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Old 01-08-2012, 04:15 AM   #1
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Default Cultural Manners, Eating

Germany is much different about eating what someone offers than America (maybe). In Germany, when you go visit someone, that person usually makes cookies, cake, or a full meal (I can only speak for Germany, I haven't lived in any other European countries)

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to visit a couple who recently had a baby. The woman spent tons of time preparing this huge creamy cherry cake thing. If I would have said no, it might have sent her crying. Seriously, it is super offensive to turn down food.

In addition, you never ever serve yourself at someone else's house. They give you the piece/portion. In addition, in Germany, it is even more of an important cultural tradition to finish everything on their plate.

So, yesterday, despite my current attempts to stay away from sugar (for mood and caloric reasons), and to eat lower-carb, I was almost quite literally held at gunpoint to eat a caloric-sugary-bomb.

It is sort of upsetting. I'm going to go for a long jog today.

There are times, though, in life, when you don't have complete control over what you eat, I find. And I am already an outsider here, I don't want to be more of an outsider by rejecting their gifts and cultural traditions.

I'm sort of caught in a pickle.

I do tell my soon-to-be mother-in-law "no thanks".... I also tell my boyfriend "no thanks" when offered food - but I find it is an entirely different story with others. There it becomes entirely impolite and I risk being excluded. You can't simply say "Well, if they don't like me because I won't eat something, then we weren't meant to be friends". This is much deeper. It is also rejecting someone's gift that required their hard work and thoughtfulness.

Anyway, this happened to me yesterday. Maybe others struggle with this as well.
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:11 AM   #2
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It is difficult and I know what you mean. I lived in Germany for many years and boy do they love their "Kaffe und Kuchen"!! So do I. Your best course of action depends on how well you know people - I don't think it's rude to ask for just a small piece if you want to make a show of politeness by eating something. I've also dodged a few by politely telling the hostess in advance (if I knew her already) or at the event that I wasn't well and wasn't able to eat any cake/high fat/sugary things. I've always found though that the best thing (for me anyway) is to just go with the flow, enjoy myself and then be extra good for a few days afterwards. It's less stressy for me and, at the end of the day, I remind myself that I have to live.

I know this is different for other people and what works for me wouldn't work for others. I guess it also depends a bit on where you are - social etiquette rules are much stricter in rural areas than in cities.
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:33 AM   #3
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Wow, that literally opened up my mind.

I never heard about that from my Germany friend who came to my country 6 months ago. The only thing I know is that the people of Germany loves sweet things(Maybe too sweet for my taste).

It is hard to tackle issues such as local etiquette and I think the best course of action is to be ready whenever you are going to someone's house.
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:43 AM   #4
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That's hard. I'm not in Germany but French culture is similar. Likewise, traditionally, you are not expected to eat much of it either which can contrast with the North American ("clean your plate!") attitude ingrained in many of us.

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Old 01-08-2012, 08:02 AM   #5
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I had a friend here was here for a couple of years from Germany, she was an incredible cook and entertainer. When we went to her house I would smile, pat my middle and say "remember, just a small serving for me." She would laugh and give me just a sliver or small serving. Very gracious. So yes, I always knew I would be eating too much but never over the top. It helps if your boyfriend (in my case my husband and sons) really step it up and enjoy and eat heartily!

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Old 01-08-2012, 03:52 PM   #6
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LOL im part german and everytime we go to my parents mom tries to give my bf food and hes like no its cool i ate earlier and she looks at him like he just shot a puppy in front of her. shes like i cook cake and cookies and no one loves me no one! i dont think the overdramatic part is german tho :P they also dont like if ppl serve themselves. my friend was over and went to get a drink and mom gave her this i will cut you look. my friends dont like to visit often they find my parents culture too weird. i love it though especially when a guy tries to pick you up in german and you speak it back and he admits hes from new zealand and looking for tail and walks away ashamed

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Last edited by CherryQuinn; 01-08-2012 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 01-09-2012, 04:19 AM   #7
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Its the same when I was in russia, my host would give out these huge portions and then it was so rude to leave anything... if you'd be like sorry, i'm full...she'd just say 'oh, okay. Sit there for five more minutes and then you'll be hungry again'... or she'd just wrap it in a bag to take out wherever you were going for the day. Likewise on days she visited her daughter who lived near a good market and would bring back all these amazing sweets and cakes and put them on a platter for us: two of each kind, each. And then you'd take one of one kind and she'd be like 'what the ****? eat more! I bought them specially!'

Oh but I miss russia
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:37 AM   #8
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And it's the same in Croatia. My mother in law who has now lived here for 15 years is finally gettingnitnthat when she goes to a party, she should not expect the hostess to fill her plate and that potluck parties are much more the norma and are not considered impolite. She lives with us and every time we have a party, she gets a little "weird", but it's the cultural difference. She's finallyo understanding that parties are a lot easier "our" way though.

Of course, this is just another cultural thing where europeans think we are rude... But not offering similarly when they visit and not taking when we visit. It's just a different norm.

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Old 01-09-2012, 09:51 AM   #9
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I'm from Europe myself and I know the feeling. Sometimes I tell the host to give me a really small portion, because I'm trying to lose weight, sometimes I just say "no, thanks, I'm on a diet" and most people are really supportive. Some try to convince you, some not.
Sometimes, if it's a really special occasion, I say whattheheck and give myself a free day, but try to eat resonable amounts of food. Just yesterday we were on a birthday party and I gave myself a day off, I ate very light breakfast and lunch and then had 2 slices of pizza, one small slice of the cake and few handfulls of popcorn at the party. I was full, but not stuffed and had a great evening!
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