What makes today’s world so fascinating is the interplay between many cultures as barriers break down and more interaction takes place. As some one said so appropriately: “Geography is history”.

Years ago, my city of Bangalore prided itself on the traditional South Indian fare. Today, I am not surprised to see that we have restaurants specializing in cuisine from Korea, Japan, Thailand and Italy, amongst other countries.

In this global context, things like dining etiquette which were not given too much importance in most Indian homes, have gained new significance. Here are a few examples of what not to do. A friend related how after a meal in Germany he was waiting for his hosts to show signs of leaving the table. After some time it became obvious that while he was waiting for them, they were in a sense waiting for him. Not able to bear the silence any longer, he asked” Shall we go? Are we through?”. He was embarrassed to be told that he had not kept his knife and fork in the manner signifying that his meal was over.

In another instance an Indian friend of mine got awfully confused at the sight of so much cutlery and crockery on the table at a formal dinner. Within minutes he had used the napkin meant for his neighbour on his right, used the glass meant for his neighbour on the left and used the wrong spoon for the soup !!

Being aware of dining etiquette in different parts of the world makes it easier for us to hold our own in potentially embarrassing situations.

I recommend Neil Payne’s article ” An Overview of Cross Cultural Dining Etiquette”.

Knowing what to do makes you more comfortable in such social situations and gets you better accepted by your new colleagues or business associates.

When asked “What is the definition of etiquette?”, Naomi Polson, who received her etiquette certificate in Washington DC and is the Founding Director of The Etiquette Company, replies, “Etiquette has to do with good manners. It’s not so much our own good manners, but making other people feel comfortable by the way we behave. So it’s more or less thinking of others and how others perceive us: So that everyone knows the rules for doing things and everyone is in a very comfortable position in society.”

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