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Table Manners across Cultures by Dorine Dresser

Level: intermediate to high


Questions for the talk
A) Listen and watch the talk  HERE  (VideoJug Page) 
B) You can download the  transcript of Ms. Dresser in word (+ vocabulary) and the video from this link HERE
C) Ask students to answer some or all the questions below:
 
Questions for the Talk
1. What table manners in your country/region might be surprising for an outsider? 2. Out of the table manners Ms. Dresser mentions, which ones are the most surprising? Explain why. 3. Have you ever faced or witnessed misunderstandings due to cross-cultural differences, whether related to table manner or other cultural dissimilarities? 4. Do you know of any film, book or piece of news that deal with cultural differences? How do they portray those differences? 5. What would have been your reaction in front of any of the cultural differences that Ms. Dresser mentions? You can project the questions using your beam projector:
 This is a VIDEOJUG Video: if you have problems viewing this video go straingth to the VIDEOJUG page HERE See related  task from the Joy Luck Club HERE  

This is the script of the video
How do table manners differ among cultures?

There are big differences between cultures. Whether they eat with their hands, always with the right hand, no matter where, whether they eat with chopsticks, whether they eat with just a spoon. Utensils, the foods that they eat, the foods that are taboo. You of course know about shellfish and pork for Jews, alcohol for Muslims.
How does offering food to guests differ among cultures?

Offering food is something Americans say, "Would you like some ice cream?" We'll say, "Oh, no thank you. Not right now." And I'll ask you one more time, "Would you like some ice cream?" And you'll say, "No, thank you" and I've got the message you don't want any ice cream. But, I learned from a friend of mine who was actually an instructor of mine from Indonesia at UCLA. And he said, when he first came to the US, he was so hungry all the time, people would invite him for dinner. And they'd say, "Would you join us for dinner?" And he'd say, "No, thank you." And they'd say, "Oh, come on, have something to eat with us." And he'd say, "No, thank you." And so they would stop asking, thinking they didn't want to push food on him; maybe he didn't like American food. And so, he was really hungry. And he learned to overcome his rule: at home, people have to ask you three times, offer you food three times before you can accept it. And that applies not only in Indonesia but in other parts of the world as well. So how do you know? I could never stand my mother-in-law; she was born in the old world, and my husband didn't like it either. As soon as we sat down, she would start bringing out all the food. Well, if you bring it out, then that solves that, so don't ask, just serve it and they'll take it. "Oh no, not right now." So then, ask three times.
Why is noisy eating acceptable in other cultures?

In China and Japan slurp your noodles. That's a sign of respect. Smack you lips, I don't know what that means. I don't know exactly. But that also means that the dinner is very good. Belching or burping, in some places bad manners, in other places it was a delicious meal and you feel very satisfied. Generally speaking, we don't talk with food in our mouths. There's this stereotype of the Japanese holding, you know, laughing behind the hand and that's partly because you don't want to show your teeth and your mouth. So that's why they laugh behind here, it won't show your teeth. You don't want to do that while your chewing either but you can slurp your noodles, that's a very good sign.

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