When dining out overseas, table manners are especially important in how well you will be received in business and personal circles. Knowing your etiquette relative to mealtimes and how to conduct yourself could mean the difference between creating a meaningful, lasting impression, or alienating your foreign client or colleague with your In many countries business is not discussed over a meal. Perhaps before and afterward, but attention will be paid to the food at hand and the camaraderie of eating.
Some meals can last several hours and liquor can flow freely, so be prepared with a polite excuse to limit your alcoholic consumption, without giving offense. Also, do not take a sip of wine or champagne, in case someone wishes to toast, or until your host has also taken a drink. Conversely, do not expect alcohol to be offered in a Muslim country. If it is offered to you, it would be polite to decline, as your hosts will not drink.
It is a practice in England and France to eat hot sandwiches and “beefburgers” with a knife and fork. It is perfectly acceptable to put your bread directly on the tablecloth in France. Germans will use a knife and fork, but they will use the fork both with the tines pointed down and with the tines pointed up. Other countries may only use the dinner fork with the tines pointed down, which is good manners in their country. Thais use a fork and a spoon when eating. It is only in restaurants in the U.S. that chopsticks are offered in Thai restaurants, to appease the local customs.
Many countries will have different cutlery for different courses. In formal settings and especially in Europe, you will have a fish fork and a fish knife. Your salad course may be served after the meal in France. You will receive both a fork and a knife for your salad course. Do use both utensils and don’t “save” your fork or knife for your next course. Your teaspoon is not used for dessert, as in the U.S. You will probably be offered a smaller fork and a tablespoon to eat your dessert, or sweet. Knowing that you use the cutlery, or silverware, from the outside in, will serve you well in most instances.
It is common in East Asia to use your chopsticks to take food from a common plate or bowl. You choose your food from a platter and place small amounts on your own plate.
Chinese will bring a rice bowl up to their chins and quickly scoop the rice in their mouths with their chopsticks. It is normal to slurp, talk with your mouth full and make noises, whilst eating in many countries. Watch your hosts for guidance if you are unsure.
If you are invited to dine in the Middle East, gentlemen, do not reach for food with your left hand. You may eat with your fingers there. Watch your host for guidance. Know your finger bowl from a soup bowl!
Bon Appetit! Guten Appetit! Buon Appetito! Smacznego!
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International speaker-trainer and cross-cultural communication expert,Catherine Mowbray Lorenz sees the potential in every individual and company. Her expert knowledge and training moves possibility into profit! If you are looking for simple, no-cost easy ways to boost your sales and improve relationships in the overseas market, get your FREE communication and presentation tips now at: www.catherinemowbraylorenz.com.