Module 2: Intercultural communication, local culture and customs

Lesson Title

Cultural parameter “cuisine and eating habits”

 

Introduction

The lessons intends to equip you with an understanding of different eating habits – about the kind of preferred food as well as the ways it is prepared and eaten.

 

Lesson time foreseen

1 hour

 

Lesson Content

Eating plays an important role in every culture, even more eating in community with others – family, friends, but also business people. Very often the details of cooperations and contracts are negotiated over lunch or dinner, so it is advisable not to ruin the atmosphere by showing table manners which may seem “odd” or even offensive to your counterpart.
 
Better get an idea about different table manners and eating traditions (and their reasoning, such as holidays) and respect them. As an example, Muslim people surely appreciate you not to eat, drink and even offer food to them during the time of Ramadan, same as Christian people in the fasting period. On the other hand, why not join them for their traditional holiday feasts?
 
To get an insight on what actually is on people’s plates, you may take an inspiration from American photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio, showcasing meals in 24 countries in their book “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats” (see the pictures also here: http://www.foodmatters.com/article/what-the-world-eats-shocking-photos). You see the ingredients of different families’ diet, and then you may wonder how they prepare these…? Take one particular ingredient and look for it in different “cultural” cookbooks, or just ask somebody to  explain, or even show you how he or she is cooking! This sort of intercultural communication “through the stomach” surely needs the most of flexibility and openness, as the world is full of creative ideas of what can be eaten and in which way. One way to practice it is the “Intercultural Food Experiment”: people preparing boxes with food ingredients which they consider “typical” of their culture and giving it to others to let them explore it.
 
But don’t forget: there is also an aspect of timing: if invited to dinner, better ask beforehand on whether you are expected to be on time, or whether you will find your host still cooking at the time agreed for your visit. Another example: in many Asian countries and Central America it is well-mannered to leave right after the dinner: the ones who don’t leave may indicate they have not eaten enough. In the Indian Sub-Continent, European and North American countries this is considered rude, indicating that the guest only wanted to eat but wouldn’t enjoy the company with the hosts. [http://www.cicb.net/en/home/examples] – You may consider this also when trying to get a grip of time perception in different cultures [link to topic 2.4 Time].
 
[add specific customs and traditional dishes in Germany / Italy / Latvia / Luxemburg/ Portugal / Turkey]

Group exercise: Join the Food Experiment and exchange food boxes with someone of a different culture – share your impressions, and maybe cook together?
 
 
 

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