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20-40-60 Etiquette: My husband won't stop lip-smacking at the table

20-40-60 Etiquette wrestles with a question from a reader about her husband's table manners. He eats the way he did growing up in another country, but to Americans, he makes rude slurping and smacking sounds.
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Callie Athey Modified: April 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm •  Published: April 14, 2013

QUESTION: My husband is from another country. Manners were not something that were stressed during his upbringing. Part of that extends to the way food is eaten at the table. For example, in his country it is acceptable to pick up your soup bowl and use your silverware close to your mouth when you dine.

Going along with that includes a great deal of slurping and lip smacking. I have tried numerous times to speak to him, delicately and not so nicely about this issue. He works in a professional field and I am concerned that his colleagues are as repulsed as I am. What else can I do?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Unfortunately if this is normal in his country it is probably habitual for him. If I were you I would try to keep having chats with him, although I hate that advice because you're not his mother. Good luck!

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: It sounds like you have done what you can to help him understand this country's accepted customs and manners. Maybe you could point out that if you were to visit another country, you'd try to learn their manners, too. A normal gesture in one culture might be obscene in another, so it's always good to understand another point of view. If not, perhaps you can enlist someone else that he trusts to be direct with him or find a way to use humor to make the point.

This is also a good time for others to take the time to get to know someone who comes from another culture. It's hard to undo first impressions and people don't always take the time to understand why people act the way they do. While it's important from a business standpoint for him to adapt, it also could be interesting if possible to use some of these habits as a way to initiate dialogue about what it's like to grow up outside the United States.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Slurping of food is not pleasant to hear or see. You should always consider others at the table. Your husband should try to learn the manners of the country where he lives — in this case, the United States, and since you have already tried to talk about the issue, maybe it is time to bring in someone else he might listen to. Is there a relative, a minister or a friend who could remind him of how he should eat in front of others or what is expected in the professional field where he works? This may be very important in his business.

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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Callie Athey
Freelance Writer
Callie Athey is 20-something and is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma. She has worked in various positions, ranging from Event Coordinator to Environmental Health and Safety Assistant. Currently, Callie is an Executive Assistant to a...
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