
  4. Cork
  5. Japanese
  6. Africa
  7. American Airlines
  8. Netherlands, Belgium, and then Japan
  9. Comes from the name "Orchard Field"
  10. KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines)

World Dining Etiquette