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When I dine at a nice restaurant (not fast food), I frequently "collaborate" with another in my party so that between the two of us we can order two different items from the menu and then we each the have an opportunity to taste two different menu selections.

Half way through the meal we switch plates. We have been doing this for years in the U.S. and have not noticed that anyone else at the table was offended by this. One time at a restaurant in Paris one of the party that we were dining with was clearly offended when we did this.

Is this improper etiquette? Does it vary by country?

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For what it's worth (not much!) I, personally, would be at least mildly put off to see the plate trading.

In my experience it varies not by country but by restaurant. Many restaurants in the US are explicitly or implicitly family-style, meaning it is expected that all entrees will be shared among diners. These usually have a serving plate for each food order, from which individual portions are served onto personal plates of each diner.

Other restaurants may not clearly be family style, but it's still pretty common to share (though the method I see most often is people trading portions of their orders to their own plates once the food is served, not trading plates of half-eaten food later in the meal).

The appropriateness might also vary by type of food/method of eating with my general rule being: don't eat food that was in someone else's mouth. I, personally, would find it unappetizing to see someone bite into a hamburger until half finished, then see someone else start biting into it. I would be similarly distressed to see someone moving a fork repeatedly from inside their mouth into a plate of pasta and back again, then swapping plates for a different person to do the same. I would not care at all if some portion of uneaten french fries were exchanged

But the "nicer" the restaurant, the less appropriate obvious food-sharing is. At even the fanciest restaurant I might exchange food on the order of a single bite's worth, but certainly not more than that. A high-end restaurant seems to usually come with the assumption that menu offerings are designed to be a unit providing a specific experience for the meal, and "mixing' such large a large portion as a half only dilutes that for both diners.

You wouldn't watch half a movie and then trade seats with a friend in another theater to see the second half of a different movie instead, after all. If you really wanted to see both, you would just go to the movies twice. It's not a perfect analogy, but a nice restaurant with a high-end chef and a unique menu is more like a movie than is something ubiquitous and undifferentiated, like a McDonald's Big Mac.

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I'm french, fully trading plates might be seen as "weird" in luxurious or gastronomic restaurants and frown upon.

I put an emphasis on the "might", because I would not mind, and most people I know would not mind either.

We actually (We being : me and my Friends or me and my parents) share a bite of our plate with the others if they request it. And It has never been frown upon but some people may refuse to do It.

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3

Background

I'm French and my dad is a huge fan of good restaurants. This means that, when we go on holiday, we usually eat at a good restaurant at least once.

For my dad, the definition of a good restaurant is a restaurant that serves traditional French food (or German when we are in Germany, etc..) and he usually chooses them by looking in the "Gault&Millau" (a list of good restaurants).

So far, we didn't go to the more expensive ("gastronomique") restaurant so I don't have experience with the really expensive restaurants (just some really nice and a bit expensive ones).


Here is what I have observed

Sharing dessert is always okay. Whether you choose to take "one for two" or to do a "half-half" (you take two then each person eat half of each), you won't have any problem or be badly seen. Also, the sharing technic here really doesn't matter as nobody cares.

For the main course, having someone else taste a little of what you are having is also a very regular thing to do. Also, I'm often unable to finish my plate in the restaurant and my family always finish it for me which has never been a problem (as far as I can tell, it's also a regular thing to do).

About the fact that you decided to eat half and then switch plate, I must say, I find it kind of unusual. But is it bad etiquette? I really don't think it is. After all, when I want my sister to have a taste of what I'm having, we often switch plate and then switch back when each of us has taste the other food.


About the idea of transferring half of the food...

...from one plat to the other

Please, avoid doing that. You will completely mess up the presentation (when you are transferring food to another plate, since you are transferring a lot of food at one time, it's really difficult to be "delicate" with the presentation in order to not ruin it).

Taking a bit from someone else plate is fine. Switching plate is fine. Telling the staff in advance that you will each have half of what the other is having is an option (even though I have only seen this happen for dessert).

But messing up some plate presentation?

Don't do it, you will likely be seen as rude and uneducated if you do (People always look at me weirdly and kind of disgust when I dare mix my "floating island" dessert).

Add per requested about the "not mixing rule":

This is probably a cultural thing but I was taught to not "mix" my food (unless it's already is or is meant to be mixed). You can eat in the order you want when things are in your plate but people will definitively see you as weird if you mix some stuff that isn't supposed to be mixed (at least, that what I have observed). And, even when something is supposed to be mixed, I will often only mix a small part at a time to respect the presentation because I know it's important to the people around me.

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For me, I usually cut the item into the portions I want to share before taking a bite. In my experience, the appropriateness depends more on how you close you are to the people you're dining with. For example, my parents and I order different items and share them all the time. I've also done the same with a few close co-workers. In either case, nobody has ever batted an eye.

For the record, my family is Asian while my co-workers come from all backgrounds.

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