Friday, December 17, 2010

Won't Miss #267 - "clean your plate" manners

One of my students did a home stay in a mid-western state and made a simple Japanese-style meal for her host family. She said that she thought they didn't like it and felt bad because they didn't eat everything that she served them. Another one of my students visited a former boss and he served her a huge quantity of rather oily eel which was far more food than she could comfortably eat, but she forced it all down anyway. In Japan, the host or hostess will feel bad or that you didn't enjoy the food if you don't clean your plate, even when the issue may be that your stomach isn't big enough or that you aren't keen on the type of food in general. It's good manners in Japan to eat everything you are served so as not to insult the cook.*

I won't miss the way in which one is obliged to eat more than one wants in order to spare the host's feelings or ensure that no insult has been given.

*Note: This situation is complicated by the fact that most people do not serve themselves from a central plate or bowl but tend to be served pre-proportioned sizes individually. In the U.S., we can often fill our own plates with portions of our own choosing. Generally your host will portion the food out for you in many social situations (though not all) in Japan.