There is an unspoken agreement that takes place the moment you receive an invitation to someone’s house for meals which is the host agrees to make you feel comfortable while you, as a guest, agree to be polite and appreciative throughout the occasion. When both of these aspects are in sync, good times over good meals will happen.
Your mother’s advice to always be polite might be enough to help you get by like a pleasant guest. But if you want to strike as an always-welcome and special guest, you may want to add some trick to your pocket.
On the surface, your main responsibility as a guest is to enjoy yourself above all else. However, it does not stop there. Your real responsibility as a guest, when spending time together with people who are not in the business of dining, is not to burden the host. Whether you are being hosted by your distant relative, your own sibling, or the friend of a friend, your primary goal in playing the role of a guest is to ensure that the host would invite you again and again.
Visiting Russian Homes
When you spend a long enough time in Russia, you might be lucky enough to receive an invitation for a meal at a Russian home. Just as in any home all over the world, in Russia, there are rules and certain etiquettes of doing things, specifically dining. While each household is different and certainly have their own particular habits, there are some common rules on how to dine with a Russian family and pay a visit to their home.
In this article, we will discuss some tips that will not only help you enjoy and understand a Russian home but also show the host that you respect them and their home. So, before you visit Russian homes, be polite by knowing their dining etiquette below.
Russian Dining Etiquette
If you are from outside Russia, do not be shocked if later you are seeing that while eating, the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right. This practice is a European Continental style. However, if you are not at a very formal function, you may hold the utensils like you usually do back home. There are many other rules and traditions when dining with Russian people such as:
- The oldest one or most honored guest should be served first;
- Do not start eating until the host asks you to start;
- Do not rest your elbows on the table even though your hands should be on sight at all times;
- You will, more often than not, be urged to take second helpings;
- It is fine in a home environment to use bread to dip into gravy or sauce;
- Male diner should pour drinks for female diner seated next to him;
- Leaving a tiny amount of dish on your plate is considered a sign suggesting that the host has provided ample hospitality;
- It is inappropriate to look into another person’s plate or saucer;
- Always remember to say “Thank you. Every dish was very tasty,” to the person who cooked the dish upon leaving the table. In the Russian language, the phrase “very tasty” is better than “delicious”;
- Tiny food should not be cut into pieces;
- Do not put your feet on the furniture or cross your legs with the ankle on the knee because it is impolite to show other diners the soles of your shoes.
Finishing the Meal
Do not get off of your seat until the host invites you to leave the table. At formal dinners, the most honored guest is the first to leave the table. If you are the most honored guest, the host will hint when to leave. In most cases, it will be a few hours, or more, from the moment everyone sat down. Enjoying tea and the conversation is done at the table after everyone is done with their meals.
Russian Etiquette for a Toast
Russian tradition when having dinner together is to have a toast. Remember to avoid drinking the vodka before the host suggests a toast. Always keep your glass raised throughout the toast and then clink it with others’ before drinking the vodka. There are many other rules and traditions when having a toast with Russian people such as:
- It is impolite for you not to offer a toast to honor the host and thank them for the amiable invitation into their home.
- As the toast continues, at some point, try to offer the second toast of greetings and good health wish from your own self or your family at home to the host and their Russian family.
- Take some bites of food or sweet in between drinking vodka. Not to do it is considered bad. Moreover, it will help your body absorb alcohol.
- Anyone who has been to Russia should have understood that participation in after-dinner toasting is a common part of polite etiquette. So, enjoy a series of toasts.
- Contrary to what many people write on the Internet, Russian people do not mix vodka with juices or soda at toasting practice because, in Russia, it is considered as an insult to the host to mix your vodka with something else. A toast should be pure vodka and it should not be sipped. Sipping is also considered an insult. You have to down the entire glass.
Unlike people in other countries who are lost without napkins at every meal, cloth napkins are not always practical in a Russian home. Meanwhile, paper napkins are an expense many Russian people will afford. You can find paper napkins in almost every supermarket in Russia.
Finally, we are at the end of the article. Once again, before you visit Russian homes, be polite by knowing their dining etiquette above.