So Do I Have No Manners or Is It Cultural?

Last Friday night we met up with friends for happy hour, or after work as it is called in Sweden, at the new hot spot in town Satan i Gatan. We were only having drinks but many people were ordering food and while I was lusting after the burgers the three guys next to us ordered I noticed something that I found strange. Being the nice person I am I leaned over and whispered to my friend in my quietest but meaningful voice “Look they are eating their hamburgers with a fork and knife, how weird”. She leaned around me looked at them and responded “I think that is perfectly normal and do it myself” in her I sound very fancy British accent.

I first blanched at the thought I was being rude and then quickly thought no eating a hamburger with a fork and knife is just plain old weird so I started to defend myself. I first asked my husband and he said he agreeded that hamburgers are just pick up and eat food and then he asked the table if they used a fork and knife at McDonalds. Everyone, it was the British girl and two Swedish guys, said no they do not but at a bar like we were at it would be rude. Their reasoning was what if you got food on your face it would be revolting to those around you and I said that is what napkins are for, you would not just sit there with food on your face the whole night.

Then the British women/Swedish man couple said they went to a restaurant once with a British man/Swedish women couple and the man ordered ribs and they were disgusted that he picked them up and ate them with his hands at the restaurant. This left me even more confused for two reasons, one being how else do you eat ribs and two that it must not be a universal British thing then so was it just her Swedish immersion that she now thought this was wrong. So I then asked how she ate ribs and she said well obviously with a fork and knife and further more she would even eat chicken wings with a fork and knife!

Ok please tell me how you eat wings with a fork and knife because I am pretty sure it cannot be done!

After that I started to feel that the general consensus with them was that I was just a rude American eating in public with my hands and did not want to push the topic further lest I get angry and give them real reason to raise their eyebrows at me.

I just cannot stop thinking about it though, I would obviously not eat pasta or salad with my hands but I think some foods wether in public or not you have full license to use your hands.

So tell me do I just not have any manners or is it a cultural thing?

(The whole time I was writing this post this picture kept popping into my head)

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9 thoughts on “So Do I Have No Manners or Is It Cultural?

  1. Eek. That is a tough one. The only time I have ever used forks and knives to eat a burger (be it meat or veggie) is when they happen to be especially saucy, and thus usually delicious, fall apart messes. Otherwise, it’s all in the hand. To me, if you are ordering a burger, the restuarant is a more casual place and thus eating with your hands is a-ok. I mean, there is a reason why super fancy restaurants serve things like lobster, steak, etc vs ribs, wings and burgers. So yeah, long story short, I think it cultural–not your manners.

  2. liv says:

    It’s cultural and manners. You have good manners in the US but bad manners in Sweden. There are no universal bad or good manners, it’s different in different countries, simple as that.

    And of course those chicken wings would be eaten with a fork and knife (in Sweden)! If they are as messy as in that picture, then yes it would be considered gross to eat them with your hands (here in Sweden)!

    For most swedes, I would say McDonalds and similar places are the only places where you eat burgers with your hands. In ther restaurants or at home you use fork and knife.

    But I must say, it is bad manners to say to someone that the way it’s done in their country, where you are at the time, is weird. Of course they got defensive.

  3. Fred says:

    Liv – So it’s safe to assume by your logic that if you would have McDonald’s taken to your house you would bring out the ol’ knife and fork to eat it with right? Because it would be bad manners otherwise since you would be eating it in your house.

    This is has nothing to do with manners what so ever but that Swedish people have a fear of making themselves look bad in public. God forbid that a fellow restaurant goer (who can or will order hot wings in a fancy restaurant anyway?) would see you pick up a hot wing with your bare hands and eat it. You would be thrown out of the restaurant straight away right because in Swedish restaurants, there are thing called manners, and if you cannot follow them you’re out.

    The whole idea of hot wings, ribs, etc, is that they are messy and you eat them with your HANDS!!! How you manage to eat them with a knife and fork is beyond me and if you think that they should be eaten with a knife and fork, order something easier for you to eat instead. That would be less greasy, you already know beforehand that you wont have to tuck the table cloth down your shirt because your afraid of stains. No order foie gras instead, because that you need to have manners for.

    • liv says:

      No, burgers from McDonalds are not eaten with knife and fork, no matter where you are. Except in the north of Sweden, where both ways are common abd McDonalds have knifes and forks soince so many want it.

      Of course it has to do with manners, you don’t have to understand why some things are considered bad manners here when they’re not in the US, just accept it or people will think you’re disgusting. Who cares what other people think? Thats soo old and not true, just because things are done different here americans think it’s because of fear or that we care too much about what other people think. No – it’s just that whats considered bad or good manners is different in different cultures. Live with it.

      A lot of food is considered fine to eat with your hands here, just not exactly the same and in the same situations as in the US. Hamburgers at fast food restaurants, chicken legs or wings at home (if not a fancy dinner), hot dogs, “tunnbrödrulle”, crayfish, artichokes, and so on.

      So, sorry, but you’re simply wrong here.

  4. janerowena says:

    In Britain, I think it depends on your family. We always use knives and forks, and not many people here eat pizzas with their hands in the american way. We eat the european italian way, with knives and forks. If you are out for the day with a takeaway, eating in a park, then hands would be used. Very few people pick up their burgers in a restaurant simply because it is so messy – no-one would be glared at for doing it, though. Everyone simply does what makes them happiest. Maybe we would do it more if fingerbowls were provided. As for the chicken wings – well, at home it’s fingers, and never choose them in restaurants.

  5. I once had lunch with a group of Danish college students in their early 20s and they all ate their regular sandwiches with a knife and fork. I thought this was hysterical. Still do. I don’t eat meat, but often will still eat veggie burgers, in a bar with my hands. I don’t know how you get the bun, burger and toppings together on a fork. But I did find myself cutting up the first slice of NY pizza I had during my last trip to NYC, and felt suddenly very embarrassed and a bit sad. Now I eat most pizza with my hands, as it was meant to be!

  6. Well, I must confess, I have tried eating a burger with a knife and fork!…. Buuuut failed miserably and I think I muttered ‘Oh sod it’ and started using my hands….. However, pizza, I do use my knife and fork….. Not sure about ribs and chicken wings, I think I have only ever eaten them at bbqs with friends with compulsory hand eating. However, I do wonder how you might eat them in public. I think I will just avoid ordering them ;-) (I spy a Brit above has similar thoughts on not ordering them in public)!

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