If You Don't Finish Your Plate In These Countries, You Might Offend Someone

Learn which cultures find it offensive before you travel abroad.

Across the globe, there are many cultural differences that define each country. As a traveler, it’s important to educate yourself on what you should and shouldn’t do when visiting a new locale.

And since food is such a big part of travel, it’s important to learn the dining etiquette of each nation. It differs greatly from place to place. For example, in many areas of China it’s considered a compliment to burp after a meal ― a sign that you’ve eaten well ― while stateside, that same act will get you some serious side eye.

One easy way you can commit a faux pas while eating abroad is with your plate ― should you wipe it clean or leave some food? It all depends on where you are.

Here are four nations where what you do with your plate matters. Study up before you make another big trip.

Daniel Kulinski via Getty Images

In India, you should finish everything that is on your plate because it is considered a respect for the served food, and food in India is considered sacred. In South India, where food can be served on a banana leaf, it is polite to fold your leaf over from the top ― not from the bottom, because that indicates you were not satisfied.

The same is true about finishing your plate in Japan. The Japanese consider it rude to leave food on your plate, whether at home or at a restaurant. It’s related to one of the fundamental concepts in Japanese culture, mottainai, which is a feeling of regret at having wasted something.

In China, however, leaving behind an empty plate is a sign to the host that you’re still hungry. If you don’t want to eat more food, consider leaving a little behind to let the host know you have had enough.

Ethiopians don’t even bother with plates. Individual plates are considered wasteful. Folks share meals off of one big communal plate, and generally eat with their hands using injera ― a type of flat bread ― to pick up the food. So, don’t even think about asking for your own plate.

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