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A Guide to Canadian Dining Etiquette

A Guide to Canadian Dining Etiquette

Ready to embrace your inner Canadian and chow down on some delicious grub in the Great White North? Well, hold on for a minute there! 

Did you know that there are certain things you must follow when dining there? How exactly do you handle yourself when eating with Canadians?

For starters, know that most Canadian dining etiquettes are focused on politeness. For example, a “please” and “thank you” go a long way here.

You must also follow the rule of waiting until everyone at the table has their food before you start eating. And remember to keep your mouth shut while chewing—Canadians appreciate closed-mouth munching!

But there are actually more things to consider, and we’ve got it all here! Grab your maple syrup, read on, and let’s dive deeper into these essential Canadian table manners.

The fork should face downwards and should be on top of knife

food and wine on a table

Ever watched a bullfight? Well, the dinner table is kind of like that in Canada, minus the gore.

The matador here is your fork, and it flies upward with its back downward. Now that’s an odd sight if you’re not used to it (I mean, come on, a flying fork?).

But there’s a surprisingly simple explanation. This operation is called Continental Style,” where you keep your fork in your left hand and your knife in the right throughout the meal.

And then there’s the placement. Say I’m done with my poutine; where do my utensils rest?

Here’s where the “fork on top” rule slides in. You simply place the fork, face down, on top of the knife when you’re done. This little signal conveniently informs your server (and fellow diners) that you’ve had your fill.

Local Tip: If you’re dining in Quebec, remember to keep your fork facing down. It’s a sign of good manners, and they do appreciate it!

When serving yourself, chew small bites at a time

person eating

What else screams primo Canadian dining? Ah, the art of consuming. Canadians are some sort of food whisperers, coaxing flavors out of the smallest morsels with their bite-sized magic.

Taking small bites speaks to the Canadian respect for food—their way of saying “Good things come in small packages”.

Plus, it’s just plain practical; smaller bites fit better with the tempo of mealtime conversations, and it’s much easier to handle an unexpected question from your boss when you’re chewing on a mouse-sized bite.

And you know what the cool thing about small bites is? It subtly conveys your self-control and discipline, which Canadians respect.

Local Tip: Always take small bites while you’re up in the Great White North. It lets you enjoy your food longer, and—even better—it lets you blend right into the local culture.

Certain foods, like lobster, have specific ways to be eaten

lobster on a plate

And now for something completely different: lobsters. Canada’s East Coast is a seafood paradise, and the king of the catch there is undoubtedly the Atlantic lobster. 

There’s something oddly satisfying about cracking open lobster shells and fishing out the succulent meat, isn’t there? First, you’ve got to be patient. 

Tackle the lobster’s claws first, twist it gently from the body, and use the nutcracker to crack open the shell. Extract the meat with a lobster fork (yes, there’s a specific fork for it). 

Sounds like hard work? Well, the reward is all that thick, juicy meat!

The Canadian lobster eating ritual ties back to two main things: the country’s respect for its food and the innate sense of decorum at the dinner table.

Local Tip: Next time you’re dining out in Halifax, remember to exercise some patience with your plate of lobster. Prizing out that meat is worth all the ceremony, I promise!

Respect Canadian food guides for health-conscious dining

vegetable salad on a plate

Canadians don’t just enjoy their meals; they respect them. Their food guides are a testament to their understanding of how nutrition impacts community health.

These guides provide a balanced diet plan that emphasizes whole foods, plenty of fresh produce, and local sources whenever possible. Following the Canadian food guides not only shows an appreciation for one’s own health but also respect for Canadian values.

Local Tip: If you’re in Calgary, try respecting the Canadian food guides. Their emphasis on balance and good servings of fresh veggies—now that’s a Canadian stamp of approval!

One soup slurp or toothpick misuse can turn people off

woman eating soup

Now, where some cultures might see a vigorous slurp as a compliment to the chef, in Canada, it’s somewhat akin to a Squatch bellowing in the wilds. Plain. Loud. 

And in a culture that prides itself on quiet conversation and pleasant dining experiences, a symphony of slurps can make the whole process… well, awkward.

Then there’s toothpick usage. Now, don’t get me wrong. Canadians are firm believers in oral hygiene.

It’s just that they prefer their cleaning sessions to be private affairs. Chewing on a toothpick, or worse, dislodging a piece of beef with it at the table, is considered a tad too intimate for a public setting.

Local Tip: If you’re in Toronto, try enjoying that piping hot bowl of clam chowder in small, silent spoonfuls. It’s the Toronto way, alright!

When toasted to, hold your glass at arm’s length

two persons toasting

Toasting is a time-honored tradition across the globe. In Canada, it’s a heartfelt, feel-good moment.

When you’re toasting, lift your glass high and hold it at arm’s length in a salute to camaraderie. Also, make sure you make eye contact with the toaster to recognize the toast. Canadians value this show of heartfelt respect.

Holding the glass this way is a non-verbal ‘cheers’ to shared pleasures and companionship. It’s a moment where everyone unites in shared recognition—a gesture that holds both personal acknowledgement and neighborhood closeness.

Local Tip: Got plans for dinner in Vancouver? If you get toasted, hold your glass high and proud, friend. It’s a good ol’ Vancouverite tradition!

Respect cultural norms and traditions around staple dishes

passing food

Canada’s culinary scene oozes diversity, borrowing from a myriad of cultures that blend together to create the country’s rich social fabric. Canadians respect for cultural norms and traditions doesn’t end at the dinner table.

The way each dish is consumed often mirrors the customs and values of the diverse communities that make up the country.

So, whether it’s digging into a hearty plate of tourtière, Quebec’s beloved meat pie, or tucking into spoonfuls of Asian-Canadian fusion Pho, the etiquette stays the same: respect the dish and the culture it represents.

When you honor each community’s culinary tradition, you honor the people that form the very backbone of Canadian society.

Local Tip: Find yourself dining in Montreal? Then indulge yourself in a slice of tourtière, but remember to respect their culinary traditions. Aye, that’s how Montreal rolls!

Always sport clean, polished shoes and be well-groomed

business people having lunch and shaking hands

Ah, let’s talk about foot fashion, or more simply, shoes. It isn’t just the dinner table where manners matter. 

In Canada, the way you look, the attention to detail you pay to your appearance, even the shoes you sport, can speak volumes about your respect for your dining companions.

Turning up for dinner in clean, polished shoes and a well-groomed appearance aren’t just niceties. They’re a nod to the Canadian appreciation for tidiness and decorum.

A clean, put-together look says, “I respect your company, and I care enough to look my best.” Now, isn’t that a sentiment worth dressing up for?

Local Tip: Walking into a Winnipeg restaurant? Make sure your shoes are clean and shiny. It’s a Winnipeg way of saying, “Hey, I value this dinner!”

Maintain eye contact as it is a sign of paying attention

group of people eating

Eye contact is seen as a window to your attention. In Canadian meal gatherings, maintaining eye contact testifies to your full participation in the present moment.

It’s an unspoken way of saying, “What you’re saying matters to me,” and trust me, Canadians value that silent assertion. 

Whether you’re discussing last night’s hockey game or sharing your recent travel experiences, these conversations deserve thoughtful, undivided attention.

This innocuous act of eye contact reinforces good vibes and builds stronger connections—key to the hospitable Canadian dining experience.

Local Tip: If you’re dining in Victoria, keep that eye contact going. It’s their way of saying, “I’m here with you.”

Tipping appropriately at restaurants is crucial

canadian money

And now we’ve come to the universal dining gesture: tipping. Canada, like its southern neighbor, follows a tipping culture. Generally, a 15% tip on your bill before tax is the norm.

This tipping etiquette dovetails with the country’s strong sense of fairness and politeness. Consider tipping as a boon to the hardworking staff that made your dining experience possible.

It’s more than just an obligatory custom; it’s a reflection of gratitude—the Canadian way.

Local Tip: Planning to dine out in Ottawa? Remember to tip appropriately on your bill. That’s the Ottawa commendation for good service!
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