In a restaurant or a hotel the way the table is set will have a bearing on good food etiquette. Having everything your guests need to hand is the step toward polite dining but food etiquette stretches beyond good quality cutlery or fine bone china crockery. It also extends beyond smartly folded napkins and using the right wine glass.

Different cultures have different food etiquette; in fact, hotels might want to be mindful of food etiquette rules especially when welcoming international guests to the dining room. This short guide from Alliance gives an interesting insight into food etiquette customs around the world. It’s not just about keeping your elbows off the table while eating your main course, avoiding talking with your mouth full or trying not to slurp your soup in front of your friends…there’s so much more to it! Knowing the correct form of food etiquette could save a lot of red faces!


United Kingdom

When a meal is finished, you should never cross your knife and fork, instead align them together (fork first) down the centre of the plate, handles pointing towards the table’s edge. Never begin a meal unless your companions have theirs in front of them. The exception to this rule is if the food is hot and there are more than three people seated at the table, in which case if these three people have had their food set in front of them, you may start (this is so your food doesn’t get cold while waiting for everyone else to be served).

When using a spoon, only eat food off the side of it. Never lower your face to the food, lift the fork or spoon up to your mouth. If you are eating food with pips or stones, discreetly spit the pip or stone into your left hand (which should be cupped) and drop the pip or stone onto the side of your plate. When eating soup, the plate should be tipped away from you and the spoon used to scoop up the soup. Did you know that when eating peas, they should be crushed onto the fork? Finally, you should never lick a knife, take food off someone else’s plate or use a napkin as a tissue and blow your nose!


In Russia it’s considered rude to refuse a glass of vodka no matter what time of day and you shouldn’t ask for a mixer either because the vodka must be drunk completely neat. This is because mixing vodka with anything is seen as spoiling its special flavour although you can mix it with beer because this transforms it into another popular Russian drink.


In Japan remember to lay down your chopsticks together directly in front of you, using the chopstick rest (lay the tips on the chopstick rest) and if not, the chopsticks should be placed parallel to the table’s edge. Here’s another handy tip, if you’re eating a bowl of rice and pause between mouthfuls never put your chopsticks in the middle of the rice standing upwards because this is only done at Japanese funerals when a bowl of rice with chopsticks standing up inside is put in front of the coffin. Additionally, don’t pass food using chopsticks because this is another custom carried out only at funerals. While on the subject of chopstick positioning, don’t cross them over as it’s considered rude too. Don’t tip in Japan, the Japanese believe that it’s rude! However, in Japan you can slurp your soup and noodles with abandon and make plenty of noise because this shows the chef how much you’re enjoying the food!


Similar to the Japanese, the Chinese don’t expect a tip and many restaurants state they have a no-tip rule. In China you are actively encouraged to belch during your meal because it’s a sign that you are enjoying the food but leave a little food on the plate as this is considered to be polite, it shows the chef that you were given more than enough food to eat.


Indian culture respectfully expects you to wash hands before and after eating (hence why Indian restaurants give you a towel before and after a meal). You should also never eat with your left hand as this is the hand believed to be unclean. In India, cutlery isn’t usually provided (although it is in UK Indian restaurants) so get used to using your right hand if you’re visiting the country! Unlike China, Indians don’t leave food on a plate as it’s considered wasteful so best advised not to over-order.


In Thailand you will be given a fork and spoon to eat your food and you should push the food using the fork onto the spoon and eat from it.


In Chile it’s considered rude to eat any food with your fingers – that means anything! So when visiting this country, whatever you’re eating, use a knife and fork.



Don’t ask for salt and pepper if it’s not provided with your meal because in doing so you will offend the chef who will assume the food wasn’t tasty enough for you!


Never ask for extra cheese unless it’s offered and don’t even think about adding it to seafood – both of these actions are considered the height of rudeness!


In France bread isn’t given to diners to nibble on before the first course, it is there to enjoy with your meal and considered rude to eat beforehand. It’s also eaten with cheese traditionally at the end of a meal but you can always place your bread on your first course or main course plate because it’s considered the right thing to do or next to the plate directly on the table. This is why many French restaurants don’t provide you with a separate bread plate. If you’re dining in France or with a French person don’t offer to split the bill as it’s seen as very rude, you should pay for the meal yourself or wait for someone else to offer….of course this could result in a lot of waiting! Also, never rest your hands or elbows on the table, you can rest your wrists on the table but never place them in your lap.


Koreans respect their elders greatly so if you’re travelling through Korea and someone older than you offers you a beverage you should take it using both hands and then turn your head away from them to take a small sip. Additionally you shouldn’t leave the table until your companions have finished their meal and never begin eating unless the oldest male at the table has started.

For all you need to set the table politely and provide the right equipment, visit the Alliance website where you’ll find everything you need for every restaurant style and occasion.