In 1976, the anthropologist Edward Hall developed the iceberg analogy of culture. If the culture of a society was the iceberg, Hall reasoned, than there are some aspects visible, above the water, but there is a larger portion hidden beneath the surface.
Particularly with regards to dining etiquette, this holds very true. Even when you think you are versed in the fine art of cultural molding, a Brazilian comes an hour late to a Danish dinner party and (unfortunately) the could-have-been friendship probably disintegrates amidst the tension. In a attempt to ease any cultural misunderstandings for future travelers and foodies alike I will make a series on DINING ETIQUETTE. Let us begin with one of the cultures most clouded in mystery (from my northern-European starting point), namely JAPAN.
Dining in Japan is not only about eating, it is a sum of many important elements: the atmosphere in the room, the conversation at the table, the relationship between the dishes and the tableware. The dining experience is supposed to provide peace and harmony.
In honor of the food you are about to eat, you should start and finish your meal by joining the palms of our hands in front of your chest.
Meals in Japan traditionally begin with the phrase itadakimasu (いただきます) (literally, "I humbly receive"). It is said to express gratitude for all who played a role in preparing, cultivating or hunting the food. It is now widely understood as meaning “now we can eat”.
Upon finishing a meal, the Japanese also use the phrase Gochisōsama-deshita (ごちそうさまでした) It means “thank-you for gochisou (the lovely food)”.
It is considered polite to clear one's plate, down to the very last grain of rice; children are especially encouraged to do so – as the Buddhist philosophy presents. It is impolite to pick out certain ingredients and leave the rest. One should chew with the mouth closed.
In Japan, you lift the tableware when you eat. You should not eat with the plates on the table. If the food is served on a larger serving platter, you should distribute it into smaller bowls and hold the bowl with your hand while eating with the other.
You should use chopsticks for all types of dishes, also soups. In this case, you hold the bowl with both hands and drink directly from it. If there are noodles in the soup, use chopsticks to eat the noodles and drink the soup. It is not impolite to be noisy while slurping.
Do you know any additional etiquette that I missed? Thanks.