Table manners: Do’s and Don’ts abroad

Table manners: Do’s and Don’ts abroad

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Food is definitely the main essence of traveling.

You can’t fully experience the culture of a country if you do not taste local food. Think about one of the best journeys you have ever had, wasn’t food a big part of it? Didn’t it make your overall experience even more special?
Home food, street food, local restaurants, secret recipes, unique ingredients, strong fragrances. Can you picture all of this in your journey?

Although appreciating local food is very important, it is not enough to be a perfect traveler. If you really want to eat like a local, then you have to learn how to behave like a local, which means, respecting the good table manners of the country you are visiting. This is something very important to learn ahead, in order to avoid being disrespectful or very impolite towards locals.

In this article we will introduce the most important DOs and DON’Ts in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Germany, some of the most visited European countries with great culinary traditions. You do not only have the chance to learn basic dining etiquette but you also have the opportunity to learn how to order food, have a small conversation with the waiter and how to read the menu. Basically, here is a guidebook on how to be a local!

Be prepared: take notes, keep in mind the most important tips and check out the lessons the VocApp has created to make your journey perfect! Last but not least: get ready to be hungry!

  1. DO’s and DON’Ts in Italy


– Pepperoni pizza does not exist, actually “pepperoni” is similar to “peperoni” in Italian which means “green/red/yellow peppers” (if you want a Pepperoni pizza, order a “Diavola”)

– put parmesan on your pizza

– ask for salad dressing (only use oil, vinegar, salt and black pepper for your salad)

– burp or clean your teeth at the table

– cut spaghetti! Never ever!

– ask for a Hawaiian pizza! It does not exist in Italy


– when a glass of water comes with the espresso, drink the water first (it is meant to clean your mouth before you taste the coffee)

– ask for your check (“il conto”) only when you want to leave (the waiter won’t rush you to leave the restaurant: Italian people like dining out to socialise)

– take your time to eat, enjoy it, nobody will rush you to eat fast

– only order cappuccino in the morning!

– only use the fork when eating spaghetti (never ever use a spoon)

– a meal is divided into appetizers, first course, second course, side dish and dessert, so eat them in this order

Do you want to learn how to speak Italian at the restaurant? Check this lesson:


2. DO’s and DON’Ts in Spain


– eat too early (can’t have dinner at 6 p.m.)

– rush when eating, enjoy it and take your time

– over-tip, a tiny tip is enough

– ask for butter (“mantequilla”) (Spain it the country of olive oil!)

– rush the waiter (service is usually slow)

– ask for “doggy bag”, it is not a thing


– ask for the check (“la cuenta”) when you are ready to leave, only then the waiter will bring it to you

– always keep talking during your meal, do not be scared to be loud

– cash (“efectivo”) is really the standard when it comes to paying (although card can be accepted)

– lunchtime in Spain is from 2:00 – 5:00

– dinner in Spain is late: most restaurants won’t open until 8:00, so take your time

– there is a Spanish word “sobremesa” that literally means “over the table” and refers to the art of conversation after a meal, so enjoy your dinner!

Do you want to learn how to speak Spanish at the restaurant? Check this lesson:

3. DO’s and DON’Ts in France


– touch your food with your fingers, particularly, cheese

– put your elbows on the table and rest your face in your hands

– lick your knife or your fork

– eat with your hands

– speak loudly in a restaurant, or burst out laughing

– call the waiter by snapping your fingers


– pull a woman’s chair to help her to sit if you are a man

– know how to peel a peach or a shrimp with your fork and knife

– keep hands above the dinner table

– always greet your waiter with a ‘bonjour’ or ‘bonsoir’

– close your menu to indicate you are ready to order

– service is included in your final bill but you can leave a little extra for your waiter

Do you want to learn how to speak French at the restaurant? Check out his lesson:

4. DO’s and DON’Ts in Portugal


– wear a hat while eating, it is impolite

– wear sunglasses while eating

– burp or make weird noises

– speak with your mouth full

– play with the food

– call the waiter by snapping your fingers or shouting


– (if you don’t have a reservation) wait at the entrance or at the restaurant for a staff member to greet you and give you a place to seat

– if you want to tip somebody 15% or 20% is enough

– all main dishes are accompanied with potatoes, boiled vegetables or salad, depending on the dish ordered (there is no extra fee for that)

– order “vinho da casa” (house wine) a good, inexpensive wine

– ask for water, as it is not usually provided unless you do so

– always finish your food

Do you want to learn how to speak Portuguese at the restaurant? Check this lesson:

5. DO’s and DON’Ts in Germany


– wait for the waiter to tell you where to seat (unless it is a fancy place)

– eat with your fingers (even pizza is eaten with a knife and fork)

– ask for tap water, sparkling mineral water is the norm

-leave food in your plate

– leave your tip (Trinkgeld) on the table

– lay your knife and for by side unless you want the waiter to know that you have finished your dish


– hold the fork in your left hand, the knife in your right hand

– say “Guten Appetit!” (“Enjoy your meal!”) before anyone takes the first bite

– make a toast saying “Prost!” (“Cheers!”) or “Zum Wohl!” (“To your health!”) and look at the person in the eye with whom you are drinking!

– keep your hands on the table (but not the elbows!)

– ask for your bill by saying: “Zahlen bitte!”

– German tip is at least 5-10 percent, so tip accordingly

Do you want to learn how to speak German at the restaurant? Check this lesson:


Finally, you are fully prepared to enjoy and respect the culture of the country you are planning to visit. And remember, if you have any language barrier during your journey just use VocApp! We can teach you over 30 languages, various topics and levels. It’s easy, it’s effective and it’s everywhere you’ll go. Do you want to know more about it? Check our website and take a look at all the courses you can have access to.

VocApp, learn fast and remember forever:

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