Different Dining Etiquette in Asia

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It’s also important to consider and understand how different the various countries and regions within Asia are regarding their dining etiquette, because each culture has its own customs and rules that should be recognised and adhered to when visiting or dining in that country. The gained knowledge of these rules may be of great interest or necessary in tourist and visitor situations, but it also helps those involved in the social and business sectors, who may wish to build better relations with nations in the eastern hemisphere.

You may have heard the word “etiquette” being thrown around, but be left wondering what it actually means. Well, in the context of dining, etiquette means the customary code of polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession or group. In other words, it’s simply what is considered the right or polite way to behave. Cultural heritage and tradition are important aspects of a country, and creating bonds between people of different cultural backgrounds very often occurs through sharing food and conversation. The need to learn and understand the dining etiquette in Asia comes from this idea; we should know proper manners and morals in order to develop mutual respect between different people and to understand each other’s different lifestyles and ways of thinking more clearly.

Dining etiquette in Asia is often very different from what those in the west are used to. For example, in Japan it is customary to say “itadakimasu” before a meal, which is similar to saying grace in English, and “gochisosama” after eating, which thanks everyone for the meal. These are just a couple of examples of the fascinating dining traditions you can find throughout Asia. These cultural differences are not just curiosities to be read about on travel blogs- understanding different dining etiquettes is one of the best ways to understand and experience a different culture and often a way to get to know people in a more relaxed environment.

It is a well-known fact that different countries and cultures have different dining etiquettes, which can be a real minefield to the uninitiated. Whether it’s learning how to use your chopsticks properly in Japan, or making sure you don’t insult the host by cleaning your plate in China, the one thing that every dining etiquette has in common is that it shows the host great respect and demonstrates that you are taking an interest in their culture. For many of us in the west, the basic table manners we learn as children are all we know when it comes to dining etiquette. However, as our world becomes more interconnected, knowing and understanding the dining etiquette of other cultures has become a real asset, both personally and in business.

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Importance of Dining Etiquette

It is of great importance. In most cases, a meal in an Asian culture is a social event as much as a time to eat. Mastering the practice of dining etiquette that are commonly expected in Asian culture will enable you to relax and enjoy the meal as well as impress your host. Get it wrong and it could mean embarrassment for you and your hosts. It will also ensure that you’ve done everything properly to ensure good luck. For example, in China, certain dining etiquette is strongly associated with the beliefs that good and bad luck can be brought to the whole group. Therefore, observing traditional formalities can be considered as showing respect to a heritage which is much treasured. Also, observing the proper dining etiquette. For instance, using chopsticks properly and putting other people’s needs before yours can be seen as qualities that can lead to a successful life. This is why Asian families start to train their children in the practice from a young age. It’s not only about the young and the old, but it is also about men and women. Sharing the same concept with Fengshui, the Chinese beliefs that keeping all the things in an organized way should lead to a better life. One of the important dining etiquettes is showing your personal attentiveness, which includes personal hygiene and table manners. By paying attention to personal appearance and the condition of the dining table, you are showing respect to the host. Well, it seems that nothing is beyond the practice of the traditional dining etiquette: let’s see, even the number of times to pour the tea is also fixed and equal to a maximum of four cups of time. Modernization, however, has swept some of these practices under the rug. Nevertheless, it is always polite to show your understanding and inclinations towards the traditional practices. Nowadays, you can enjoy a wide variety of Asian food throughout your adventure, but wouldn’t it be great to be invited for an authentic Asian dining served at your friend’s home? By following the dining etiquettes and adorning proper behavior, you may find more invitations to come as you’ve shown the proper respect and appreciation to the heritage practiced by the people. Well, eager to learn more about dining etiquette offered by each of the unique Asian cultures? Stay with us for upcoming discussions about specific dining etiquette in China, Japan, and India.

Cultural Significance of Dining in Asia

It’s common knowledge that food nourishes the body and keeps people alive. It revives energy. But food does not mean only that for Asians. In Asia, the act of eating and the food itself are not just means of relieving hunger or of nourishing the body. Meals are an important social time. The traditional view in the West is that while business, politics, diplomacy, and, to a certain extent, family life may be conducted at the dining table, they tend to be sandwiched between the real and more serious activities of life. In contrast, dining and food are the focus of attention in and of themselves in Asia. Social activities such as dinner sales, arranged marriage, funeral, death commemorations, festivals and temple festivities are associated with special traditional food. The next offering to a monk indeed is considered by the devout as the chief source of merit. So the cultural belief that the good things in life should be garnered from diverse sources and eaten in quantities is backed by religion. In many cases, food has a ritualistic role. Ghost and God appeasement, good luck to relative or oneself, happiness, prosperousness and longevity are the objectives. It is therefore that the numerous taboos and do’s and dont’s associated with food are respected and govern life. Food is believed to affect the state of one’s soul. For example, Brady (ref. 1) pointed out that in the Buddhist’s belief, to eat the flesh with attachment, anger, and ignorant is to eat the food of the spirits of misery, horror, destruction and death. It not only means the food will give rise to ill health, but also produces sympathy for the hungry spirits and one would have no chance of progressing onto happiness. It may seem to many Westerners that a meal is a natural, everyday event. Hungry? Grab a bite. Guest is coming? Order some takeout. We are busy and little time can be spent for actual cooking or eating in a restaurant. The general belief is that food is food, which is going to be a quick delight to the stomach and then that’s the end of it. On the other hand, the Asian cultural belief is continued by some older generation and a number of taboos may also be taken into consideration by the younger generations. Craving for certain Western fast food? It may disappoint someone to find out the food may bring bad luck according to a religious point of view. This will cause a conflict between the craving for the Western fast food and to respect the Asian traditional beliefs. It is a real life example of the fact that food is not just food. Also, cultural expectation is identified where Chinese is expected to view the action of eating as an exercise to utilize the impacts of medical treatment with regard to their own body well-being. It is commonly noted by the dietitians that Chinese people favour a diet that utilizes food therapy by consuming them under the traditional Chinese medicine, each dish has their own temperature property (hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold) and their own function to a particular bodily need. Concetti has stated that the importance of Yin and Yang in the Chinese community in that when the body sustains illness, it is commonly believed that the body is under the dominant of Yin or Yang, the two main forces in the universe. Hence meals are usually prepared in such way that the balance can be restored. Also, some food that the Chinese believed can heal or develop the bodily health are chicken, dove, ginger, ginseng root, donkey-hide gelatin, deer horn and deer placental. Placing all these into the diet with due care, it is certain that the food would not be just a quick delight to the stomach, but it may offer and enhance the balance of bodily yin and yang. Such cultural importance of food reflects the continuity of the tradition and daily life practices in the Asian communities around the world.

Japanese Dining Etiquette

Japanese dining etiquette follows a set of certain rules. Normally, Japanese people are not only stick to their local customs, but they also respect other cultures. For example, it is customary to remove shoes before entering a restaurant because in Japan, it is common to eat while sitting. Sitting cross-legged or with the knees on the floor is called “Seiza” and is considered the most polite way to sit in Japan. It is also believed that this type of sitting promotes quiet reflection. Therefore, it is important to never place shoes in the wrong direction in front of the entrance. Additionally, Japanese people do not eat or drink while walking on the street as it is considered very impolite. In some areas, there are signs prohibiting eating on the street during specific times, such as in the morning and evening when many people are commuting to work or home. Even if you have a delicious pancake in your hand, you must put it in your bag and wait until you are in the appropriate area to eat it. Before entering a building, use the mat placed outside the front door to clean your shoes. Then, take off your outdoor shoes, turn around 180 degrees, and quickly put on indoor slippers. When you turn around, make sure you are not barefoot as it is considered impolite in Japan. If you are a beginner, you may feel tired after a long trip, but remember that in Japan, bathroom slippers are only used in the toilet! Never walk to the living room or kitchen wearing the bathroom slippers. Also, the shoes worn in the toilet should never be taken outside. In some special restaurants, you are not allowed to wear the slippers provided outside the entrance. These restaurants are mainly for people wearing traditional Japanese YUKATA or Kimono costumes. In these cases, you should take off your slippers and place them inside a locker next to the entrance before going upstairs. This is a typical Japanese tradition and is mainly found in traditional Japanese restaurants. Customers can wear slippers to appreciate the beauty of a garden, but they cannot wear them on the tatami (a type of mat used as a flooring material in Japanese-style rooms). Wearing slippers on tatami can cause damage to the mat and is considered very impolite. Lastly, customers can only place their order once they have found the right table to sit at. It is considered proper etiquette to not wave to the waiters for service while waiting in line and observing the available tables. This helps maintain order in the restaurant.

Removing Shoes Before Entering

In Japanese dining etiquette, it is customary to remove shoes before entering, properly use chopsticks, and consider slurping noodles polite. Removing shoes before entering someone’s home in Japan is a common practice. Japanese houses have wooden floors, and there is a cultural and practical reason for taking shoes off before entering. One of the main practical reasons for not wearing shoes at home is hygiene. It is a way to keep the living areas clean, and Japanese people believe that keeping the outside world separate is worthwhile for good health. Additionally, a clean home makes the gods happy, according to the Shinto religion. Another reason for taking off your shoes before entering a house is connected to the prevention of fires. In the past, people in Japan used to protect their wooden homes and floorings from accidental fires by leaving their footwear outside. When there is constant shoe removal and entry in socks or indoor slippers, it becomes like second nature and it can feel odd to wear shoes indoors. Most of the traditional ryokans, which are Japanese-style inns, have a genkan – the area near the front door of a house where you can take off your shoes and step into the home. This custom extends further to public spaces in Japan. There are some restaurants and temples, and even in the indoor area of some castle grounds, where shoes must be taken off and left in a secure shoe deposit. In these cases, you can either wear the slippers provided or just go in your socks. According to the Japan guide, a travel website, “unless indicated otherwise, it is customary to take off your shoes before entering the room”. The article on the website “How to Behave in Japan: Essential Japanese Manners and Etiquette” explains that the Japaneseness of a household can be gauged by how clean the shoe storage area and slippers are. It also suggests “never keep your outdoor shoes in a disorganized manner or wear indoor slippers rather than your own shoes”. It is also recommended not to climb onto the step or floor in dirty socks and to be careful when stepping into a higher level because it could be slippery. In conclusion, respecting Japanese cultural custom of removing shoes before entering a home and other places, such as temples and restaurants, and following practical advice for maintaining hygiene would be appreciated by the Japanese people and can help ensure a pleasant visit to Japan.

Proper Use of Chopsticks

Chopsticks are a part of Chinese and Japanese table manners. In Japanese dining etiquette, it is important to use chopsticks properly. At the beginning of the meal, it is customary to transfer food from the communal plates to your own dish, using the opposite end of the chopsticks you put in your mouth. This is because in Japan, as in many Asian countries, it is traditional to use two pairs of chopsticks to transfer a deceased person’s bone at a Japanese funeral. It is important to hold the chopsticks near their top, not in the middle or the front third. This is because it is a sign of good manners and holding them in the front third is how the homeless hold them. It is not a custom to rest the chopsticks horizontally on the top of your dish, or sticking the chopsticks upright in the rice or passing food with chopsticks to another person. This is because it resembles the ritual of ‘kotsuage’ where family of the deceased pass around and pick up the large bones and part of the ashes of the deceased with chopsticks at a Japanese funeral. Also, it is not a custom to spear food with a chopstick. Traditionally, cremated bones are passed from person to person and the bones are placed into the urn. By passing bones with chopsticks is how the relatives have traditionally helped laying the deceased to rest. It is important to present an offering so that a spirit could pass peacefully and that the deceased would not come back to the land of the living as an angry spirit. This is why it is wrong to do these acts during a meal. The proper use of chopsticks differs significantly between Japanese and Chinese cultures; for instance, Chinese people may use chopsticks to pass for food during a meal. Well-practised chopstick use is a valuable skill that may take some time for foreigners to acquire. Patience and practice, and knowing what not to do with chopsticks, is golden.

Slurping Noodles Considered Polite

As my personal observation, the noodle slurping is a good example to illustrate the cultural difference of the interpretation of “good manners” between Japan and the Western countries. It reflects that Japanese people are more open to show their feelings, and they do not really forget about themselves while enjoying the meal. I believe that learning from cultural differences can provide us a more comprehensive knowledge of respecting others in our global community, and it is truly an eye-opening experience. Well, well, well, let’s start practicing the “slurp”.

Another possibility is that Japanese people believe that a bowl of hot noodles should be eaten quickly so that they can taste the best of it. By making “slurp” noises, it can indicate the noodles are delicious and fresh. However, not all Japanese people like to eat in such a loud way. Nowadays, more and more people prefer to keep quiet and enjoy the meal peacefully. Slurping is just a sign to show that people are enjoying the dish. In Tokyo, however, there are signs even showing “slurping allowed” for people to feel more comfortable to eat how they like. Also, for the tourists with no knowledge about this, they can definitely give it a try to eat like a Japanese in this way, and it would be a memorable experience for them. Considerate of others, some people just try to eat a little bit quieter in public because noisy eaters may still affect others. As a result, there are some debates on such behaviors. However, Japan Today concludes that if the Japanese and the foreigners are enjoying the meal at different places, respect the cultural differences and eat the way you like. Seiji, writer of Japan Today, said that “no one should be forced to change their eating habits because of some foreigner’s dislike,” and he thinks that people can eat from “convenient” and “comfortable” for themselves.

“Menrui,” which is noodle lovers in Japanese, and “ramen” fans were asked about their ways of eating noodles. Over 50 and 60 percent of them said they like to eat in “slurping” styles instead of eating in silence. When we talk about the history behind the Japanese noodle slurping, the information is quite uncertain. It can be referred back to the Edo era between 1603-1868. It is said that diners could show their compliments to the chef by making “slurping” noises while eating noodles. As a result of this, the custom has been carried on until nowadays and then it becomes a tradition.

After this small bite, I started to look more into “Slurping noodles in Asian culture.” It is not only about noodles but also about the proper dining etiquette in Far East countries. According to Japan Today, Japanese admitted that their most favorite way to eat noodles is “slurping.” The noise and the mess that slurping may create are associated with poor table manners in the Western world, but people in Japan do not see it as a “bad” habit, even though there are some complaints.

When it comes to eating noodles in the Western world, it is not always a pleasant experience. A pack of noodles with flavor additives and a slurping noise are not that attractive for most people.

Chinese Dining Etiquette

Chinese dining etiquette is quite unique and steeped in tradition. Quite a number of people are sometimes taken aback by the many cultural rules. One of the very first things that one has to learn is that once you step into a Chinese dining room, you may as well throw out all thoughts of ‘personal space’. The Chinese are quite pragmatic in their views around dining. Space is a premium and every bit of this is utilised. It’s not considered rude to reach across someone – and even in some cases it’s expected that you do! I remember my experience coming to London – I went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with my English colleagues. There were three of us sitting on one side of the table and a couple and a friend sitting on the other side. The friend needed to use the restroom and everyone on the other side stood up to let him out – and sat back down. I explained to my friend, “This is the only time I felt far away from food in a Chinese dinner setting”. When selecting a restaurant to treat your Chinese friends, it can be looked upon highly if the restaurant has ‘feng shui’ – yes, even more so than the quality of food. ‘Feng shui’ consultants are known to advise on which table should be designated for the most prestigious guests and what times are most auspicious for reservations. So in a place where ‘The Chairman’ sits and at the right time – it is sure to impress!

Seating Arrangements and Hierarchy

Unlike the Western dining style, which usually uses a set of utensils and each individual serves his or her dish, traditional Chinese dining usually serves a lauriat type, that is, food is placed in the center of the table and people serving their dish from there. In addition, in a formal and traditional Chinese dining, people seat around the table in a circular manner and there’s a very strict seating protocol. At the center of the seating, usually we will have the guest with the highest status or the elderly. The person to the right of the guest will usually be the primary host, and his or her partner usually sits on the left-hand side of the guest. The further you place from the center of the seating, the less significant your position is. Last but not least, kids are usually placed in the rightmost seat in order to give more respect to the elderly. However, with the influences of Western culture, more and more families start to adopt the ‘random’ seating style in their mealtime, where everybody can sit wherever they want. But the traditional way of seating, based on status and hierarchy, is still adopted in many formal Chinese celebrative meals, such as Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner, birthday celebration for the elderly, and etc.

Proper Use of Chopsticks and Table Manners

Proper use of chopsticks is essential in Chinese dining etiquette. There are specific regulations that need to be followed for placing and holding the chopsticks while eating. The first rule is to place the chopsticks properly, with the top ends level and the other ends apart on the table. One should never leave the chopsticks inserted into a bowl of rice at an angle because that is how a bowl of rice is offered to the dead. The correct way is to lay them horizontally on the top of the bowl. In addition, it is important to select the right pair of chopsticks because in many Chinese households, different pairs are used for different occasions. For example, some chopsticks are made for daily use and others are used for special gatherings like birthdays or New Year celebrations. Many families only use their best chopsticks when they have guests for special banquets. Holding chopsticks in the right way is another key element of Chinese dining etiquette. The correct method is to place a chopstick between the base of the thumb and the top of the ring finger, and secure it with the tip of the middle finger. The first chopstick should remain stationary and rest against the ring finger and the base of the thumb; this method allows the second chopstick to move. Most importantly, one should never point a chopstick at another person on the dining table because it is considered very rude. Also, never cross the pair or lay them pointing in different directions. When not in use, the chopsticks should be placed on the edge of a plate, or on a chopstick rest. Apart from using chopsticks properly, there are also some table manners that must be observed in Chinese dining culture. For example, never make a loud noise on the dining table, never pick the teeth or scratch the head, and never keep elbows on the table. Most importantly, one should never use the body to block others’ way in reaching dishes available on the table. All of those rules are designed for maintaining the harmony during meals and to show respect to others.

Toasting and Drinking Etiquette

Before giving a toast in China, you should make sure to pour your neighbor’s drink first, and the favor will be returned. When giving a toast, you should hold your glass higher than the person you are toasting and lower your sight. It is common for people to clink their glasses not just in toasting, but in greeting each other and the noise is considered as cheery. After the first toast, it is not necessary for all to drain their glass, only to touch the drink and turn the glass slightly to each direction when toasting. For all toasts and cheers, say “Ganbei!” (bottom up), and you will win respect at the table. If you are not drinking alcohol, you should say “Suibian!” (as you like) and do not cheer at the same time as others. As Chinese people like to show their enthusiasm by putting extra drinks into others’ glass, therefore, if you do not want anymore, you can put your hand over the mouth of your glass. Also keep in mind to take a sip only after the host has made his first drink because that serves as an invitation to everyone to do the same. Just as the Chinese people have their own customs and etiquette in drinking, dining is also marked by several typical features, such as diners are seated according to their social and official ranks and the host will suggest the first toast. Even though many modern dining features are influenced by the western dining civilization, these traditions are mostly still maintained. Such rhythmic custom in China not only adds color to dining, but also reflects the richness of social life. By observing those small tips in toasting and drinking, you will perceive that the first impression of Chinese dining custom is indeed very auspicious.

Leaving Some Food on the Plate as a Sign of Politeness

In Chinese dining etiquette, leaving some food on the plate is regarded as a sign of politeness because it indicates that the host has provided more than enough food. By leaving some food, guests are showing that they have been well fed and that the host is generous in providing more than sufficient food. This practice is rooted from an old Chinese tradition where both the host and the guest have to be humble. The guest must make sure that the last piece of food is left at the end of the meal and not finishing the entire meal, whereas the host has to try his or her best to over order food to show the hospitality. This concept, known as “modesty of the host” and “consideration for the guest”, does not only demonstrate a close relationship between the host and the guest but also reflect a harmonious atmosphere in the society. Traditionally, Chinese people do not like to waste food, but leaving a little bit of food at the end of the meal is an exception that everyone will accept. Nowadays, this practice is not just confined to family and friends dinner, but it is also commonly observed in business lunches or dinners between Chinese and foreign business counterparts. When the guests have been invited to a sit-down meal, the tradition of leaving some food on the plate is expected to be followed. To avoid possible inconvenience, the best way for a foreign guest is to adopt the local practice. However, if someone does not feel comfortable, it would usually be tolerated as long as he or she appreciates the generosity of the host. Some polite rejections of offers of more food should be responded because it demonstrates modesty which is commonly appreciated in China.

Indian Dining Etiquette

The Indian dining etiquette is very different from the Japanese, Chinese, or any other dining etiquette. It emphasizes eating with the right hand and not the left hand, which is used for washing after answering the call of nature. Using the right hand is also believed to bring more purity, and one must try to avoid using the left hand at the dining table at all costs. For the same logic, Indian dining etiquette also emphasizes sharing food from common dishes. It is said that by sharing the food among others from the same plate or the same dish, it increases the bonding among each other. Most importantly, the trust and forgo that everyone will not put any harmful substances into the food are also being shared by each other. Another unique point in Indian dining custom is that preference is always given to the elders or the guests. The most honored guest or the oldest in the family shall start eating first. Following that, others shall start accordingly based on the status. The logic behind this is that respect is being given to the elders or the most important guests. Besides, according to the Indian dining etiquette, serving and accepting food with the right hand is more proper and polite. Also, whenever food is being given, it is proper to touch the plate or the bowl as a sign of showing respect. In return, the receiver must show appreciation by touching the hand to the plate and then to the forehead.

Eating with Right Hand and Not Left Hand

The most important point to remember is to eat with your right hand and not with your left hand. Muslims in India consider the right hand as clean and use the left hand for cleaning the body after going to the toilet. As a respect to the religion and culture, never pass or accept anything with the left hand including food and drinks. Mind that some general Indian etiquette also ask people not to point, pass or take something with left hand. And always wash the hands before and after the meal. Also observe senior members of the group. They usually start first before anyone else can start eating. Indian food are rich in spice and taste. The first timers might find their mouths are on fire because of the chili. One common misconception is to order extra drinks like water or soft drinks to cool down the hot sensation. In Indian dining tradition, people believe that yogurt can ease that kind of sensation better than water. If you are not fancy of eating extremely spicy food, try to order food with mild or medium spice instead of hot. Yogurt daal, mint sauce and lassi can neutralize the effect of chilli. Chewing up some sugar, taking a slice of lemon and pour some salt on it or honey are also effective ways to cool down the sensation of hotness. Do not feel shame to ask the restaurant staff to customize the dish for you. Some dishes might contain certain ingredients that you do not like or you might have allergy to it. Indian has a wide range of vegetarian dishes such as vegetable korma, daal, palak paneer, navratan korma and etc. Never assume that all Indian dishes are hot and spicy; some of them are mild and sweet. Beside rice and bread, mopping up the remaining sauce or curry in the main dish by using naan is also part of Indian dining tradition. However, try not to use a half eaten bread to do so as it is considered unhygienic. Instead, break a small piece of naan and used it to scoop the remaining food to avoid wastage. Last but not least, 15% of service charge is usually fixed in some upscale Indian restaurants. If it is not included in the bill, tips should be given to the waiter to show the sense of gratitude for their service. However, no tips are expected for the roadside eateries or stall food. Tips in Indian is called baksheesh and it is not just as a reward for services but also to speed things along. For example, it is common to tip the waiter who has topped up your glass with lassi and he will do it more in the future without being called. Well appreciated service can be rewarded with more baksheesh. On the other hand, if a worker has help you such as carry your baggage, opened the car door or led the way to a place, do not forget to give him some tips as well. It does help to gain a more personal service from the locals.

Sharing Food from Common Dishes

In Indian dining etiquette, food is often served from common dishes. Diners should serve themselves a small portion to taste a little bit of everything first. Then, once they have tasted the food, it is acceptable to go back for more of a particular dish. It is considered to be polite and a sign of respect to leave some food on the plate. When food is shared from common dishes, the main idea is to have everyone taste a little bit of everything that is on the table. These dishes can range from rice, curries, vegetable dishes or meat dishes. It was explained to me that everyone should be offered a taste of each food on the table and it is good manners to partake in some of everything. So, it is important to ensure that no one hogs all of a certain dish just because it is their favourite! It is amazing to learn how different cultures have such different ways of approaching food and dining and I have to say, I love the idea that you are encouraged to eat a little bit of everything! It is also said that when food is offered, especially from a common dish, if you want to demonstrate extra respect to the person offering you food, touch your right elbow with your left hand as you take the dish with your right hand. It is to show that you also regard the person offering food with a lot of respect. Always remember not to say no to food if someone offers it to you as it is considered a little rude. However, if you really don’t want any more, just hold your right hand over your plate as a sign and gesture that the person can decide to stop putting more food on your plate.

Respecting Elders and Guests at the Table

Respecting elders is a key to receiving food in India – the elderly are served first, and they also dictate when everyone starts eating. Sometimes, elders will serve food to those younger than themselves. If someone’s plate is empty or running low, it is custom for the others at the table to give them more food. Guests in the house are also fed and treated diligently, and they will usually, although not always, be the first to be served and eat. When families eat together, sometimes the elders will get food and the youngsters will take their time and chat for a bit. This is a good mix of tradition and modernity that I have seen in my family. It is also notable that Indians tend to be passionate about food and, rich or poor, city or country dwellers, all accommodate food customs and sharing. This reflects the idea of Indian hospitality and the integration of food as part of Indian traditions and cultures. In the West, food is often seen as a necessity. In India, it is considered an offering to God, and eating at the dining table is a religious ceremony serving the ultimate aim of human life – four human goals (Purusharthas) in Hinduism, which are Dharma (duty/righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure/passion), and Moksha (salvation). When putting these teachings in digestion and conducting of food, we can appreciate and know more about Indian cultural beliefs.

Importance of Serving and Accepting Food with Both Hands

In continuation, one of the Indian dining etiquettes and mannerisms is to serve and receive food with both hands. It is also believed that when food is offered, it’s the blessing and love from the person offering you the food; it could be parents or anyone. When you use your hand to serve or take food from a common dish, you show the selfless and polite intention of allowing your guests or family members to take what they like first. When you do this, it’s a way to show respect and a polite manner to others. It is said in the ancient Indian scriptures that a person is what he eats. Therefore, you should only take or have the food that is offered with love and kindness. There is a belief that when someone gives you something, they let a part of their soul within you. That is why it’s important to be selective and take only the food that is offered to you and only when you are really hungry and need it. Another reason for receiving food with your hand is to avoid direct contact and the sharing of unwanted germs. This is a sanitary and healthy practice. Last but not least, serving and taking food require you to do it with your right hand, which is your dominant hand. It is considered impolite to use your left hand because it’s usually used for personal sanitary purposes. The left hand is also seen as unclean and by using the left hand to offer or receive food, one can show disrespect, impoliteness, and improper mannerism. All these little things have significant meaning in the Indian culture and tradition. These simple gestures can be transformed into ways of a healthy life, learning manners, and respecting others while sharing a global dining experience together.

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