Entering a Belarusian's home requires some specific
protocol, but after you get to the table there's little to be worried of. If
dining at a local's home or at a restaurant, never shake hands until you have
completely crossed the threshold. If dining at a home, remove your shoes and the
rest should be fairly easy to understand.
If you want to be a gracious guest, arrive on time and bring a cake. Your hosts
will probably treat you as an honored guest and may even dress up slightly to impress
you. Before eating, men generally socialize as the women gather in the kitchen to
prepare the meal; if you're a woman, offering your help in the kitchen will
be greatly appreciated; if you're a man, offering your help in the kitchen will
get you laughed at as your masculinity will be questioned.
Once the meal is served, eat in the continental style (fork in the left hand, knife
in the right), keep your hands within sight (but don't put your elbows on the
table), and wait to be served. Belarusians tend to serve
the oldest or most honored person first so wait until they determine your status
has arrived; although guests are typically viewed as the most important person in
To continue on the differing roles for each sex, women don't cut bread nor do
they pour drinks; the men must take on these roles so if you see a woman's drink
empty fill it up and if you are a woman, it won't be long before a fellow diner
fills your glass. Before emptying your glass though, you have to start drinking
and before that begins you must wait for a toast, which is typically first given
by the host.
Most Belarusians will accept non-drinkers if it is due to
their religious beliefs (although it is so uncommon that they may believe your religion
is strange and doesn't make any sense) or if you are on antibiotics, which have
an adverse effect with alcohol.
It is considered rude to turn down food or to completely empty your plate once you're
finished. Try everything offered to you and once you're finished eating, leave
a little food on the plate to show that the amount served was more than enough;
this is a great compliment to the host. The only exceptions to this are that you
must finish your bread and your alcoholic drinks.
If dining in a restaurant, the host or the inviter is expected to pay. If you are
a guest, you are expected to offer to pay, but this offer will most likely be turned
down. Tipping is not common in Belarus and after experiencing
the standard poor service nearly everywhere you won't be inclined to tip anyway.
The only exception to this rule is in nice restaurants catered to foreigners, particularly
in Minsk. Service in these locations substantially improves and tips are expected
in the form of about 5-10% for a meal.
Mineral water is common in Belarus, both carbonated and
still water. Other popular drinks are also available, such as coffee, tea, soft
drinks, juices, and milk. However, for a most authentic non-alcoholic beverage try
kvass, a traditional drink made from rye that is starting to become more
common in a mass-produced and processed form.
Drinking alcohol is an integral aspect of Belarusian culture.
Historically, vodka was probably the most popular drink, but today beer is taking
over that top position. Vodka is still the drink of choice at celebrations though.
The most authentic local alcohol is called harelka, which is a distilled
rye malt liquor. All popular international beers, wines, and hard liquors are also
The tap water in Belarus should not be consumed because
in most places it is not safe.