Fine tune your table manners

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, taken from various Lonely Planet guidebooks, to help you eat and drink in different parts of the world.

Table Manners

1. When you eat noodles in Japan, it’s perfectly okay – even expected – to slurp them. – From the Lonely Planet Japan travel guide

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 rite 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. – From the Lonely Planet China travel guide

Image of Japanese food by aschaf

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. – From the Lonely Planet Russia travel guide

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 finished their food. If you have to leave early, make your apologies by saying bistaii khaanus, or ‘please eat slowly.’ – From the Lonely Planet Nepal travel guide

Image by LilyinNepal

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. – From the Lonely Planet Portugal travel guide

6. In France, never, ever discuss money over dinner.  And splitting the bill is considered the height of unsophistication.  – From the Lonely Planet France travel guide

7. Whenever you catch the eye of someone who’s eating in Mexico, stranger or not, say 'provecho' (enjoy).  Don’t avoid this custom.  It’s good manners and feels nice. – From the Lonely Planet Mexico travel guide

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 home in on them immediately. – From the Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea travel guide

Image of Ethiopian food by LollyKnit

Drinking

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. – From the Lonely Planet Japan travel guide

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. – From the Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan travel guide

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! – From the Lonely Planet Australia travel guide

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. – From the Lonely Planet Russia travel guide

5. In Sweden, it’s considered vulgar to clink your glasses aside from formal 'skals' (cheers). – From the Lonely Planet Sweden travel guide

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. – From the Lonely Planet Peru travel guide

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. – From the Lonely Plant Russia travel guide

3. Other vegetarian tips: Meat-free travel: vegetarian hits and misses

This article was updated in Jan 2012.