Hospitality customs from around the world

When planning a trip for business or pleasure, to ensure an authentic experience it’s always advisable to do some research on local customs to avoid culture shock, or inadvertently offending your hosts.

Feeling full Asian

Eastern cultures uphold many fascinating traditions that might seem unintuitive to some Westerners, often based around dining habits. For instance, by finishing a bowl of food you have been provided you are signalling that your host hasn’t provided enough, and they will feel compelled to refill your bowl until you are apparently satisfied.

Of course, religion also plays a large role in Eastern custom. Adherents of Islam across the Middle East and other parts of the Asia-Pacific tend not to use utensils, using only their right hand to eat and drink with, with the left hand reserved for personal hygiene.

Some customs run contrary to those found in other parts of the world, including the fact that tipping is considered impolite in Japan, South Korea, and China.

Sharing is caring in Africa

One of numerous wonderful rituals found in Africa is the Ethiopian tradition of gursha. This gesture of hospitality involves taking an often large morsel of food, wrapping it in injera – a type of flatbread – and placing it in the mouth of dining companion. This is seen as a sign of honour and a way to build social trust when sharing food.

In contrast to some of the Asian countries mentioned above, in South Africa it is an insult to leave food on your plate, and tipping is comparable to the USA, in that it is generally expected whenever someone has performed a service for you.

Watch the salt in South America

Across South America, there are many shared customs, such as the way you pass the salt at the table. By directly handing over the salt cellar to someone else, instead placing it on the table close to the person for them to pick it up, you’ll be the cause of bad luck and might greatly upset the person. Also, you should never make a toast with water, which is akin to wishing someone bad luck or even death on them.

The drinking giants of Europe

European customs are also frequently based around drinking habits. In Georgia, for example, wine is not to be sipped. Rather, at the supra feast, wine is consumed only as a toast at the end of the meal when it is downed in one go – fortunately it is usually only a small glass. Guests in Russia are typically welcomed with a shot of vodka. But, be warned. There is also the prevalent drinking game called ‘Man Down’, where people drink vodka until only one remains standing, and to refuse to participate can be seen as a huge insult to the host.

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