What To Bring Or Not Bring To Someone’s Home In A Foreign Country
“What you consider gross—dead rats—I consider considerate gifts.” Jarod Kintz
I’m a person who always likes to bring the right gift so having dinner in foreign country at someone’s house always requires a bit of research for me.
To the Japanese, gift giving is a way of communicating respect, friendship, and appreciation. It is good to be ready for the gift giving ritual that has been deeply rooted in the Japanese culture for centuries. Everything should be beautifully wrapped and ripping open the paper is bad form. Downplay the importance of the gift. This is typical in all Asian cultures. Always present the gift with two hands.
Do not give wine as a hostess gift in Argentina because it is considered common. Champagne or hard liquor is fine. Don’t bring scissors or knives because that means you want to sever the relationship.
What can you bring to someone in China? They make everything there. First off gift giving is not easy. They don’t open their gifts in front of you and they refuse them several times. You have to be persistent but not pushy. It’s a delicate balance. Again no knives or scissors to break the relationship. I am missing something. When people in these countries get invited for dinner is the go to gift a pair of scissors? Why do they have even have to say that? Also no clocks or anything in sets of four. Four is an unlucky number in Chinese because it sounds like death. This is true in most Asian countries. Avoid white chrysanthemums because they are used at funerals.
In Malaysia pay attention to the Muslim culture. Avoid pork, knives, alcohol, and highly personal gifts. Present gifts in the right hand only. In Indian sections of Malaysia, avoid black and white colors. Instead, opt for yellow, red or green which symbolize happiness.
Israelis have a tendency to overdo gift giving and put a lot of thought into choice and presentation. If you are going to the home of Orthodox Jews or Muslim Arabs remember that the gifts must not violate any of their religious beliefs. Candy, flowers and gifts for the kids are always appreciated.
If you are invited to a Quechua home in the mountains of Peru, coca leaves are an acceptable gift. Coca leaves have always been present at all important moments of community life. Today, the history and traditional use of the coca leaf in Peru are a solid part of ethnic and national identity.
In Korea, generosity is a highly valued personal trait. Give expensive gifts if possible.
When invited to a home in Russia, bring something other than vodka. If you bring flowers only present them to a woman. Avoid yellow flowers (unless you picked them yourself in the countryside). White flowers should be given with caution. Same with red as they usually mean love. Fine chocolates are always appreciated.
In Italy, it is nice to bring cakes for coffee when invited to dinner. The cakes have to be of a special kind, bought in a pasticceria by weight. These delicious cakes are placed in intricate patterns on a golden paper tray and wrapped in paper nicely folded with carrying handles After opening the present the hosts and the other guests will take pains to point out which cakes, they each do not like. In the end the cakes are pushed aside in the assumption that nobody can eat another bite after having partaken of a full delicious meal.
You must bring a gift if you are invited to someone’s house in India. Chocolates or flowers is acceptable. Different flowers have different meanings in India so always check with the florist about what is a proper choice. When in doubt red roses usually work. If they have children (and many do) it is nice to bring something for them. If you are visiting during a festival always carry a box of sweets with you. Be cautious in giving leather as a gift. The cow is sacred in India and many Hindus are vegetarians.
In Ethiopia a traditional gift if you are visiting someone’s home is coffee. However a chicken from the market may be well appreciated. They cost anywhere from $5-12. The average weekly wage is around $25 a month in a government job. So a chicken is quite a gift. If they have room the family may keep it for eggs. If not then it will make the next meal. To transport them, just pick them up by their feet. When chickens are upside down they do not move or make noise. They are very easy to handle. See this is where they lose me, I feel bad to carry an upside-down chicken around.
Food Rules I Have Learned While Traveling.
“Travelers never think that they are the foreigners.’ ~Mason Cooley
You can eat sushi with your hands.
Sashimi is always eaten as a first course before sushi. You can’t eat sashimi with your hands.
Don’t eat anything with your hands in Chile.
You can eat with your hands in Burma (Myanmar). People eat food with their hands in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. People eat with their hands in other countries in Africa and Asia also.
Always keep your hands above the table in Mexico.
Eat only with your right hand in Egypt. (This is true for many Middle Eastern countries) Salting your food is a huge insult.
In Germany, eat your meat with a fork. Use a knife only if it is necessary. If you eat meat with a fork, it lets the cook know the meat is tender.
Pad Thai is always eaten with a fork and a spoon. Thai people eat most of their food with a spoon in their dominant hand and a fork in the other. Chopsticks are only served for soup.
Mezze (small plates) come before a meal.
Pasta is not a main course.
In Uganda, eat fried grasshoppers with your hands like chips. In Mexico eat them on a taco with guacamole and cheese. In Thailand eat them on a stick. In Burma, peel off the head and wings and gulp.
In Burma, they say that anything that walks on the ground can be eaten.
Margherita Pizza is really the only thing Italians consider pizza and should be eaten with a knife a fork. The pies are usually served unsliced. It is not a hard and fast role like never cut your spaghetti with a knife and fork.
In Mexico, never eat tacos with a knife and fork.
In France, don’t eat the bread before the meal.
Never turn down vodka in Russia or tea in Turkey.
In France, eat frogs legs like you would eat fried chicken –with your hands in a casual setting, with a knife and fork in a formal restaurant.
In Kenya drinking cows blood mixed with milk is a special treat.
Chinese people do not eat fortune cookies for dessert but oranges for good luck. It is illegal to eat an orange in a bathtub in California.
In China you are expected to leave a small amount of food uneaten on your plate. If you finish everything, you are sending the insulting message that not enough food was served to you.
It is rude to burp at a table in Japan. It is not rude to burp at a table in China.
In Singapore gum chewing is illegal.
In Mexico Men make toasts, women do not.
In Russia, Do not drink until a toast has been made.
In Armenia, if you empty a bottle into someone’s glass, it obliges them to buy the next bottle.
In restaurants in Portugal don’t ask for salt and pepper if it is not already on the table. Asking for any kind of seasoning or condiment is to cast aspersions on the cook. Cooks are highly respected people in Portugal.
Eating from individual plates strikes most people in Ethiopia as hilarious, bizarre, and wasteful. Food is always shared from a single plate without the use of cutlery.
In Japan it is acceptable to loudly slurp noodles and similar foods. In fact, it is considered flattering to do so, because it indicates that you are enjoying the food.
Do not eat fugu from an unlicensed chef. The Japanese pufferfish, or fugu, is a delicacy in Japan. It’s also potentially one of the most poisonous foods in the world, with no known antidote. Japanese chefs train for years to remove the deadly portion of the fish before serving it, though generally the goal is not to fully remove it, but to leave just enough of a trace to generate a tingling sensation in the mouth, so the customer knows how close he came to the edge. This was one of my best meals in Japan and I have lived to write this.
At this moment, someone is making a food etiquette mistake.