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Global dining etiquette myths?

Some rules of dining etiquette are just flat-out wrong (or out-dated), even though they might be pontificated as gospel by the popular press.

For example, you often read that "belching" is accepted social norm in China because it supposedly demonstrates your enjoyment of the meal. Uh, no. Slurping a bowl of noodle soup may be acceptable, even necessary, but belching? That's so, like, pre-Mao.

Are there other myths out there that hungry travelers should be wary of?

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  1. TOOTHPICKS. It's not okay to use them at the table in the occident; in the orient, it's okay so as long as you use the other hand to cover your mouth while you're picking away. It's gross...I wish it WAS a myth.

    4 Replies
    1. re: OCAnn

      I've always thought there was something strangely elegant about the way my partner's mother (malay-chinese) and her friends cover their mouth to use a toothpick!

      1. re: irisav

        As someone else said on a thread long ago, Malaysians, Indonesians, and Filipinos look like they're playing the harmonica when using tooth picks.

        1. re: irisav

          I can see how it can be almost elegant; I once had a friend who did it quietly, politely and inconspicuously. However, most fall into the racing harmonica category.

          1. re: OCAnn

            Well I must confess that whilst observing the toothpick etiquette in a demure manner, it is not unusual to witness her in the same meal speak loudly and frequently with her mouth full - although this behaviour is generally observed when she is eating with family - which I think can make the toothpicking technique look very refined by contrast!

      2. Funny, I've never heard that belching myth about China, only about certain Middle Eastern or North African countries. Don't know if it's true of them either. On the other hand, not allowing your left hand to touch food in those areas is very much true, as it's used for other (un)sanitary purposes.

        1. It is NOT a myth that Italians will make fun of you if you order cappucino after 10 in the morning as it is considered a breakfast food. They will serve you, of course, in larger (esp. hotel) restaurants. But it is considered gauche.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LJS

            I used to drink after-work cappucinos in tiny, hole-in-the-wall type places in little Italian towns that had never seen a tourist before, and nobody batted an eye. My Italian friends did the same. In my experience, this is definitely a myth.

          2. Belching isn't a necessity in China, but like slurping, it seems to be perfectly acceptable, at least from what I've seen.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Humbucker

              You can slurp on the mainland, but don't do it in Hong Kong.