In every country you visit, there is going to be a standard for table manners. If you are travelling to Singapore for the first time, take note of some etiquette rules.
Singapore is a multicultural country whose local food scene is influenced by the cuisines of its Asian neighbors. That said, food is a large part of the Singapore experience. If you are planning to visit Singapore anytime soon, here are the certain dining etiquette rules that you should know:
1. Respect others at the table
Before you look for great restaurant deals in Singapore, you must learn how to treat others at the table. Aside from the standard table manners that everyone should have (not talking with your mouth full, not putting your elbows on the table), here are ways to respect your fellow diners:
- Wait for everybody to get their food before eating
- Let elders eat first; wait for them to pick up their utensils and start eating
- Lazy Susans should be turned to the elders first and only clockwise
- Do not reach over people to get food
- Pass food to any Muslims with your right hand
- Be mindful that you don’t take other people’s food or utensils
- Let the host order for the table unless you are asked to
2. Use utensils correctly
It’s a great idea to learn how to use chopsticks before you go to Singapore, but it’s not always expected of you. You can use forks and spoons to eat if they are available. However, hawker centers may not have forks or spoons, so you need to use chopsticks or bring your own utensils. When you do need to use chopsticks, put them across your bowl when pausing; do not stab them into your rice.
3. Don’t slurp
In some Asian countries, slurping may be deemed acceptable, but that is not the case in Singapore. Don’t slurp your food or drinks.
4. Put food waste on your plate
Don’t put bones, rinds, and other unwanted organic matter directly on the table. Leave them on your plate instead.
5. Never double-dip
If you are dining in a family-style restaurant, always use the serving spoon to transfer food to your plate. Don’t let the serving spoon touch anyone’s plate either.
6. Respect informal reservations
At hawker centers, it’s common to see items left on the table to signify that it has already been reserved by someone who is possibly lining up for food. This may seem weird, especially for Westerners, but it’s best not to steal anyone’s spot no matter how hungry you are.
7. Tip if you need to
In Singapore, it is not usually expected to tip. A 10% service charge is typically added on top of your bill to serve as the tip. But if you get excellent service, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give an extra tip.
8. Know how to use the soup spoon
Yes, there is a correct way to use a soup spoon. If you are eating Western soups, spoon from inside to outside. Do the reverse for Chinese soups.
Strict etiquette rules are not always followed in every Singaporean restaurant you go to, but it’s still worth knowing them just in case. This way, you can respect the food, the culture, and the people you are dining with.