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Planning for Thanksgiving dinner got me thinking about manners and how they differ from one country to another. 

In Spain, hands are kept on the table throughout the meal, with the wrists resting on the edge of the table. Pizza, sandwiches, and toast are eaten with a knife and fork.  Fruit, a common dessert, is peeled with a table knife before eating.  Oh, and  expect comments if you eat "like an American" ie., switching your fork from right to left to cut food.  Spaniards eat with the fork in their left hand, even if they are not lefties.

If you host a dinner party in Mexico, expect your guests to arrive at least 30 minutes late, if not closer to an hour.  I had heard about this before I moved there but I didn't really believe it.  It's true.  Keep your hands on the table here, too.

The British use a fork with the tines facing down.  I've seen several different theories about why they do this but I think it has something to do with their fondness for peas.  It is easier to get peas on to the back of a fork with a gentle nudge from a knife than it is with the tines up.

The Chinese eat with chopsticks in their right hand, even if they are left-handed.  Making slurping or burping noises is not considered rude, it means that someone is enjoying their meal.  If you are seated at the children's table on Thanksgiving Day, explain this Chinese custom and you'll have a table full of snorters and belchers. You'll be very popular.  With the kids.

Contrary to popular belief, Italians do not swirl their spaghetti in a spoon.  Never cut your pasta; pasta is eaten only with a fork.  Even though spaghetti lends itself to inadvertent slurping, do not make any noises while you eat.   Don't be tempted to try it with children; table manners are important in Italy and children are taught them from a very young age.

Have you come across interesting and different manners in other cultures?

 


 
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