10 Rude Manners That Are Actually Polite in Other Countries

Think it’s impolite to burp after a meal? Think again. What may be a no-no at a Canadian dinner table is totally acceptable in other cultures.

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Siblings drinking milkshakes at cafe
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Burping and slurping at the dinner table

In China and Taiwan, burping is the highest form of flattery—it means you like the food! “The host considers the noise a compliment,” says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of the Etiquette School of New York. Slurping your noodles pays the same respect.

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Woman drinking mulled wine alone at restaurant
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Arriving to a dinner date late

In India, it’s totally acceptable to show up to dinner 15 or 30 minutes behind schedule. Why? “They’re a little more relaxed about time than we are,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick. Unlike Western cultures, Indians value relationships with people over being punctual.

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Friends drinking wine together
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Chugging a glass of wine

In Georgia (the country), tradition calls for you to down your entire glass in one go after a toast. Thankfully for your liver, the glasses tend to be on the small side.

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Young couple ordering from waiter in restaurant
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Not offering to split the bill

In France, splitting the bill is deemed “unsophisticated.” To avoid dirty stares, you should offer to pay the entire bill, or let someone else pay.

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Couple feeding each other
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Feeding someone food with your hands

In Ethiopia, feeding each other with your hands is a gesture of hospitality. The tradition, called gursha, is intended to build trust and social bonds between those sharing the food.

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Afternoon dinner party
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You don’t thank a friend or family member for inviting you over for dinner

In India, thanking the host at the end of a meal is considered a form of payment and frowned upon. Instead, return the favour by inviting them over for dinner next time, which shows that you value the relationship. “But when you do, make sure it’s not nicer than their dinner for you,” Napier-Fitzpatrick says. A comparable dinner will compliment your guest without outdoing their own.

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Fallen ice cream cone
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Eating food off of the ground

In the Middle East, if you drop bread on the ground, you should pick it up, kiss it, and raise it to your forehead before putting it back on your plate. This shows respect for your food and the work that went into making it.

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Plate after finishing dessert
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Not finishing everything on your plate

In many Asian countries, wiping your plate clean means that your host didn’t feed you enough. Leave a small portion of food on your plate, instead, to indicate that you’ve had your fill—otherwise, your host will continue refilling your plate until they run out of food!

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Man eating sandwich
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Playing with your food

In Germany, cutting up your potato with a knife implies that you don’t think it’s all the way done. To avoid insulting your host, smash your potatoes with a fork, instead (plus, you’ll get better gravy coverage!). And no matter where you eat in the world, Napier-Fitzpatrick says, “if you refuse their food, you refuse their culture, which is refusing them. So you should at least try the food, if you can.”

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Friends at a dinner party
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Swearing at the dinner table

It’s been said that in medieval France, diners would swear at a chicken before it was carved. It’s anyone’s guess as to why this was the norm. Perhaps doing so brought good luck?

Next, get to know the rules for tipping in other countries.
Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest