When we are going to eat together with people from another culture, we tend to be nervous that somehow we re going to get things wrong. We fear that at that all-important dinner we will use the steak
When you are abroad, the rules of good table manners change. You can solve some of the problems you have with questions like, What is that
That doesn t mean you will escape difficult situations. I remember
If you are charitable, you can see this eagerness to share the best of your local cuisine with foreigners as a sign of justifiable
But there are other more subtle ways of getting things wrong. If you are French or Italian and used to discussing everything from art to politics over your dinner, you may find the South Korean and Japanese habit of eating in silence unnerving, and they might find your constant flow of words distracts from an
do you start your meal? If your guests are used to having a
But despite the possible pitfalls and the fear we all have of making fools of
How to get your food into your mouth is not usually something you have to think deeply about. However, it s always difficult managing implements you are not familiar with.
FROM SOUTH AFRICA ABOUT HONG KONG AND CHINA
I ll be traveling to Hong Kong and China for the first time and am not confident about my use of chopsticks. Do I really have to learn?
If your stay was limited to Hong Kong, you could probably manage without learning to use chopsticks, as a fork will almost
Good and bad table manners vary, of course, from culture to culture.
FROM CHINA ABOUT EUROPE
I d just like to warn other Chinese about a mistake I made on my first trip to Europe. I d mastered the cutlery and was prepared for the food, but I made a real mistake with the soup. I drank it as we do in China and didn t try to be silent. I soon realized that everyone in the restaurant was looking at me, and that people regarded the sounds I was making as bad-mannered. It was very embarrassing.
It s always a
But the whole question of soup-drinking is a
FROM SWEDEN ABOUT FRANCE
I ll be going on a trip to France, and I ve
hearda lot about the long lunches there. Is it true that you shouldn t talk business then?
It s very difficult to generalize, but usually meals in
During the meal itself you shouldn t talk business, and keep off the subjects of families and children too, as these are regarded as personal areas. You can talk about politics, history, literature, even sports ”and food, of course. Take your lead from your French contact. He or she may well get around to talking business by the coffee stage, but don t push it.
Remember that manners are more formal there than in some other countries and that
FROM FRANCE ABOUT CHINA
Nextmonth I will be visiting China for the first time and know I will be attendinga formal banquet. What will that involve?
Banquets are a well-established part of business life in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and have their own rules of protocol. If you are part of a team, make sure that the most senior member enters the dining room first. You will be seated at a round table (or multiple tables if there are a lot of you) where the host and principal guest face each other, and other guests are seated in descending order of rank. Because of this, take any inquiries about the exact nature of your job, how many
The Chinese host will usually start by
I hope you have been doing some
When we eat
FROM ARGENTINA ABOUT GERMANY
I d like to warn others of a mistake I made on a business trip to Germany. In my country
restaurantsdon t even open for dinner until 9:00 P.M., and I m not used to eating before 10:00 P.M. So when I received an invitationto a restaurant for dinner at 8:00 P.M., I wrongly assumed that people would not start eating immediately. I turned up at 8:30 P.M. to find the other guests halfway through their first course.
There are major differences between cultures regarding when different meals are eaten. In Latin America and the countries around the Mediterranean, people are used to starting dinner at around 10:00 P.M., or even later, while in Germany, Austria, the U.K., and Scandinavia they ve usually finished long since, especially during the week. Recently a colleague told me that she was invited to lunch at 4:00 P.M. on her last visit to Poland, whereas many large companies in Sweden have a lunch break starting at 11:15 A.M., so you can see there is no set time for a particular meal.
There s also a difference in how punctual you need to be when arriving for a meal, especially in the evening. In Germany, people say what they mean, and an invitation for 8:00 P.M. means that s when you re expected. In the U.K., you may be invited at 8:00 for 8:30, which means that you can
FROM ITALY ABOUT JAPAN
I m involved with product presentations for salespeople from other countries. All groups follow the same program, which usually finishes with dinner and entertainment in a restaurant. Several Japanese groups have surprised me by suddenly getting up and leaving, whether dessert has been served or not. Why is this?
I imagine this is a misunderstanding based on problems in communication, as most Japanese avoid being impolite. The sign that triggers their leaving can be that the senior manager gets up, and then everyone else must follow his example. But more likely is that they speak to each other and say, for example, ikimashoo or ikoo ” We re going now.
That they leave before dessert can be explained by the fact that desserts are not common in Japan, and
One last point: this program, and the menu, should be written in both English and Japanese. Although it is taught in
FROM BRAZIL ABOUT JAPAN
I ve heard that you shouldn t tip
anyonein Japan. Is that true?
That s right. Tipping in restaurants and hotels isn t customary in Japan because employees pride
Most countries have their own
In other countries,
FROM SPAIN ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS
I ll be visiting the Netherlands soon and have a question regarding eating out. If I m invited out for dinner, is it true that I should offer to pay for my own meal?
It is true that in the Netherlands friends eating out may well go Dutch, which means splitting the bill between them. This is also common in the U.S., the U.K., and Sweden. However, if you are invited out by a business acquaintance, it is usually
GLOBAL BUSINESS STANDARDS
Usually the person who has issued the invitation pays for everyone (but see Russia).
Knives and forks are held in right and left hands, respectively, and stay there throughout the meal.
A service charge is usually included in the bill, but a small additional amount may be left for really good service. (See Letter 60.)
Avoid using the unclean left hand when eating or passing someone food or any other article.
Whether to discuss business during mealtimes is a tricky point. You can introduce business tactfully toward the end of the meal. If your dining partner joins in enthusiastically, fine. If not, drop the subject until you are back at the office.
Evening meals are eaten later than is usual in the U.S., Northern Europe, and Asia.
Australia: Tea may be either afternoon tea, a light meal at 4:00 or 5:00 P.M., or high tea, a more substantial meal at the end of the working day. It is common for friends to split the bill. In business, the host pays.
Austria: Breakfast meetings are rare. People arrive punctually for meals rather than fashionably late. Evening meals are earlier than in many other countries (approximately 6:00 to 8:00 P.M.). Guten Appetit is said at beginning of every midday and evening meal. (See Letter 63.)
Belgium: Keep your hands on the table, not under it, during the meal. Business lunches are more common than dinners.
Brazil: Evening meals are eaten later than is usual in the U.S., Northern Europe, and Asia. (See Letters 63, 65, and 66.)
Canada: Most business entertaining is done over lunch, and sometimes over breakfast. It is less popular to engage in after-hours entertainment because it might interfere with private or family time. Evening meals are earlier than in many other countries (approximately 6:00 to 8:00 P.M.).
Formal banquets are an accepted way of entertaining visitors. Diners often choose and share from several smaller dishes served
Denmark: Work starts early, so breakfast meetings are acceptable. It is common for friends to split the bill. In business, the host pays.
Finland: See Denmark. (See Letter 63.)
Long lunches are taken seriously and
Germany: (See Letters 63 and 65.)
Hong Kong: See China.
India: Diners often choose and share from several smaller dishes served simultaneously. Forks and spoons are the most usual cutlery (knife and fork in Western restaurants). At informal meals, people may eat with fingers only.
Indonesia: Evening entertaining is more popular than lunches. Forks and spoons are usually used. If you use a toothpick, cover your mouth with your hand.
Italy: Evening meals are eaten later than is common in the U.S., Northern Europe, or Asia. Use your fork and knife to eat fruit and cheese, which are common desserts. (See Letters 61, 63, 64, and66.)
Japan: Tipping is not customary. Western-style cutlery is not common. (See Letters 59, 64, and 65.)
Mexico: Evening meals are eaten later than is common in the U.S., Northern Europe, or Asia. (See Letters 63 and 66.)
Netherlands: It is common for friends to split the bill. In business, the host pays. (See Letter 66.)
Norway: It is common for friends to split the bill. In business, the host pays. There is very limited nightlife outside big hotels. (See Letter 63.)
Poland: Breakfast meetings are rare. Lunch can be as late as 4:00 or 5:00 P.M. (See Letter 63.)
Meals are important for building relationships and give time for conversation. Even if invited out by a Russian contact,
South Africa: Tea may be either afternoon tea, a light meal at 4:00 or 5:00 P.M., or high tea, a more substantial meal at the end of the working day.
Evening meals are earlier than in many other countries (approximately 6:00 to 8:00 P.M.). Avoid holding your rice bowl near your mouth and scooping food into your mouth with your chopsticks. While this is acceptable in other
Spain: Evening meals are eaten very late. Breakfast meetings are a rarity. (See Letters 61, 63, and 66.)
Sweden: Breakfast meetings are acceptable. It is common for friends to split the bill. In business, the host pays. (See Letters 60, 61, 63, and 66.)
Switzerland: When cheese, fruit, and sandwiches are served, in most cases you should use cutlery, even if you are accustomed to eating the offered food with your fingers in your home country.
Taiwan: See China.
Thais typically eat with a fork and a spoon. Food is often shared from plates set in the middle of the table. Avoid helping yourself to the last bit of food in a serving dish. If it is offered to you, it is best to
Turkey: Turks may smoke between courses and use toothpicks. If you use a toothpick, cover your mouth with your hand. (See Letters 63 and 66.)
UK: Tea may be either afternoon tea, a light meal at 4:00 or 5:00 P.M., or high tea, a more substantial meal at the end of the working day. It is common for friends to split the bill. In business, the host pays. Drink soup by moving the spoon away from your body. (See Letters 60, 63, and 66.)
US: Snacking (eating small amounts at irregular times) is a national custom. People often eat lunch at their desks. It is common for friends to split the bill. In business, the host pays. Evening meals are earlier than in many other countries (approximately 6:00 to 8:00 P.M.). Business is often discussed during meals. It is important to leave a tip of between 15 and 20 percent. (See Letters 65 and 66.)
Venezuela: Evening meals are eaten later than is common in the U.S., Northern Europe, or Asia. Three-hour lunches are not uncommon. (See Letters 63 and 66.)