I was struck today, whilst having lunch, about the difficulty, when moving to a foreign country, of knowing the correct/polite manners.
When I was a child, my parents were all about manners, particularly at the table. So, the fork was always used with the prongs facing down; elbows were not allowed on the table (at least whilst actually eating); one did NOT cut biscuits (which, for some strange reason is FUN for children); one did not, in polite company – pick up the bones and chew off the meat or mop up the gravy with bread.
I know these things and, whilst I may do them at home without the benefit of company, I certainly do not do them when I am at other peoples’ houses or in restaurants.
>But here, I do not know what is polite and well-mannered and what is not. So today we had pork chops for lunch. My colleague next to me, after getting as much meat as possible off the bone, picked it up to chew the rest off. Was this bad mannered or not? I cannot ask, can I? There are some things that I could not possibly do and this is one of them, even if I enjoy being able to do that in the confines of my own home.
Mopping up the gravy is another I have seen many, many times before – at peoples’ houses; restaurants; the canteen and, since I have been here I have, very occasionally, done it myself. But, is it right?
The colleague I mentioned above is from the South of Italy and, as we all know, they are terrone (I suppose our equivalent would be ‘country bumpkins’ – people who really don’t know any better). But, surely there are people from the South who have had a very good upbringing? Do they pick up the bone and chew off the meat? Do they tuck their napkin in at the neck when eating pasta? Just what ARE good table manners?
Travelling to and living in another country when you are older is fraught with obstacles and trials but, because you are older, there are no parents to advise you as to what is right or wrong. After all, it is considered polite NOT to tell someone their faults, especially when it comes to manners.
If anyone has the answers, let me know.