Eating Etiquette

There are a few things to remember when eating with Ethiopians:

  • If you’ve been invited to someone’s home for a meal, bring a small gift. Pastries or flowers are good choices in urban areas, while sugar, coffee and fruit are perfect in rural areas.
  • Use just your right hand for eating. The left (as in Muslim countries) is reserved for personal hygiene only. Keep it firmly tucked under the table.
  • Take from your side of the tray only; reaching is considered impolite.
  • Leave some leftovers on the plate after a meal. Failing to do so is sometimes seen as inviting famine.
  • Feel free to pick your teeth after a meal. Toothpicks are usually supplied in restaurants.
  • Try and avoid putting food back onto the food plate – even by the side. It’s better to discard it onto the table or floor, or keep it in your napkin.
  • While eating, try also to avoid touching your mouth, licking your fingers, or filling your mouth too full. All are considered impolite.