Traveling to a foreign country for work is exciting, but it can be just as enjoyable as it can be stressful. In business it is important to always have some knowledge of local customs, in order to always be giving the best personal image we can of ourselves. Learning etiquette is the best way to not only be proper during social events or meetings, but it also helps to show respect and gratitude for the culture in which one is at the moment, hence why etiquette can vary from place to place and why it is relevant to know the specific rules for each culture one has to participate in. Here are the general etiquette guidelines for three of the most known countries in Europe: France, Germany, and Italy.
France- 5 things to watch out for dinner: Your voice, the bread, the substitutions, the silverware, and your hands and elbows. A common complaint from restaurants in France regarding Americans is that they speak too loudly, so try to always keep your tone soft, subtle, and the volume low. For the bread, you should not be surprised if it is not served before the main dish as it happens in the United States. The bread it is served along the main course, and you should not worry about having to put your bread on your table if you do not have a plate to put it on; this is sometimes expected. For the substitutions, they should not happen. It is better to stick with the dishes you asked for in the first place, as French restaurants expect the customers to defer their expertise of the chef. For the silverware, remember that the knife goes in the right hand while the fork goes on the left hand. Make sure that between breaks you cross your knife and fork on your plate, with the fork on top, otherwise the server may assume you are done with your food. For your hands and elbows always keep your elbows off the table and your hands visible throughout the meal.
Germany- 5 things to watch out for dinner: Your food, the water, your napkin, where you pass to, and your plate. For your food, utensils are used even for food such as pizza. However, Germans use knives only when absolutely necessary, cutting their food with the side of the fork when they can. For the water, always ask for it, since servers do not bring water unless you ask for it, and they usually charge for it. Always make sure to place your napkin to the left side of your plate when you’re done and folded when you are just leaving for a moment. When passing a dish to someone to the table, always pass it to the left, but if it is something like the salt or the pepper, pass it directly to the person who requested it. For your plate, always make sure to finish your food, as hosts assume that something was wrong if you do not finish the food served to you.
Italy- 5 things to watch out for dinner: Punctuality, your pace, silverware use, coffee. Always arrive on time, and be prepared to wait for your colleagues. Slow down your pace, as Italians eat much slower than us Americans do, and dinners can last from 3 to 4 hours. For silverware use, the same guidelines are used as in Germany and France; always eat with your silverware.