UnderCover Waitress: Guest Post: Tips When Dining Abroad

Friday, August 2, 2013

Guest Post: Tips When Dining Abroad

Virginia Cunningham is a writer and world traveler who enjoys traveling with her family to experience different cultures, cuisine and music. Whenever she is visiting a country with which she is unfamiliar, she makes sure to brush up on that country’s etiquette.

Please enjoy her guest post: Tips When Dining Abroad. 

Tips for Dining Abroad

Getting around a foreign land can be challenging as is, and when you add dining into the mix, it can altogether be an entertaining or problematic experience. To ensure that your stay in a country is as savory as the food you’ll be eating, here are some tips to consider when dining abroad.

Don’t be afraid to tell your waiter or waitress that you don’t understand the menu. Ask him or her what they would suggest for you to try. This will ensure you get a chance to try the restaurant’s specialties and that you won’t be staring with a lost look at the menu for too long.

Perhaps you see other patrons digging into what looks to be a delectable dish – don’t be afraid to ask the waiter or the patrons themselves what they are having and that you’d like to try that dish as well.

Scout out popular eateries, dishes or holes-in-the-wall before going on your trip so that you are prepared once you reach your destination. Some sites even help you do research on a location based on specific topics such as “nightlife” and “foodies,” so that exploring what a town has to offer is easy and enjoyable. 

Learn some key words beforehand. If you’re pescatarian and refuse to eat any other type of meat, you will definitely want to learn how to say “fish” in the country’s native language. Furthermore, bring a handy dictionary along with you, either physically or via a smartphone app, so as to not stumble around for choice words when ordering.

Even if you do stumble and totally butcher the name of a meal, never fear! Most places will be understanding that you are a tourist and would be more than happy to assist you in getting you to learn more about their country and cuisine.

If all else fails and your adventurous palate has gotten the best of you, simply smile and point to what you want to try.

When traveling and eating abroad, it is also important to be wary of how your food is cooked. If it’s raw or looks undercooked at all, you may want to avoid it altogether - while the locals may have the stomach to enjoy such foods, just be aware that your body may not be as well-equipped. The same idea goes for drinking water – you may not be able to stomach tap water like the locals, so bottled water is the best option.

When going on a trip abroad, it is important to realize that there will be customs that are different from the ones you are be accustomed to, especially when it comes to table manners. For instance, the following are examples of international dining etiquette:


During funerals, the deceased’s rice bowl is placed atop the coffin with chopsticks sticking upright in the rice – thus, never place your chopsticks upright when eating! Instead, place them flat and parallel to the table.

Middle East, India, Africa:

Eat with your right hand only, because the left hand is considered to be used only for other bodily purposes. That is, unless you are left hand dominant, in which case, don’t use your right hand for eating.


Don’t flip a fish around once you’ve finished eating one side of it – it is considered bad luck. Instead, don’t eat the bottom part at all (as the most superstitious would follow) or you can pick behind the bone to get to the meat.


It is rude to eat with your hands. Use a fork and knife instead, even when eating fries.

Moreover, while it is considered polite to finish all of the food on your plate in many Asian countries as a sign that the food was appreciated, in the Middle East, it is best if you don’t finish everything on your plate as this is a sign of the host’s abundance of goods.

Thus, it is important to research etiquette before you travel abroad. Also take cues from the locals as to what is acceptable when it comes to dining out.

If all else fails, talk to a local who is willing to teach you the ropes – you may even make a new friend!

Bon appetit!

1 comment :

  1. Handy tips! I haven't travelled abroad, but at some point I will, and there are things I'll have to know in advance...


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