45

It seems to me that Westerners are willing to learn to use chopsticks in Asian restaurants. However, when spoons are the way the dish is normally eaten within the country of origin, Westerners prefer to use a fork.

Since presumably both spoons and forks originated from the West, is it OK to eat rice using a spoon in front of Westerners in a Western country, or should I use a fork instead?

Would it be considered rude to use a spoon to eat rice, since spoons in the West are normally associated with soups?

  • 72
    Bottom line, you are worrying too much. Countries all over the world eat differently, many Europeans hold their knife and fork in opposite hands than Americans, no one much cares. Eating with chopsticks or a spoon in an Asian restaurant is a non-issue. Westerners use chopsticks in Asian restaurants, because they mistakenly think ALL Asians use chopsticks, something you and I know not the be true. I am always amazed when I have to ask for a spoon in Thai restaurants in the USA or Europe, but never get dirty looks or issues from my fellow patrons when I use it. – user13044 Oct 24 '16 at 16:04
  • 58
    Nobody will care about you using a spoon to eat rice. – JoErNanO Oct 24 '16 at 17:36
  • 6
    Absolutely OK. Also, if we are talking about "rice" in the generic sense (i.e. not like Italian risotto) it may make a lot more sense to use a spoon than a fork. – Andrea Lazzarotto Oct 24 '16 at 23:19
  • 4
    I eat rice with a spoon and I am British. SO much easier! – indofraiser Oct 25 '16 at 8:24
  • 6
    In Tomainia there's the death sentence for such a crime, so if you get caught you'd better run in Osterlich but be aware that in Osterlich you'll go to prison for breaking the eggs from the top (or the bottom? I don't remember anymore...). Seriously: why do you care? Use the tools you are more comfortable with, except for hands. Hands are likely to be considered rude, everything else is okay, even eating soup with chopsticks you can manage that. – Bakuriu Oct 25 '16 at 9:02

15 Answers 15

63

It depends on how you define "western countries", but if you think of Western Europe + UK + US/Canada, please rest assured that nobody would care whether you use sticks, fork, spoon or hands (well, this one is a bit of stretch) to eat your rice. So yes, this is ok. If you don't get a spoon, please ask for one.

Please also note that not every kind of rice could be eaten with chopsticks; certain types of rice (typically those used in soups such as Georgian "Harcho") are non-sticky, and I can't imagine eating it with anything else but spoon.

  • 57
    "Hands" is a bit much. – user35890 Oct 24 '16 at 6:51
  • 12
    Yeah, there was an Indian expat regular in an Indian restaurant in London I used to go to who always ate his curry with his right hand, and the other British customers used to find it surprising. No-one ever said anything (I think people eventually realised he was actually doing it more "right" than they were) but he got some funny looks. – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 24 '16 at 7:35
  • 45
    -1 In western Europe people will feel very strongly if you eat your rice with your hands. – Pieter B Oct 24 '16 at 12:34
  • 15
    Hands? Absolutely not. Ever. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 24 '16 at 19:35
  • 50
    I assume using my feet is right out of the question – Darren H Oct 24 '16 at 19:46
42

As someone who always used to eat rice with a spoon, the first time I moved to the US for studies and saw people eating rice with a fork, I couldn't stand it.

I tried it myself, but damn it - trying to balance the rice grains, without having them fall through the forks was annoying.

At first, I would ask for a spoon. This raised some eyebrows, but nothing more (this was in Texas, if that matters). This lasted for about a week; and eventually I got tired of asking for spoons because each time they would bring me a spoon, it would be a large (to me) spoon, so either they had the very tiny dessert spoons, or the large soup spoons. I was used to a more normal "eating" spoon.

Eventually I got used to eating rice with a fork ... and when I came home and went hunting for a fork to eat rice, my mom gave me a look like what is wrong with my son. This is because in our household - forks are reserved for desserts (mainly, cakes), and sweets. Not for (as my mom would say) "eating".

The bottom line from my personal experience is - use what makes you comfortable eating (like my friend that used to eat pizza with a knife and fork, as if it was some steak). A few people may simply look up once, and then go back to their own food.

It is most definitely not rude by any stretch of the imagination (although some passionate pizza lovers did make some comments - but all in jest).

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Oct 26 '16 at 10:18
  • 1
    Soup spoon is the "eating spoon". It's so large because you're supposed to satisfy your hunger with it. The middle one is tea spoon, which is used for mixing sugar in tea, almost never for eating. Last comes the dessert spoon which is used for eating again, but is so tiny because you're supposed to savor the dish instead of getting full. – Agent_L Oct 26 '16 at 12:46
  • @Agent_L makes perfect sense, but what about the extra long tea spoons used for stirring. I always called those tea spoons and then the tea spoons were just spoons. – Raystafarian Oct 26 '16 at 14:40
  • Well, the long spoons are for either stirring drinks in tall glasses (rarely) or for eating desserts served in tall glasses. They're so long only because shorter spoon could not reach the bottom. So they're also eating spoons depending on situation : ) – Agent_L Oct 27 '16 at 11:53
  • Ah pizza with knife and fork. I do that when it's too soft to pick up easily without making a mess. – Joshua Oct 27 '16 at 16:23
34

Unless you are in a situation where very specific etiquette is expected, no one will care one bit about which utensil you use.

Such specific etiquette may be expected in diplomatic or high value business meetings, but for casual, or even formal dining, it is not.

It is not uncommon to see Americans pick up bite sized morsels with a knife when the fork is readily available.

  • 8
    "It is not uncommon to see Americans pick up bite sized morsels with a knife when the fork is readily available" - Now that's considered rude in many european countries. – Axel Oct 26 '16 at 6:29
  • 3
    I have never seen anyone, anywhere eat off a knife, and I've lived in the US my whole life. Besides being rude, I was taught putting a knife in your mouth was just plain stupid. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Oct 27 '16 at 7:13
  • Especially when cutlery is aranged according to courses, you should use the provided set, whatever it is. – Dschoni Oct 27 '16 at 11:10
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas it's funny you comment on this since I remember 'eat peas with a knife' was a thing when I was a kid. It's from a book or something. – Johns-305 Oct 27 '16 at 11:26
  • 1
    I eat my peas with honey/I've done it all my life/It may make them taste funny/But it keeps them on the knife. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Oct 27 '16 at 14:22
10

In South Germany many people in rural areas eat with a spoon at home. If they do it in public they are looked on as unsophisticated peasants. I have a colleague who always eats rice, pasta or vegetables with a spoon, and she is looked down upon for this - she also has a loud rural accent. My son was astounded when his flatmate at college ate with a spoon, "but Mom, his parents are teachers!".

However, this is only a problem for locals. If you are clearly non-Western no-one will be offended - though they may try and offer you chopsticks. People travel a lot these days and are quite aware that, e.g., in Thailand they use spoons not chopsticks. It would make a good starting point for a conversation.

9

I agree with most of the replies: Yes, it is okay (acceptable, not rude) to eat rice with a spoon.

However, what I haven't seen mentioned is that western children usually start eating with a spoon for everything, and then graduate to a fork for solid foods as they get older. So while eating rice with a spoon would not be rude in any way, some might consider it childlike.

8

If you want to eat rice with a spoon you may; few people would consider it rude. However, please consider several issues:

First, a fork is the most common utensil with which to eat in Western cultures. People at your table may be curious. Be ready to explain.

You may need to ask for a spoon, because you won't be given one. Some restaurants give spoons only when you order soup, a stirred beverage, pasta, or dessert; a formal meal will have different-shaped spoons for each of these items. All restaurants will give you a spoon upon request.

You may eat too quickly or take large bites. A table spoon could hold more rice than a fork, especially sticky rice. It would not be polite to put such a large amount of food in your mouth.

The tines of a fork are easier to stab through a clump, especially of sticky rice. A spoon tends to cut and smash the grains.

5

Yes , it will be okay. Just ask any waiter for a spoon if the table didn't had it at first, most of the time, if the rice is served with too much liquid sauce, there'll either be a spoon to eat like if it was soup or bread to soak up the sauce.

5

I took a Thai cooking class (in California) and Lesson One included: Thailand does not use chopsticks; Thais eat curry with spoons. Since then I've tried to do likewise. No one will care.

  • 1
    Most Thai food is eaten with spoons, but chopsticks are appropriate for noodles dishes. – AndyB Dec 12 '17 at 9:42
4

In Britain there will be no problem whatsoever asking for a spoon. The waiting staff might look a little surprised because most people eat dry Rice with a fork and only use a spoon if it is a liquid type dish but there will be no problem. I doubt anyone else at the table will even notice what cutlery you are using and if they did they wouldnt say anything.

3

It depends a bit whether you look like a foreigner. If you do, then anything is acceptable, the worst that will happen is that someone might ask "Is that how it's done where you come from? I must remember that for my next visit".

If you don't look like a foreigner and do things very oddly, e.g drinking soup from the bowl rather than using a spoon, then you will get some odd looks. But the more polite the society, the more likely people are to be trained in the rule that you don't make comments about such behaviour.

(I was in a UK restaurant with a Japanese visitor/guest once, and my guest ordered three starters and no main course. The waiter whispered to me "do you think he would like them all served at the same time, or one after another?" I said I had no idea, but he would be quite happy to be asked...)

3

Generally, westerners could care less about what utensil you use to eat your food, so long as it's hygienic.

What bothers us more is being able to hear you eat. In Western culture, slurping, smacking your lips and chewing with your mouth open is considered rude and borderline offensive (to some westerners much more than others) - that's what I'd be more concerned about.

  • Slurping noodles is a thing in Asia, but slurping rice, not so much... – lambshaanxy Jul 20 '18 at 1:17
3

It really doesn't matter. A lot of Westerners would use a spoon as well if they were given one. The spoon not being readily available at the table 100% of the time would be your biggest problem. But you should be able to ask the waiter/waitress for one. And apart from it looks somewhat odd no one would actually care. (unless you're at a really formal dinner with high placed individuals)

Not having a spoon shouldn't be a problem though. Burhan Khalid said rice would fall through the fork, but that's not true. The rice grains aren't small enough to fall through the openings in the fork, at worst they would get stuck in between. The real difference is that a fork is flat instead of cup shaped, so the rice falls off the sides when you take too much and you'd have to use a knife to square it up on the sides.

So give it a try, why not? But if you can't manage (like a lot of Westerners can't manage to eat with chopsticks) just use a spoon.

2

If you refer to rice dishes as having rice on a plate with something on top of it (eggs, curry, stir fry meat and vegetable, etc), it is perfectly fine to eat it with fork and spoon. Asian people actually eat stir fried rice with fork and spoon because it is easier to eat and less messy than using chopstick or hand.

The situation that you use chopsticks to eat rice would be the case where the rice is being put in a bowl and the other dishes are put on separately plate. You can use chopsticks stuff up and put on your rice bowl. You can lift up your bowl close to your mouth and use chopsticks to move the rice in. If using chopsticks to pick up dishes seem to be difficult or getting messy, ask for spoon(s) allocate for each dish (think of it as buffet style).

In most of the case, people would not care how you eat your own food. Unless you start causing a scene that get people attention.

0

A spoon is more than OK - in fact I as a Swede prefer using that to eat rice.

So no, it wouldn't be rude or strange.

-1

It is not rude. It will be awkward if you are in a place where everyone else uses a spoon for rice and you are using a fork.

It will be the same as if you are trying to ask for chopsticks in some western restaurant.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.