Etiquette Rules for Dinner Invitations Abroad: Is it Rude to Decline Non-Main Dish Offerings?

When traveling abroad, one of the most exciting aspects is the opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture, which often includes sampling local cuisine. However, navigating the etiquette of dining in a foreign country can be a minefield, particularly when it comes to accepting or declining certain dishes. The question of whether it’s rude to decline non-main dish offerings at a dinner invitation is a common one, and the answer can vary greatly depending on the country and culture in question. This article aims to provide some general guidelines to help you navigate this tricky terrain.

Understanding Cultural Differences

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that what might be considered polite or rude can vary greatly from one culture to another. In some cultures, for example, it might be considered rude to decline any food that’s offered to you, while in others, it might be perfectly acceptable. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to do some research on the dining etiquette of the country you’re visiting before you go.

When in Doubt, Follow Your Host’s Lead

One general rule of thumb that can apply in most situations is to follow your host’s lead. If they insist that you try a certain dish, it’s usually a good idea to at least taste it, unless you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from doing so. On the other hand, if they seem indifferent about whether you eat a certain dish or not, it’s probably safe to politely decline.

Communicate Your Dietary Restrictions

If you have dietary restrictions, it’s important to communicate these to your host ahead of time, if possible. This can help avoid any awkward situations where you’re offered a dish that you can’t eat. Most hosts will be understanding and accommodating of these restrictions.

Be Polite and Gracious

Regardless of the specific etiquette rules of the country you’re visiting, it’s always important to be polite and gracious. If you need to decline a dish, do so politely and thank your host for the offer. Remember, the goal is to show respect for your host and their culture, not to impress them with your culinary adventurousness.


In conclusion, while the etiquette rules for dinner invitations abroad can vary greatly, the key is to be respectful and considerate of your host’s culture and traditions. By doing your research, following your host’s lead, communicating any dietary restrictions, and always being polite and gracious, you can navigate any dining situation with grace and ease.