Eating Out Around the World: A How-To

First, how do you order?
by | March 23, 2017

The best thing about traveling is getting to experience authentic cuisine. So we’ve made this nifty guide with tips and etiquette rules on how to eat like a local in different parts of the world!

  • Check if the restaurant lets you order at your table or if you have to order at a ticket machine — a vending machine-like menu where you press the button of the corresponding dish you want to order, pay upfront, and get the ticket that comes out. If you’re an indecisive person or are with a large group, don’t dine in a restaurant with a ticket machine because you’ll be inconveniencing the local staff and incoming customers by taking a long time. Otherwise, it’s fine.
  • Each person is usually expected to order at least one dish for themselves.
  • To call a waiter or waitress, say “sumimasen” (“excuse me”).
  • It’s common courtesy to show your appreciation for the food by eating noisily and telling your server how delicious (“oishii”) your meal was.
  • When dining in an izakaya — a Japanese gastropub — it’s expected for you to order a drink first before your meal.
South Korea
  • Get the attention of a server by saying “jeogiyo” (“excuse me”) as loud as you can.
  • Sharing of food is a must, especially when dining in a Korean barbeque restaurant.
  • Food will always be served with free unlimited banchan (appetizers).
  • If you’re dining out with locals, keep in mind that the bill is always split equally.
Hong Kong
  • Once a seat is freed, take it as fast as you can. Don’t wait for a whole table to become available; sharing it with strangers is normal.
  • To call a waiter or waitress, say “m’goi” (“excuse me”).
  • Restaurants don’t usually serve house water, so buy a bottle from a convenience store beforehand.
  • A well-balanced Chinese meal should include five distinct tastes — acid, hot, bitter, sweet, and salty.
  • Each person is usually expected to order at least one dish for themselves, plus one extra dish or soup.
  • Sharing of food is always a must. The more people at your party and the more food you order, the merrier your dinner will be!
  • Coffee is drunk throughout the day, but it’s not common to have coffee with cream like with cappuccino or café au lait in the afternoon.
  • English menus are hard to come by, so either look up dishes online or ask what the waiter would recommend.
  • Always pair your meal with a glass of wine. They’re surprisingly affordable!
  • Locals usually eat light for breakfast and lunch, opting to splurge for a nice Parisian dinner instead. You’ll get great value for your money when dining in restaurants that offer a three- or four-course dinner at a fixed price.
  • The French undercook their meat, so ordering a bien cuit (well-done) steak will get you one that is actually “medium rare.” If you want it to be cooked all the way through, be sure to explain it well to your server.
  • Always ask for tap water instead of mineral water.
  • Order your coffee standing up. Cafés will charge you with a higher cost once you take a seat. Always be on the lookout for a menu that lists the prices for banco (standing) and tavolo (sitting).
  • Don’t be obliged to order one dish for every course; just a primo or secondo is fine. You’ll end up paying a whole lot more than what you would have wanted.
  • Stay away from restaurants near tourist attractions and those that advertise menus in English.
  • Always ask for an itemized bill.
  • Bread isn’t actually eaten with oil and vinegar, so don’t be surprised.
  • The price you pay for meals varies depending on where you sit in the restaurant, so choose your table wisely.
  • It’s better to look for chalkboards advertising menú del día or fixed-price set meals because they’re often cheaper than ordering a la carte.
  • To call a server, raise your hand or say “perdona” (“excuse me”).
  • Load up during lunchtime. Standard eating times are different in Spain—locals would eat lunch between 2 P.M. and 5 P.M., and then eat dinner as late as 8 P.M. (and that’s considered early for most restaurants!)
  • Sharing food and eating it with your right hand (the left is considered unclean and mainly used for passing food around) are customary.
  • There’s always bread around during meals — most locals even use it as a utensil.
  • Skip the alcohol if you want to save!
  • If your order has ground beef, make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Having medium rare beef isn’t advised.

Which of these places do you hope to go soon? Sound off below!

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