DARE TO ASK: Why must they eat so loudly?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I live in an area with a large Filipino population. Most of them smack their
lips when eating - and not quietly. Is this common to the Filipino culture and
not considered rude?
Mike, 43, Santa Cruz, Calif.
I am married to a Filipina. It's cultural. Filipinos, as well as others from
that part of the world, will smack their lips. A host will perceive this as a
subtle sign that her meal is good.
Jerry, 54, white, Houston
I grew up in the Philippines and was taught it was impolite to make any
sounds while having a meal (other than scintillating conversation). Rude is rude
in any society. These notions often disguise biases that reinforce our
"otherness" and condone our marginalization.
Gerry, Filipino male, New York
Many times I have had my meal ruined by Asians sitting next to me chewing
with their mouths open, sloshing their food around in their mouths, making
slurping and lip-smacking sounds. Why can't they adopt our habits?
Lucy, New York
Most Filipinos I know chew with their mouths closed.
Eduardo, Manila, Philippines
I am Filipino. Slurping soup from a cup or small bowl usually does not offend
most people of Filipino descent when done in the proper setting, such as in your
own home or in the company of friends. But I don't consider it part of the
culture to "eat loudly."
B.C., Northern California
So, is it a thrilla in Manila when folks sit down to eat?
The clacking can get cacophonous as Filipinos attack a meal with family or
friends - but more so in the Philippines than here, says Gerry Gelle, author of
Filipino Cuisine: Recipes from the Islands.
It can even become a contest, with the men trying to outsmack one another, he
"It doesn't matter whether it's urban or rural, or a high-crust or low-crust
crowd, they are all smacking," Gelle said. "But it's more than likely a group of
them by themselves."
In a mixed environment or a corporate setting, most know better than to chew
with their mouths open, he said.
The reason for the ruckus at other times is that, well, who says you have to
be quiet when you eat, anyway?
"In Europe, for example, it was royalty that set the dining rules. But the
rules for eating are more family-oriented in Asia. You can eat with your mouth
open. No one has ever said not to."
Food, and having enough of it, is a big deal in the East, so many people
lip-smack just to let others know that "yeah, I'm here at the table, and I'm
eating," Gelle said.
Lines are drawn in the tablecloth, though.
"Nope, no belching when your plate is clear. That's a Northern European
thing," he said. "And while they eat their noodles in one long slurp in Japan -
you never break them with your lips because the noodle is a symbol of life - we
Filipinos do cut our noodles."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.