Every nation and culture has its own peculiarities when it comes to eating. We Brits are no different – adding vinegar to chips and milk to coffee are just two behaviors others might find odd. But different places around the world also have habits that seem perfectly normal to them, but might be baffling to a visitor. Here are a few…
Here, mealtimes are more of an event than something you do while watching the TV. Many French households will spend a greater amount of their day around the dinner table than we do. And although much of their diet is rich and full of calories (think cheeses, baguettes, and pastries), they tend not to overindulge as much as other western cultures. This is reflected by the fact that only one in 10 is obese, compared to more than a quarter in the UK.
India is one of many countries where it’s common to eat food with your hands. But it’s not a delve-in free-for-all. Hands must be washed before eating, you must only eat with your right hand (eating with the left is regarded as unhygienic and rude), and you should only use your fingers, not your palms. However, burping isn’t considered in the least bit disrespectful – it can actually show compliments to the chef.
The notion that the Swiss love chocolate isn’t without merit. They eat the most per person in the world, with an average of just under nine kilos each per year. The Swiss are far from alone in their adoration for cocoa though, as 50 percent of the world’s chocolate is sold in the continent of Europe (which has less than a tenth of the world’s population), and we Brits enjoy our fair share. So whether you buy it over the counter, or get a chocolate delivery in the UK, you can always argue that it’s part of our culture.
If you can’t stand slurping, then Japan might not be the country for you. In fact, the louder you slurp your noodle soup the more you’re enjoying your meal. It’s also supposed to enhance the flavor, but science is at a loss as to how that might work.
At a sit-down meal in the UK, it’s customary for everyone to begin eating at the same time. But in South Korea, it’s the elders who start first. This isn’t because they’re the slowest eaters, but the custom is a sign of respect.
When we leave a plate empty it means we’ve enjoyed the meal, but in China, It suggests you want more. You should, therefore, always leave a little on your plate. And if you’re eating fish, don’t flip it, as this is considered bad luck.
These peculiarities can lead to a certain degree of awkwardness when a visitor gets them wrong, but they’re all part of what makes the world such a varied and interesting place to explore.