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The Daily Dish Food and Drinks

Know These 11 Food Etiquette Rules From Around Europe... And Avoid Embarrassing Faux Pas

Critical do's and don'ts for eating and drinking like a local abroad.

By Karen Gardiner

Navigating a foreign country is hard enough without revealing yourself to be an ignorant jerk while doing so. Before you sit down to another meal in Europe, make sure you're wise to these etiquette rules.

Don't: Try to Split the Bill in France

According to Brittany-based language company French Today, asking to split the bill on an evening out is a big non: "Talking about money is considered vulgar by French people, so we don’t like to share the bill at the end of a meal. It’s part of our French politeness to take turn treating friends, and we kind of keep track mentally of who hosted last, who paid for a restaurant."

Do: Keep Your Hands Above the Table in France

Taking a break between bites? "Rest your wrists on the table and not on your lap," advises My Modern Met. This is also true for Germany, where you should cross your knife and fork on your plate if you are still eating and don't want the waiter to take away your plate.

Do: Get Your Round In in the U.K

If you're at a pub in Britain and your British friends ask you what your having, it doesn't mean they are being overly generous, rather that they are getting their round in — and each member of the group will be expected to reciprocate. The BBC reports that it's a cornerstone of British culture "that friends or colleagues sitting in the pub should not march up to the bar and buy their drinks separately. They should not even get one set of drinks and then sit down and work out who owes what. For many people the only socially acceptable way to do things is to get a round in."

Don't: Ask For Cheese on Your Shrimp Linguine in Italy

While it's habit for North Americans to add grated Parmesan to any and all of their pasta dishes, it's largely thought of as a culinary disaster in Italy. Just ask this New York Times reporter who admirably persisted in adding cheese to his dishes on a trip to Italy, defying the disapproval of "outraged and belligerent" waiters.

Do: Hold Your Knife and Fork Properly in the U.K

British people are horrified that some of their fellow countrypeople are starting to adopt the American habit of holding onto their forks "like shovels;" putting the knife down and holding the fork in the right hand and shoveling food onto it. Spare your British friends from your slovenly American ways by adopting the "European style" of holding cutlery (silverware): Hold the fork, prongs pointed downward, in the left hand, and the knife in the right.

Don't: Order a Cappuccino After a Meal in Italy

Most people know that ordering a cappuccino rather than an espresso after an Italian meal is frowned upon. But did you know there's actually a good reason for that? As Italy in SF explains: "Drinking a hot beverage after a big meal attracts blood to the stomach, helping digestion. However, the beverage needs to be easing the digestive process, not slowing it down — so a water-based hot drink like coffee or tea is ideal. Milk, however, is not easy to digest — quite on the contrary! So a cappuccino at the end of a meal completely defeats the purpose of the hot beverage concept – instead of helping your digestion, it hinders it."

Don't: Ask for Salt and Pepper in Portugal

If it's not provided on the table, don't ask your Portuguese waiter to bring salt and pepper. According to My Modern Met's handy illustrated guide, it's "considered an offense to the chef's seasoning skills."

Don't: Drink Water With Soup in Spain

According to Afar, "tradition dictates that you skip water when eating octopus or soup because the combination will make your stomach hurt." Wine, however, is fine. 

Do: Clean Your Plate in Germany

"Don’t take more than you can eat," advises The German Way expat blog." It’s considered impolite to leave food on your plate."

Don't: Cut Lettuce in France

Paris-based cook book author and French cooking teacher Susan Herrmann Loomis told The Local: "If you cut the lettuce it is an insult to the cook and suggests to them it was not prepared correctly. The right thing to do is just fold the lettuce leaves and put them in your mouth."

Do: Eat Pizza With a Fork and Knife in Italy (and Everywhere Else)

New Yorkers, as they are known to do, got all bent out of shape when they spotted their mayor Bill de Blasio eating his pizza with a fork and knife. In fact he was merely continuing the tradition of his (and the dish's) ancestral homeland. As NPR's Rome correspondent, Sylvia Poggioli explained. "Italians cut their pizzas with fork and knife and then eat the slices with their hands. One reason is that pizza is served piping hot, too hot to rip apart with your hands." NPR also dug up this from a 1989 Miss Manners column: "Grown-ups with strings of cheese all over their faces look a lot worse than young people in the same condition," she noted. "They should therefore employ forks on which to wind any hanging parts." So there you have it.

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