It is not the first time my friends in Japan told me it is polite to finish all my food while eating in restaurants. I use to laugh at the idea because I am accustomed to the convenience of “to-go” boxes option available in the United States. I still order smaller portions in Japan though so I can finish everything without embarrassing my friends. However, one time when I overheard a Japanese chef talking to his royal customer about leftover food, it really shook me up, and realized how serious the matter may be. X_X
(Yes, when you learn other languages you will hear juicy conversations of the locals~)
My mother and I went to a Japanese restaurant that has a sushi bar with mixed tatami and western seating. There were a lot of customers that day, but mostly were tourists from other Asian countries since the area is where all airport hotels are. We ordered our dinner set and was enjoying our food, when an old Japanese gentleman wearing business suit with an umbrella came in.
The chef at the counter immediately greeted the Japanese guy with bright and loud “Irrashaimase/Welcome!!” , they first chat about weather, health, traffic, the usual suspects in any conversation. Suddenly, the Japanese guy turned his head and looked at the table on the right side. It was a table occupied by another Asian tourist family of 2 people, they ordered a sashimi plate special and three other entree dishes, yet they got up and left with a lot of the food still on the plate.
The Japanese customer started shaking his head, “もったいない, [mottainai]” he says. It means what a waste. The Japanese chef replied “Oh, it was two XXXXXXX tourists, we have a lot of XXXXX tourists today due to delayed flights, and usually they have leftovers.” “is it so? ” replied the Japanese customer “Usually we would not do that huh.”
Suddenly, my friends’ advice on finishing all your food in Japan rises in my cloudy head like a big bright red alarm light, and I realized, they do care about whether you finish your food or not…..It is within their tradition and culture.
And man!!! It just happens my mother accidentally ordered a fish entree set with portions that was a little too big for her O_O!!!!! I was sweating on my back with my heart jumping around like a butterfly after hearing that conversation and seeing my mom has trouble finishing her food. I really did not want to give people the wrong impression that we do not respect food ~ and not all tourists are like that family. I started helping my mom to eat half of her fish and cheering her on like a football cheerleader to finish the rest XDDD
Yes, we both let out a sigh of relieve after finishing the meal ~~~
Dinning etiquette in every country is different. While in Taiwan and Japan finishing the food is showing respect for the food and respect for the host and chef, other countries like parts of China and Philippines, it is their custom to leave a little bit of food left to show that you are full.
You may see a lot of mouth watering food on the menu and on the display windows of Japan. But next time might want to keep in mind, order what you can eat and finish ~ 😄
The only time you might be able to cheat is when you are eating in western style fast food restaurant where you clean up after yourself and throw away the trash….
(I mean, you destroy the evidence yourself, and no one looks right?)
What other countries you have been to that has different dinning etiquette than your home country?