Around the World in 5 Table Settings

From Morocco to Mexico, the dinner table has long been a gathering place for friends, family, and food. But the main course isn’t the only sneak peak into a culture or cuisine. Pull up a chair (or pillow) at any of these five international table settings for a taste of what home feels like around the world.

1. Morocco

The tables of Morocco are set with comfort in mind, as elaborate, multi-course meals often last long into the night. Low, large tables seat big families and groups of friends and maintain intimacy with cushions and pillows.

Ornate lanterns and rich tapestries are often draped across the walls and ceilings, adding depth and mystery to the dining space. And while jewel-toned fabrics are used for placemats and napkins, you won’t find any silverware at these traditional tables.

2. France

Whether you’re dining in a five-star Parisian restaurant or at a rustic, family farm table, French dining is unhurried, effortless, and chic. Serving platters are freely mixed and matched, as a way to display special antiques or family heirlooms, and utensils are arranged in the order they are used. Casual but good-quality linens are always used, and an unsculpted, hand-plucked flower arrangement can often be found at the center of the table.

3. Japan

Japanese table settings are all about simplicity and tradition, with a focus on clean and balanced lines. Neutral colors and natural bamboo are customary, and many dishes are lidded, lending a bit of mystery to the meal.

Families living in modern Japanese homes sit at high, Western-style tables, but some traditional households may have low tables atop tatami mats, with cushions used instead of chairs. Shoes are often removed before dinner and warm towels are distributed before the meal for cleaning hands. If there is a guest of honor, he or she is seated in the center, as far from the entrance as possible. The host always sits as close to the entrance as possible.

4. China

Symmetry and harmony are the guiding principles when it comes to setting the table in Chinese households. Embossed ceramic or metal plates in traditional Chinese prints are often used. For formal celebrations, silk tablecloths are laid across the table and bright red lanterns are strung up on surrounding walls. Flower arrangements often combine tall and short plants for dramatic effect. Meals are often served communally, and “Lazy Susans” are placed in the center of the table for easy, family-style dining.

5. Mexico

Much like the regional variations of its national cuisine, Mexican table settings are lively and vibrant. Bright, woven table runners, placemats, and napkins are used at both formal and casual meals. Papel Picao, brightly-colored banners are strung up to depict Mexican heritage. Candles and fresh flowers are almost always placed at the center of the dining table. At more formal meals, the host sits at the head of the table, and the guest of honor is seated immediately to the right of the host.

Looking for ways to bring the dinner tables from around the world into your own home? Try infusing some international flair into your everyday cooking for an amazing meal without the pricey plane ticket.

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