You must be having so many questions surrounding European culture, especially if you are visiting the region for the first time. Well, Europe is renowned for its common cultural heritage, which revolves around art, music, architecture, literature, and philosophy.
However, things are relatively different when it comes to dressing, socializing, and table etiquette. In some countries, good manners dictate that you must use a fork and knife while eating, whereas other cultures see no problem if you eat with your hands.
This brings us to the big question, is eating with hands good manners in European culture? Let’s find out.
In Europe, eating with hands is fast becoming tolerable and socially acceptable depending on the occasion you are gracing and the type of meal you are eating. However, this does not mean that you should throw good manners out the window, particularly during business dinners. Essentially, you should avoid embarrassing habits such as licking your fingers or using your hands to clear the plate.
Here is a comprehensive guide on how to eat with your hands in Europe to reflect modern dining habits.
The dos and don’ts of eating with your hands
Let’s face it. The European style of dining requires diners to use knives and forks when eating. However, things have changed as diners embrace new, modern dining trends. Moreover, some types of food, such as pizza, bread, and calzone are best eaten with your hands rather than a knife and fork.
Nevertheless, while eating with your hands is fast becoming acceptable, it is prudent that you maintain good manners at the dining table. Here are the dos and don’ts that you ought to consider if you decide to shun traditional dining styles.
Never put your elbows on the table when eating
This is a universal rule for any style of dining. Whether you are using cutlery or eating with your hands, you should avoid putting your elbows on the table when dining, especially if you are in the company of other diners. Putting your elbows on the table is not only rude, but it also infringes into your neighbor’s space.
Always use a napkin appropriately
A table napkin will always come in handy when using your hands to eat. It will help you avoid messing up your clothes and prevent you from the temptation of licking your fingers. Unfortunately, most diners do not know how to use this table accessory appropriately. Ideally, you should place the napkin on your laps rather than tucking it into your shirt. Moreover, you should only use the napkin to wipe your hands and mouth only after dining.
Never wipe your mouth with your hands
It is almost natural for most people to wipe their mouths with their hands when eating. However, this is not only uncouth but also unacceptable, especially when having a formal dinner. If you get food on your lips, it is better to use a napkin to dab the corners of your mouth. When you are done with cleaning up, leave the napkin unfolded next to your plate.
Take plenty of small bites when eating with your hands
If you decide to eat with your hands, it is prudent to take small bites, rather than large chunks of food. This will save you from the embarrassment of spilling food all over the place. Start by cutting large foodstuffs into small, manageable sizes to make it easier for you to pick with your hands.
Avoid over the top blowing off your food
Patience is vital during mealtime. If the food is too hot to touch, then it will inevitably be too hot to eat. This is where your fortitude comes into play. However hungry you are, it is advisable to avoid over the top blowing. Instead, wait for a few minutes for your food to cool before eating with your hands.
Always put your food down on the plate between bites
It is always good manners to put your food down on the plate in between bites rather than flaunt it in the air while eating. This allows you to chew your food slowly for easier digestion. It also protects your meal from contaminants, including dust and germs.
Avoid hunching over your plate
It is quite tempting for anyone to hunch over their plates when eating with their hands. However, this is a loathed habit not only in Europe but also in other regions as well. On the other hand, you should also avoid slouching when eating, as it creates a bad impression and shows you are not interested in the meal.
Never use your phone while eating
In this era of smartphones and digital gadgets, it can be quite tempting to use your phone while eating. However, this is one of the most unacceptable actions at the dinner table, especially when using your hands to eat. This will make your phone dirty with grease and oils or even damage the device completely. Moreover, you will have to wash your hands afresh before continuing with your meal lest you contaminate it. This is not only inconvenient but also bad manners in European culture.
Never talk with your mouth full
If you want to enjoy a splendid dining experience, then never talk or laugh with your mouth full. Talking with your mouth full is not only disgusting and rude but also a potential safety hazard. Moreover, you might choke from the tiny pieces of food when talking while eating, consequently resulting in an emergency.
Where can I eat with my hands freely in Europe?
According to most European customs, eating with your hands is often frowned upon, particularly in high-end restaurants and dining establishments. You are mostly required to use cutlery when dining in these eateries. Eating with hands is only acceptable in certain settings such as barbeques, picnics, fast food restaurants, and local eateries.
However, you should never eat with your hands during formal settings such as business dinners, unless the food on the menu requires you to forgo the cutlery. The same applies to first-time dates in fine dining establishments.
What are the benefits of eating with your hands?
You might not know this, but eating with your hands has so many benefits. Interestingly, most of these benefits are widely associated with good table manners. These include:
Softens the formality of fine dining
As more European cultures go the liberal way, eating with your hands softens the formality often associated with fine dining. Essentially, you can enjoy your meals at fine dining establishments without having to worry about using sophisticated utensils and cutlery.
Creates a sensual connection to food
Eating with hands allows you to touch and feel your food, consequently creating a heightened sensual connection that is certainly lacking when using knives and forks. Interestingly, Europeans have noticed this, and are now using their hands more often when enjoying their favorite meals.
Eating with your hands is a practice that demands you to take small, manageable pieces of food at a time. This might help you become more watchful with what you eat, thereby preventing overeating, which is loathed in most European cultures. Eating with hands is also a sure way of losing weight, and it may help with sticking to strict dietary plans.
Unbelievably, dining with your hands enhances digestion and prevents stomach problems. Whenever you touch your food, the nerve endings on your fingers will send a message to your brain that you are about to eat, as a result releasing enzymes that promote healthy digestion.
Eating with your hands is more hygienic
Contrary to popular belief, dining with your hands is arguably more hygienic compared to using cutlery. Essentially, you have to wash your hands several times a day before eating while utensils are washed only once in a day, and may attract germs and contaminants.
Prevents conditions like Type 2 diabetes
According to research, dining with a knife and fork encourages binge eating, which essentially causes blood sugar imbalances. This contributes to the development of chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In contrast, eating with your hands is widely associated with slow eating, which is good for your health. Eating slowing not only allows food to digest appropriately but also helps maintain steady sugar levels. It is therefore not surprising that eating with hands is becoming more acceptable in European culture.
Table etiquette is something that Europeans take very seriously. The good news is that eating with hands has become trendy in most European countries. Therefore, if you are hand diner planning to travel to Europe either for business or leisure, it is advisable to learn all the good manners before setting foot in the region.
This will help you look good in the eyes of your hosts or business associates. You never know. Your good manners while eating with your hands might make the difference in closing that business deal or even turning on your potential soul mate.
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