Where I come from, there are more restaurants per capita, than almost anywhere in the world. Yet, sometimes on a Friday evening, my date and I have a hard time deciding where to go. Americans can be picky, demanding and indecisive, when it comes to choosing our cuisine. However, we love to eat. We love to be served. Our table manners are often very tight, indeed. Yet, as world travelers, we may seem a bit lost. If I were asked to take a journey to a foreign land today, I would want to know the customary dining habits first and foremost because, as I said, we love to eat. Here are some dining taboos from around the world… Most of them are quite fascinating. They all have one thing in common—before conducting my research, I had no idea about any of them.
Remember, a taboo is something which is considered socially unacceptable. So, when you are out there eating with others on the planet, you might want to keep these in mind.
10. From Russia with Love
So, let’s say you are back in the old motherland of Russia, and wish to court one of their beautiful ladies. Perhaps you’ll want to take her out for dinner and drinks. Well, fellas don’t expect to share the bill. On a formal date, it is tradition for that lady to leave her wallet at home; and, since you were the one who asked in the first place, it is customary for you to pay for everything involved that evening. If you think this sounds old-fashioned, you may be right. But, I ask you, what is wrong with a traditional romance?
9. The Japanese Culture
There is no doubt that Japan is a beautiful place. It is one place that is certainly at the top of many peoples’ lists, as a vacation destination. The symbolism of their beautiful language alone would be enough to charm the most pessimistic among us. But were you aware of the fact that, in Japanese culture, if you pass food from chopstick directly to chopstick, it symbolizes the act of handing a loved one’s bones after cremation? In this situation, perhaps it is a good thing if you don’t feel comfortable eating with chopsticks. The proper thing to do is to set the morsel on a dish and let the other pick it up from there. I am glad to know this.
8. China Grove
In China (another place many people would love to visit), the superstitions abound with regards to eating. First, do not point your chopsticks directly at someone. This is considered poor manners. More importantly, do not leave your chopsticks sticking up in the food at the end of a meal. If you do, you are employing the same behavior people employ when offering food to the dead. The result is that you put a ‘curse’ on the proprietor of the establishment. Who knew this? On the contrary, in America, where the portions are bountiful, we stick our forks in remaining food all the time.
7. New Guinea
This taboo is simple enough—if you are on your menstrual cycle, you will not be eating bananas, red-colored fruits or fresh meats. And, you would not want to eat food cooked by a woman on her menstrual cycle… Do not even let her step over the food! As an unmarried man, you are pretty much free to eat what you wish, the way you wish. Such is the way of the world, I suppose. If you eat food cooked by a woman on her menstrual cycle, expect to get a bad cough, or even die. Now, I do not know if this is true or not. But, I don’t think anyone would want to take the chance.
6. Religion’s Influence In India
More often than not, taboos are related to religion and social customs, with regard to a specific set of beliefs. For instance, in India, dining taboos are built around certain religious ideals. They vary, depending on what specific religion is being observed.
In India, try observing the Hindu customs for instance, wherein it is prohibited to eat cow because it is considered God’s sacred animal, because it provides products and services for human use. Muslim and Islamic families will often prohibit the eating of pork because they believe the animals to be filthy. I’m not sure I could go without my hamburgers or my bacon and eggs in the morning, could you?
5. Jamaican Me Crazy
As an American, it would be difficult to raise a child in Jamaica; although I hear the cliff-diving is second-to-none, and the scenery is just beautiful. It is said in Jamaica, that if a child eats chicken before it learns to talk, it will never, ever learn to speak properly. And the eating of half an egg will turn that particular child into a thief. Finally, drinking milk turns one into a drunkard. I would have been the world’s most notorious bad man by the age of five if any of this applied to American culture.
4. In Italy
I’m not Italian; but, many people mistake me for one, because of my dark features and olive skin. I would love to be Italian. In fact, I’ve spent half my life trying to perfect my Italian cooking. I love the sauces. I love the homemade pastas and desserts. I even admire their coffee. And, most importantly, I love Italians because they know how to eat. The portions are never-ending; and, the vino is good. But be sure to mind your manners when it comes to eating Italian. Never, ever accept the first offer of food—This is considered extremely rude. However, when asked a second time, do not hesitate.
3. Nigerian Intelligence
In Nigeria, there is a widely-held belief that if a child drinks coconut milk, he or she will lose intelligence. Also, as in Jamaica, it is believed that if a child eats an egg, he or she will become a thief. I think it would be unfortunate to go without eggs, or coconut milk for that matter. So, dear friend, imagine a life without fried eggs, scrambled eggs, quiche and hard-boiled Easter eggs. What would you do for breakfast?
2. Eat Everything in France
The taboo in France has to do with impeccable manners, as one might imagine. There, it is absolutely not acceptable to rush through the meal. Furthermore, it is important to finish your plate and never, ever ask for a doggy-bag. If you do, it will seem as if you did not enjoy your meal. I guess I would find it hard to leave anything on my plate because the French food seems to be delicious. I’ll start with some bread, please!
1. Coming to America
So, in America, we eat pie, cake, candy, meat and potatoes. We eat corn on the cob, caramel corn, popcorn and anything else we can get out hands on. We consume beef, sugared drinks, beer and lots of powdered doughnuts. But, even here, we have our taboos. For example, we do not eat domesticated animals such as cats or dogs, for instance. We do not munch on primates’ brains or any part of the primate. Now, in other parts of the world, these things are considered commonplace meals. In Peru, they eat rodents such as mice and rats. Certain things might not sound right for the palate for Americans, but they may sound appetizing for other cultures. Whale meat or dolphin meat are even considered delicacies in some parts of the world. Of course, give me a burger, a malt and an order of fries and I’m happy as a clam.