e-learning
Cross-cultural

Knives and napkins: where are they?

Let’s move to something different and lighter: differences when it comes to eating. The first day of my internship I was taken to an Asian Food court to eat. It is located on the fourth floor of a business complex known as Amara. You can eat Chinese, Hainanese, Indian, Korean, Japanaese and other typical Asian cuisine. I opted for Chinese cousine and chose something very light and not suspicious: rise, meat balls and vegatables. Everything fine with that.

Obiously I feared I would have to eat using chopsticks, something I never actually mastered (usually food gets thrown everywhere when I use them so it’s better not to be anywhere near me!). But I was surprised to see they had forks and spoons. No Knife, though, and no napkins. A quick look around and I discovered that even the other places has spoons and forks but no knives. Why was that? Well, even though cutlery was made of plastic I figured it was because they were afraid people might start stabbing others with knives: news about stabbings from England quickly came to my mind… I would later discover I wasn’t that far off!

The other thing which surprised me was that when I went looking for a place to sit, I saw chairs with tissues or umbrellas on them. I was told that people left something personal – e.g. tissues – to take that seat before going to get their food. Strange, huh? The weirdest part though is that people don’t use tissues to blow their nose: it’s considered rude! They prefer to sniffle, often very loudly ( and I really does get on your nerves!!!!). You’d think they’ve misunderstood the reason tissues were created..!

If tissues are used with another purpose, they also don’t seem to be used as napkins, either. As a matter of act, no napkins are given to you, unless you go to a Western restaurant or a MacDonald’s. So, you may ask, how do they clean their mouth, especially cosidering how fried and oily Asian food is? I guess they don’t, but I still haven’t figured it out… hopefully I’ll get an asnwer by the end of my stay here.

6 Comments
  • Maria Joy Whittaker
    9:42 PM, 19 April 2009

    Even I was pretty surprised there were no knives or napkins but I could never have imagined that it could be due to the fear people might stab each other. Regarding napkins, if you consider some Chinese habits (76% Singapore inhabitants are Chinese) like spitting, rubbing mucous onto a wall, belching I am not surprised they do not use a napkin. Hands are jolly useful in these situations . . . It’s best not to shake hands with someone who has been eating Peking Duck and then rubbed their mouth clean. . .
    I could not understand why tables always had a book, umbrella or tussues on it. Now I know!!

    • Riccardo Nicholas Crestani
      12:58 PM, 20 April 2009

      I think the issue with knives may also have to do with the fact that some countries in this region do not use chopsticks but instead use forks and spoons to eat rice. Seeing as rice is eaten at least three times a day (if not more), spoons are used to eat other food as well. If meat or other type of food is too thick, then the good old “eat with your hands” system comes in handy!

  • Alberto Danda
    5:58 PM, 20 April 2009

    IN MY OPINION THIS LAW IS VERY STUPID BECAUSE IT ISN’T VERY GOOD SEE A MANY PERSON WITH A DIRTY MOUTH. I CAN NOT UNDERSTAND.

    • Riccardo Nicholas Crestani
      6:08 PM, 20 April 2009

      Actually there is no law on this subject. It’s a cultural characteristic… but I agree. It does look strange to Westerners.

  • Erica Savegnago
    12:17 PM, 22 April 2009

    I think that the people there are very strange! how can you manage!!!!! ricky come back soon! cross your fingers for me…

  • Anh Da Lat
    1:00 PM, 7 April 2011

    If tissues are used with another purpose, they also don’t seem to be used as napkins, either. As a matter of act, no napkins are given to you, unless you go to a Western restaurant or a MacDonald’s. So, you may ask, how do they clean their mouth, especially cosidering how fried and oily Asian food is? I guess they don’t, but I still haven’t figured it out… hopefully I’ll get an asnwer by the end of my stay here

Comments are closed.

About this blog

This blog covers a wide range of subjects, from intercultural issues to English as a Foreign Language, hot topics in the news, TV programs of interest and much more!

Our articles are witten by Riccardo Crestani, a CELTA facilitator and translator and Maria Joy Whittaker, who has been living in Italy for over 30 years.

Feel free to post your comments!

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Youtube
Consent to display content from - Youtube
Vimeo
Consent to display content from - Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from - Google
Spotify
Consent to display content from - Spotify
Sound Cloud
Consent to display content from - Sound Cloud