AMONG one of the joys of traveling abroad is the exposure to different types of cuisines. In my opinion, this makes up 50 percent of the experience, a priceless bit of insight into the types of food that the locals consume on a daily basis.
Here we’ve compiled some eating habits that could benefit you when traveling to a foreign country.
It is pretty widely known that Indians traditionally eat with hands. However, this practice is not limited to traditional Indians only. Many urban Indians today, whether living in India or not, maintain the practice of eating using their hands. Some say it is more delicious to do so, perhaps due to the ability to personally mix your food and curries to your precise taste.
Before settling down to begin your meal, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly first. Always eat with your right hand only – eating with your left is considered disrespectful and unhygienic. As a rule of thumb, make sure not to have any food touch your palms, and do not put your fingers into your mouth. Instead, use your thumb to push the food into your mouth.
The use of chopsticks when eating Chinese cuisine is one that needs practice. To hold the chopsticks properly, first hold the first stick like a pencil, and the second stick between your thumb and your ring finger. Your middle finger should be in between the two chopsticks, acting as somewhat of a fulcrum.
When eating with chopsticks, makes sure not to use it to point, tap, suck the tips or use it upside down (it’s really easier than it sounds).
In Japan (and in some local Japanese restaurants), before sitting down to a meal, fresh hot towels called oshibori are given out for patrons to clean their hands with. When your orders arrive, it is also polite to utter the phrase “itadakimasu“, which means “I graciously receive” or can be thought of as a version of the French’s “bon apetit“
In Japan, it is customary to slurp your noodle soup as loud as you can when eating your noodle soup or ramen. It serves as a display of enjoyment as well as supposedly enhancing the flavours of the soup as you consume it.
Iran / Middle East
In the Middle East, in general, it is not uncommon to eat with your hands. In Iran, bread is commonly served whole on the centre of the table (sometimes directly on the table), and guests are expected to help themselves to the bread using their hands. Sometimes, accompanying side dishes are also served at the centre of the table. Tear small pieces of the bread and use the bread to scoop up the accompanying dishes. Do not lick or put your fingers in your mouth when eating with your hands.
Dinner may not be the dinner that you and I know (assuming you’re a Malaysian reading this). Depending on which part you are visiting in England, the term “dinner” can refer to the afternoon meal, or lunch as some of us know it. What we know as dinner is sometimes called tea or supper, depending on how late it is consumed. Supper is generally a lighter meal taken later in the evening.
In some parts, the term “dinner” is used for the biggest and most important meal of the day, whether afternoon or evening, and the distinction does not matter.