virtuoso communities The Dining Etiquette Every World Traveler Should Know

The Dining Etiquette Every World Traveler Should Know

Think twice before ordering a cappucino after dark in Rome. 
Think twice before ordering a cappucino after dark in Rome. 
Photo by YinYang/Getty Images 
Sushi customs in Japan, the best time to order a cappuccino in Italy, and other tips from Virtuoso travel advisors.

One of the best ways to explore a new destination is through its food – not only just by eating, of course, but by witnessing local culinary traditions and social culture too. That said, dining customs around the world can vary widely: What exactly is an oshibori, for example, and should you or should you not tip while in Europe? We asked Virtuoso travel advisors that specialize in culinary travel to drop their best dining etiquette knowledge on us. Here, their sage advice, so you and your appetite can embark equipped for success.   

Australia

  • “We have a very relaxed café and restaurant culture in Australia. Most of the time, you’ll have to signal a few times to get the bill. We don’t have bottomless cups of coffee; rather, we enjoy European-style cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites, and macchiatos. Expect to pay for each individual cup.” – Darryl Sloshberg 
Meals in Paris are laid-back and leisurely.
Meals in Paris are laid-back and leisurely.
Photo by Alex Kozlov/Getty Images 

France

  • “Don’t be alarmed by the lack of bread plates – bread goes directly on the table – and don’t expect beurre (butter) to accompany the bread. And never cut your lettuce; wrap it around your fork and knife instead.” – Mary Lou Yeager
  • “For dinner [in Paris], always have a reservation made prior to arrival. Servers will not come back to see if you like your meal – you’ll need to ask for them. Similarly, the check will not be brought until you ask for it.” – Nancy MacLeod

 Guatemala

  • “Some foods in Guatemala are commonly eaten on certain days of the week. For example, paches (potato-based tamales) are usually eaten on Thursdays. Guatemalans typically eat very late; dinner after 9 p.m. is customary.” – Caroline Labbé

 India

  • “It’s considered rude to leave anything on your plate in India, or to refuse more food – despite your host’s insistence that you take more than you can possibly eat!” – Ajay Karah

Indonesia

  • “You won’t find pork here. And you’ll use your fingers, or, if utensils are presented, it will only be a fork and spoon. Knives are never used.” – Caroline Labbé

Italy

  • “Don’t order cappuccino after dinner. The appropriate choice is an espresso (black coffee) or a grappa, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a caffè corretto – an espresso with a shot of grappa. Italians tend to eat in courses: antipasto (starter), primi (pasta or risotto), secondi (meat course) and dolce (dessert). But you don’t have to order one of each. It’s perfectly acceptable to share antipasto for the table and order a primi or a secondi.” – Myrna E. Arroyo
Happy hour essentials in Japan.
Happy hour essentials in Japan.
Photo by Nut Singthong/Getty Images 

Japan

  • “The oshibori (warm or cool towel) that’s provided when eating sushi is not meant to wipe your entire face. Its purpose is to clean your fingers if you’re not using chopsticks. Paper napkins are provided for wiping your lips. Never dip your sushi into the shoyu (soy sauce) with the rice side down; dip only a portion of the fish or protein side to avoid leaving a mess of grains floating in the shoyu.” – Randy King
  • “Never pour your own sake. Someone else at the table should serve you, and then you should serve them. It’s considered a sign of respect.” – Caroline Labbé
  • “My mother told me to never slurp, but slurping is welcomed and expected in Japanese culture when dining. It’s a sign of appreciation for the good food that you’re eating. Eat the food in the soup with chopsticks, and then raise the bowl to your mouth and drink in the broth.” – Janet McLaughlin 

Morocco 

  • “Don’t be surprised to not see utensils. Typically, you’ll be eating with your hands – primarily, the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the right hand. In many authentic restaurants in Morocco, you’ll also be expected to sit on the floor." – Caroline Labbé

Russia and Ukraine

  • “It’s customary to find a bottle of vodka at your table. It should be used to cleanse the palate before each course – not as a drink. Depending on your tolerance and the number of courses you’re having – be careful.” – Ajay Karah

Worldwide 

  • “Tipping in Europe is generally at 10 percent. Europeans don’t expect the 15-20 percent gratuity that the American service industry does. In many instances, the service fee is included in the cost and will be stated in English. If you don’t know, simply ask. Due to a higher minimum wage in Australasia, Australians and New Zealanders don’t expect tips. They’re welcomed, but never obligatory. Asian countries all have their own rules – normally a 10 percent gratuity is included in most full-service restaurants and in four- and five-star hotels.” – Janet McLaughlin

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