Ah, the humble burp. The source of so much childhood comedy and so much adult embarrassment. There are a range of attitudes toward burping in the United States. You wouldn’t want to burp loudly at, say, a fancy dinner party, but there are worse sins you could commit. In the right crowd, a mighty burp could earn you a deserved round of applause. But what happens when you burp internationally?
Frankly, there aren’t many places in the world where burping is approved-of. Even among the countries that do make the list, there are bound to be some people who find burping to be “gross.” You can also probably find an enclave of people in any country that will be accepting of your belches. It’s just a bodily process, and the rule against burping is a holdover of 18th-century etiquette, which is rapidly going out of style.
That said, this article isn’t about why everyone should be allowed to burp whenever they want with no social penalty. It’s about where you can openly burp today.
The Myth Of Polite Burping Abroad
Before diving into our list of places where belching is accepted, it’s important to note one pervasive myth we ran into while researching this. When we asked people where it’s polite to burp, answers included France, Italy, Spain, Canada and Japan. It seems a good number of countries have been named in connection with this idea.
But if you actually burp at a dinner table in those countries, you will get some weird looks. It is generally polite to burp in the countries we’re about to list, but you should double-check the next time someone off-handedly mentions a country and says that burping is a compliment to the chef.
In China, burping is treated as any other bodily process, and after a meal, it can indeed serve as a compliment to the chef. It’s probably China that originated the pervasive myth about complimentary burping abroad.
Sometimes, this rule is conflated with a Japanese one that has to do with slurping. At restaurants in Japan, it’s considered proper to slurp noodles while eating. However, it is not polite in Japan to burp, nor is it polite in China to slurp. It’s probably for the best that you keep these two rules straight in your head.
Parts Of India
In India, the topic of burping seems to be a little bit more contentious. Some Indian bloggers say that burping during a meal is just part of the normal process, and nobody will mind. Others disagree, and there’s at least one heated debate over the etiquette on Quora.
Because burping is associated with being improper, it can be offensive to imply that everyone in the country openly burps. But like China, there are certain states of India where burping can be a compliment. It’s probably best to follow the advice of journalist Petrina Verma Sarkar, and only belch when you’re very familiar with the local culture and people.
Bahrain is a small island in the Middle East, just to the east of Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, it pops up as a place where burping is considered a sign of being satisfied with a meal. There does not seem to be a lot of evidence backing this up, however.
A Rule Of Thumb
Assuming you’re not traveling explicitly for the purpose of burping in public, you can follow our rule of thumb for belching. If you’re in a country that you’ve never been to before and eating with local people you don’t know very well, you’ll probably want to suppress your burps. You could even do the thing where you use a fist to cover your mouth and pretend you’re coughing. And if you’re just around close friends and family, you can probably burp anywhere and get away with it. Everyone burps, after all. And if the worst happens, and you do let out an egregious burp, you can always learn to say “I’m sorry” in the local language.