Food Taboos Around the World

Papua New Guinea
For women tribal members in Papua New Guinea in the middle of their menstrual cycles, there are a number of food taboos they must adhere too. Since they are thought to be in a “sickly” state, women are not allowed fresh meat, juicy bananas or any red coloured fruits. Furthermore, anyone who eats the food a menstruating woman cooks or even steps over, that person, — particularly the husband — will become “ill with cough and possibly die.” And while older women are also not supposed to eat fish eggs when pregnant, unmarried young men will receive the best food and do not have many food taboos.

Seafood is a staple of the Brazilian diet. But not all fish are enjoyed by all Brazilians. Predatory fish, like piranhas and bottom feeders are considered taboo for the ill to eat. Those who are ill though, are recommended to eat fish that are omnivorous.

If you happen to be traveling to China, minding your chopsticks is the same as minding your manners. After finishing a meal at a restaurant, do not leave your chopsticks sticking up in the left-over rice at the bottom of your bowl. That practice is employed when families offer a meal to their ancestors’ ghosts at family shrines but Chinese people believe that doing so in a restaurant would plague the proprietor with a terrible curse.

Sharing is not necessarily caring in Japanese culture. If you do plan on sharing your meal, you must place the tasting morsel on a small plate and then pass it to the recipient. Why? Because passing food from chopstick to chopstick irreverently references the Japanese custom of sifting through a family member’s cremated ashes to handle their loved ones’ bones.

Old world traditions are very much alive in Russia when it comes to traditional dating. If you are hoping to court a lady at a restaurant, do not expect to go dutch. As the initiator of the date, you are expected to pay for everything, as most Russian women won’t even bring their wallets on a formal date.

Food taboos in India vary according to religion. For those that practice Hinduism, eating a cow in prohibited, as it is thought of as God’s useful gift to mankind since it provides dairy products and is the basis for other products. Many Islamic and Muslim families not only avoid pork for religious reasons, they feel that pigs are bred in absolutely revolting conditions and are not worthy of consumption.

Whether you are from an Italian-American family or have been lucky enough to visit Italy yourself, you know that there is no shortage of food. Despite the fact that Italians will feed you until you are beyond full, it is considered rude to accept the first offering of food. Politely decline at first, but when offered a second time — which you likely will be — feel free to accept

When it comes to child rearing, there are some definite food-related taboos Jamaican people believe in. It is believed that if children eat chicken before they learn to speak, they will never talk. Eating half an egg will make the child grow into a thief and drinking milk from a baby bottle will turn them into a drunkard.

Much like the Jamaican taboos, many Nigerians’ taboos revolve around children. While they also believe children who eat eggs will turn into thieves, they also feel particularly strongly about coconut milk. Another widely held belief is that children who drink this type of milk will make them unintelligent.

Dining in France is an experience. The taboos associated with French dining have more to do with manners than with cultural beliefs. It is considered rude to rush through a meal or hurry your order along. You also never want to ask for a doggy-bag or leave food on your plate, the implication being that you did not.

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