One of the most obvious ways we see the impact of culture is in all the activity that goes on around the area of food.


I am of Indian Punjabi origin and it is interesting how food is such an important part of life. When a host asks you if you want to eat something it is customary to be asked on several occasions and to keep refusing before finally agreeing on the fourth or fifth request. I didn’t realised how ingrained this was within me until after I moved away from home and experienced hospitality from different cultures. By contrast one request was the only chance  you got and if you were expecting further opportunities to be asked if you wanted food then it was too late!

Below are some interesting cultural habits around food. The habit is described and I have left a space for you to try to try guess which country it is from. The answers are at the bottom of the post – don’t scroll down too fast if you want to try to guess the answers!

1. In which country must you never touch food or eat anything with your fingers during a meal?

2. During meal times very little talk takes place however small talk often talks place over tea in which country?

3. If you have finished your drink of tea or broth turn your gown (you drink out of these in the country) upside-down to indicate that you have had enough, or the hosts will simply refill your bowl.

4. When dining together, it is considered respectful to wait for the host or hostess to take the first bite of their food before you eat. Where is this generally the rule?

5. To eat noisily (especially to slurp) is to show appreciation of a meal and is a compliment to the chef in which country?

6. Whenever you catch the eye of someone who’s eating (stranger or not) say ‘enjoy’ (in their language!) is good manners and is the norm. Where?

7. Eating from individual plates strikes most in this country as hilarious, bizarre and wasteful. Food is practically always shared from a single plate without the use of cutlery.

8. If you are having a snack in a cafe in this country it is totally fine to drop your litter on the cafe floor once you have finished! Which country is this?

9. It is the height of rudeness not to get eye contact while clinking glasses with one another in this country. Where? 

10. It is very normal to start a dinner party at 8 and leave after an early breakfast the following morning (4/5 am) in which country?


And the answers:

1. Bolivia

2. Vietnam

3. Kazakhstan

4. United Kingdom

5. Japan

6. Mexico

7. Ethiopia

8. Spain

9. Austria


I am grateful to Nicola Woollatt and Anna Bishop for their research and my wife Sally for directing me to these interesting examples. If it is any consolation I only got one right!

How did you do?

Do you have any interesting cultural stories around food?