If you have a healthy appetite for skiing, you’ll likely also have a healthy appetite for food. Skiing is a rather physical sport in nature and consumes large amounts of energy that need to be replenished. But skiing is about more than eating good food and sliding down slopes – it’s about making new friends. And in a foreign country this can be quite a difficult task.
Different people have different ways of doing things and a simple mistake can create an enemy instead of a friend. This is especially so when it comes to eating customs. While most people will take into account that offensive behavior may be attributed to different customs in other parts of the world, a genuine attempt to respect the culture of that land often results in real appreciation closer friendships. While we cannot claim to have all the answers, SnowSkiing.com has attempted to give you a few cultural eating tips for different parts of the world so that your new friendships can get off on the right leg. We hope that our users will find it most useful.
Generally speaking, the eating customs of the various states in North America are very similar. A well mannered person would avoid certain things like putting their elbows on the table while eating or stretching over other people to obtain a dish out of their reach but this is generally not strictly upheld and is only really necessary in formal settings. Using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when requesting that an item of food is passed to you shows appreciation for co-operation. As is normal, a person should avoid talking about disgusting, unappetizing things at the table. Conversations generally center on skiing performance, place of work, profession, and country of origin. Most people are friendly and fairly relaxed. Some places – such as Canada – which have a stronger foreign influence will uphold a higher standard of decorum. The same standards are generally kept at both the dinner table and in restaurants.
Eating culture in Europe can be quite different from country to country. Therefore we have attempted to briefly list a number of fairly common differences from each country in order to help our users get more from their meals.
Generally speaking, these three cultures have a lot of similarities and the people are friendly and ready to help so you can ask if you feel stuck. The people also have a rich cultural heritage. They dislike it when you put your hand in your lap while eating so try to keep both hands above the table – but not your elbows. It is also wise to utter ‘das schmeckt’ (it tastes good) while eating and not to complain about what you are served – especially when at a person’s home. Look people in the eye while toasting with wine glasses and don’t regard general items such as bread baskets and water to be free items. The bread in this country is generally quite hard while the coffee is strong. If you are invited to a home, it is impolite to help yourself to items from the persons fridge. If you are at a restaurant, you should take note of whether or not the tip is included in the menu. A crossed knife and fork on your side plate indicates that you are pausing while placing them side by side indicates that you are finished. You may find it hard to get a ‘doggie bag’ at a restaurant but you may take your dog in with you to some restaurants and ask for a bowl of water or feed your dog under the table. Smoking is also forbidden in many public areas so be aware of the rules before attempting to light up.
Much of French life is centered around food and relaxation. Their meals are lengthly and time consuming and considered to be an enjoyable and relaxing occasion. A meal at a typical restaurant and even in some homes would begin with an aperitif (starter) before progressing to a main meal with meat and vegetables before being followed by cheese and dessert. Most meals are also accompanied by a good glass of wine and stimulating conversation.
The eating customs of Italians is quite different from that of other European countries. Instead of enjoying a leisurely breakfast, Italians tend to stand at a bar while having a cappuccino and cornetto (croissant) or some other type of pastry before beginning their working day. Lunches are much more elaborate affairs and may take a few hours to complete. They include starters, a main meal of pasta followed by a second course of meat or fish. This is often complimented by a side salad or vegetable side dish which is completed with fruit or a sweet and coffee. Italian custom includes a siesta or rest period after the midday meal and shops usually close for three to four hours to accommodate the event. Evening meals are traditionally simpler than lunches but the two are slowly starting to see a swap around due to the inconvenience of traveling home at midday.
If you are planning a trip to Norway you will likely find that the most peculiar eating custom they have is that of eating four meals a day instead of only three. Breakfast is usually enjoyed between 7 and 8 am, lunch is between 11 and Midday, while dinner is between 4 and 5 pm. And additional evening meal usually takes place between 8 and 9 pm. Should you be invited to a meal, you should do your utmost not to use your fingers and should feel free to eat until there is no food left or you are satisfied. It is also polite to inform your host of any specific dietary requirements upon accepting the invitation and not when you arrive for the meal. It is also common practice to offer to wash or dry the dishes after the meal. Norwegians tend to eat a lot of meatloaf and fish and drink a lot of milk. The bread is dark and high in fiber which might unsettle your stomach. If you plan to eat out or cook for yourself, you should remember that food in Norway is generally very expensive.
Perhaps the most well known eating custom in Japan is that of using chopsticks instead of knives and forks to consume your meal. While they may require some practice to use effectively, it is worth acquiring this skill before visiting the country as you may find knives, forks and spoons in short supply. When you eat your rice, it is best to lift the bowl to your mouth. Before and during a meal it is best to avoid unappetizing topics and it is also considered rude to burp or to blow your nose. You should always try and eat every last grain of rice and it is considered good style to lay out your dishes as they were when you started your meal – the chopsticks on top of the bowl. It is customary to serve beverages to others instead of pouring yourself a drink and if someone wishes to top up your glass it is thought best to empty it’s remaining contents and to offer them an empty glass. It is also considered impolite to get drunk and unruly – especially at restaurants.
Korea has a somewhat poor past and as a result, food is considered to be very important. If you are invited to a meal, you are expected to eat well and not to waste food. Table conversation is limited. Everyone east the same food from communal dishes and while making good use of chopsticks, a spoon is often employed for rice. Utensils should be placed next to the bowl when not in use and chopsticks should never be left standing up in a bowl of rice as it has bad connotations. Rice and soup bowls are not picked up off the table while in use. You may talk with your mouth full, slurp, burp and pick your teeth at the table but may not blow your nose. It is polite to wait for the eldest person at the table to eat first. Likewise you will also not leave the table until the oldest person has excused themselves. The oldest person also usually pays for the meal and the bill is not brought to the table. When accepting a drink, you accept it with one hand on the glass and the other on your sleeve. It is considered rude not to accept a drink, even if you do not really drink it. It is also considered polite to turn your head away from an older person when drinking.
Eating out is considered to be a pastime in Argentina and it is certainly a popular one. The average three-course dinner can last two or three hours with a lot of animated and enjoyable conversation. Cafés are very popular and offer a wide variety of foods. The waiters never rush their customers and meals are leisurely and enjoyable. It is common practice to employ both eating utensils and hands when eating, switching between knife and fork with the right hand quite frequently. One never gestures with a knife in the hand as it is considered to be threatening. It is a good idea to practice using your utensils in only one hand before embarking on your trip to Argentina.
While Chilean culture is very Latin American it also bears a strong European influence. Dining out is a popular Chilean activity and Chileans tend to eat large lunches. Lunch is usually served between midday and 3pm while dinner does not begin before 8pm. Restaurants are usually closed on Saturday afternoons and Sunday evenings or for the whole of Sunday but clubs and hotels remain open. Chileans are quite formal but the do not dress up for dinner. The atmosphere around the dinner table is pleasant and conversation is polite. Afternoon teas where sandwiches, cookies, cake and beverages are enjoyed are usually served between 5 and 6pm. Chileans eat with the fork in the left hand and knife in the right. Both are kept above the table throughout the meal and it is considered impolite to ask for or receive second helpings of food. Local wine is almost always enjoyed with the meal and is always poured with the right hand. Compliments for the chef or hostess are considered good manners. If you are invited to a home for a meal, it is polite to stay a while and chat after the meal. When you converse, you should avoid politics and focus instead on families, history and the arts.