8 Ethiopian Mealtime Etiquettes

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  1. Most traditional Ethiopian food is eaten with the hands; this is done by tearing off a piece of injera, using it to grab some food, and putting it directly in your mouth.
  2. Traditional meals are eaten from a communal plate, but you should not reach all the way across to the other side to grab food; eat what is close to you.
  3. It is polite to eat with your right hand – the left is considered unclean and therefore you should avoid using it if you can.
  4. There will always be a way to wash your hands before and after the meal. Sometimes a waiter will bring a basin and pitcher to the table.
  5. When greeting others at a restaurant, often they will have already washed their hands or already be eating. In place of a handshake, they will offer you their wrist; lightly grasp their wrist but do not shake it. If your hands aren’t suitable for a handshake either, you can touch your wrist to theirs. 
  6. The gursha is a gesture when a person will carefully place a morsel of food directly into your mouth. It is a gesture of respect and it is courteous to accept it.
  7. If you are invited into someone’s home, take your shoes off if they remove theirs.  Greet each person present (starting with oldest first.) Always allow any elders to begin eating before you do.  If you are the oldest present, Ethiopians will patiently wait until you begin to eat.
  8. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast two days a week (Wednesday and Friday) and for the two months before Easter.  On these days, observant Christians do not eat or drink until 3pm and also completely refrain from eating animal products (except for fish.) 

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