Hello! For your Ambassador work, can you tell us about dining etiquette in your country? Thank you! (If you would like a different question, let me know)!
Sure thing! Thank you for the question! And sorry that it took me more than a month to answer it ^^;
Copious mentions of alcohol below!
Weeeeell, to tell you the truth, dining etiquette in Russia is mostly bog-standard stuff like:
- knife in right, fork in left (inapplicable for some dishes)
- elbows off the table
- start eating when invited or when everyone else is ready to eat too
- no open-mouthed chewing
- no talking with your mouth full
Etcetera, etcetera. Like I
said, nothing special. Now, drinking etiquette is where it gets interesting! So I’m going to talk about it instead :Ъ
Dining Drinking etiquette
First of all, there are 2 main components to social drinking in Russia:
- proposing toasts
- and clinking glasses together
Toasts are proposed in order of relevancy to the cause of celebration – both in terms of toast’s content and the person saying it (so, for example, during a birthday party the first toast should be in b-day boy/girl’s honor and delivered by the closest relative). If there’s no special occasion for the drinking, the toasts are going to be either generic (e.g. “to the lovely ladies” or “to meeting each other”) or bizarre. You absolutely gotta have toasts tho! Otherwise you’re tacitly admitting that you’re drinking just to get drunk, lol.
There’s no all-purpose toast like “Cheers” in Russian, btw. The closest is Ваше здоровье / За здоровье - “Your health / To health”, which is pretty ironic when imbibing. My favourite is the vaguest toast of them all: Ну, будем, which means “Well, let us be”. Just be. That’s all.
1 toast per person is the norm, but depending on the number of people and some other variables one may have to propose several toasts or none at all. Nyway, it’s best to always have a toast in mind, just in case.
When the toast is done with, the clinking glasses together part starts. While someone is proposing a toast, everyone else should listen attentively and either stand or sit with their glass at the ready. “Ready” here means “in your hand and with at least some liquid in it”. It doesn’t have to be alcohol, but clinking with an empty glass is bad luck, so be prepared! Because the second the toast is done being told, it’s time to motherflippin clink.
Just hold your glass tight enough not to drop it but loosely enough to produce that lovely sound and go for your nearest neighbours’ glasses! In a formal situation that’s where it stops, but if the atmosphere is friendly, your task is to clink your glass with everyone. Even if you need to lean over the table or stand up to accomplish it, no glass should remain un-clinked!!
The less formal the party is the more unconventional clinkage is acceptable. Don’t have a proper glass? Clink with your coffee mug or plastic cup. Don’t have even that? Clink with the bottle. Don’t have anything to drink at all but still want to be included? Invite people to bump their drinks against your fist or forehead. It’s all about having fun and feeling united! When we were taking the Unified State Exam, my classmate and I toasted to the power of learning and clinked together our allotted water bottles after every block.
The only 2 times when you shouldn’t clink are: 1) If the party is too posh for it, and 2) If the toast was in memory of the deceased, because then the mood needs to be solemn.
One last drinking-related tradition: an empty bottle should never be put on the table. You should put the cork back in /the cap back on and place it under the table. There are 3 versions of why this tradition developed. The superstitious version: it’s a bad omen, might cause poverty. The historical version: in the XIX century the bill in taverns was drawn according to the number of empty bottles on the table, so… you can guess where this is going :P Finally, the common sense version: an empty bottle takes up precious table space and might fall down and shatter xD
That’s it, hope everyone is now ready to dine and drink like a Russian~!