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Table Manners in Singapore

Although Singaporeans are accepting of variations in etiquette, thanks to their nation's multiculturalism, there are a few things to keep in mind. Traditionally, your food is served family style—placed all at once on the table so everyone can dig in—or, for more formal meals, served a course at a time, again with diners sharing from a single dish. Nevertheless, some restaurants are dispensing with tradition and are instead serving individual portions. When eating with chopsticks, dip them in tea before wiping them with a tissue to clean them; never leave them upright in a rice bowl—this resembles a grave marker which is considered a bad omen. It's a sign of respect for a Singaporean to serve you during a family-style meal. It's polite to reciprocate the gesture when their bowl is nearing empty. It's not a big deal to start eating before your companions have been served; waiting until everyone is served is a western concept. Many locals may have religion-based dietary restrictions, such as only eating vegetarian or halal (Muslim) food. If you're arranging a meal with Singaporeans be sure to clarify their eating habits before deciding on a restaurant. Smoking is banned in air-conditioned restaurants and banquet/meeting rooms, but many establishments have outdoor patios and seating areas for smokers.

Updated: 02-2014

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