Every International Dining Rule You Need To Know, In One Chart

06/29/2015 03:48 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2015

Did you know that in France, your bread belongs on the table and not on your plate? Or that asking for Parmesan cheese is a faux pas at dinner in Italy?

In many countries, diners follow mealtime rules that might sound completely wonky to visitors. But as it turns out, most of these customs are rather genius (in Japan, folks drink directly from the soup bowl, instead of bothering with spoons), and some are downright delightful (burping is considered polite in China -- hooray!).

Let the experts at The Restaurant Choice bring you up to speed, all in one chart.


  • Host Happy Hour At Home
    Flickr: Ethan Prater
    Have happy hour at home before leaving for the restaurant. Make a special cocktail and some small bites to share before heading out the door. A personalized happy hour will not only help set the mood for the evening, it'll also save you a few bucks on drinks and food later on.
  • Go Casual
    Flickr: Mr. T in DC
    No, I'm not talking about eating at a fast food joint or other establishment that has some sort of "dollar menu." Try finding unique restaurants or even food trucks in your area that serve delicious dishes for less. Many small, casual establishments -- especially locally owned mom-and-pop spots -- serve quality food at affordable prices.
  • Research Before You Go
    Flickr: ElvertBarnes
    Look at restaurant menus online before going out. Look at the prices and decide what sounds good for your budget. Planning ahead will keep you from purchasing a meal on a whim and overspending. Looking to eat at W.A. Frost in St. Paul, MN? Take a look at the menu here. Instead of purchasing the $38 rib eye, consider opting for the $16 trio of small plates for great variety at less than half the price.
  • Take Advantage of Promotions
    Flickr: Ed Yourdon
    Many restaurants feature happy hour specials or similar promotions where you can take advantage of a set (usually discounted) price for drinks, appetizers and sometimes even entrées. Check the restaurant's website or call the restaurant to find out whether they have any special promotions. For many restaurants, Monday and Tuesday nights are typically the slowest for business, so you may get lucky if you're able to schedule dinner early in the week.
  • Skip the Drinks
    Flickr: Mr. T in DC
    Whatever your choice of beverage may be, your budget will be better off if you skip it altogether. While food is often more enjoyable with a nice glass of wine or an excellent beer, sometimes the wallet is a bit more important. Skipping alcohol altogether is the obvious (and cheapest) option. If you're not willing to do that, look into the restaurant's prices for corkage fees. You may be able to save by bringing your own bottle of wine.
  • Redefine "Dining Out"
    Flickr: KFoodaddict
    Sure, we all love it when someone else cooks and does the dishes for us, but part of the beauty of going out for a meal is the ambiance -- which you can easily find outside a restaurant. Consider picnicking in a beautiful park or anywhere with a scenic view (or even just good people-watching!). Pick up a simple meal like incredible gourmet sandwiches or finger foods like olives with crackers and cheese and you've got a great meal with no dishes to clean up -- and you may even have enough cash left over for a bottle of wine or a couple of beers.
  • Go for Gift Certificates
    Flickr: Robert S. Donovan
    One of the best ways to save money dining out is to seek out discounted gift certificates. Find restaurants where you live by browsing local reviews on Menuism, and then look for deals on sites like, Groupon and Living Social. Gift certificates at, for example, are sold at a 50 percent discount or more. From the comfort of home, you can purchase and print a $25 gift certificate for only $10. Can't complain about saving that kind of cash!
  • Share To Save
    Flickr: stuntcrazy
    Sharing meals, especially at restaurants that are notorious for serving large portions, can save your wallet from thinning further than it needs to. Let's say you go to a restaurant with a friend or spouse. If you each purchase a $7 glass of wine, a $12 appetizer, a $20 entrée and a $10 dessert, you've already spent nearly $100. Now consider this: two glasses of wine, one appetizer, one entrée and one dessert split between two people. That cuts the bill nearly in half! Many restaurants will plate split meals on separate dishes for you, so don't be afraid to ask -- but beware that there's sometimes a small fee for doing so. In that case, just ask for an extra plate.
  • Get Multiple Meals For The Price Of One
    Flickr: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious
    While sharing is a good habit to get into, if you're not into that, simply eat a little less. Rather than eating the entire meal in one sitting, order a regular portion and ask that half of it be placed in a take-out box for you to take home. This way, you get two meals rather than one.
  • Be An Early Bird
    Flickr: avlxyz
    Eat out earlier in the day. Lunch menus, for example, often offer cheaper meals that are similar (sometimes identical) to those offered during dinner service. The quality is the same, but the bill is much easier to manage. The art of brunch has become quite a trend and for good reason. Many restaurants serve package deals earlier in the day that include drinks and food. With these 10 simple tips in mind and a little financial planning, you can enjoy going out for a meal with your partner or a group of friends without worrying about your wallet. After all, food and drink help lift our spirits and that is invaluable therapy.
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