Social Eating Etiquette and Faux Pas in Montenegro
Crna Gora or Dark Mountain - a name as mysterious as the country it describes. Bordered by the former states which once were known under one name, Yugoslavia. Its history as rich as the mountains that surround it and as deep as the blue sea that laps on its shores. Its people as proud as the peaks that make up the Balkan region. Its culture mirrors the depth of the most priced kajmak of Trsa. Montenegro! Its name reverberates along the Adriatic Sea since its independence in May 2006.
Montenegro has been wracked with years of instability and ethnic conflicts. It is only now that, like its brothers from the former Yugoslavia, the land of Crna Gora is starting to slowly open its crystalline shores to the world.
Should you ever find yourself one day strolling the narrow streets of Montenegro's historic villages or enjoying the breeze coming from the sea while you dig your toes in its sandy white shores, never forget that to really get to know a country one must be open to learning and experiencing its culture first hand. Ever heard of the saying "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach?" If you believe that then I guess I could venture to tell you that the way to a culture's heart is through its food.
Photo: from Google Maps
Since you would be in a foreign country, it wouldn't hurt if you would acquire some knowledge of their customs to avoid making a spectacle of yourself in social situations. A faux pas is a faux pas. While your reputation may improve in the long run, your first impression might not. Arm yourself, culturally that is, when invited to a social eating function in Montenegro by remembering the following tips, or at least some of them if you could.
When Eating in Restaurants
1. Never ask your Montenegrin friend to take you to McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, et al. They don't exist in Crna Gora. Trust me. I checked their yellow pages myself. And even double-checked if there is anything that remotely resembled McDonalds under hrana i restorani. That's food and restaurants in Montenegrin. Montenegrin is the name for both the language and the people.
2. Lunch time is between 11:30 am to 2:00 pm and dinner is from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Don't look for lunch in a restaurant from 2:00 to 5:00 or dinner after 9:00 because you won't find any.
3. Expect to see a fish sliced right in front of you in some restaurants if you order fish.
4. Coffee is kafa. Espressos are either served short (mala) or long (velika). A frothy cappuccino does not exist. Fraps do not exist. If you want milk in your kafa ask for some mlijeko.
5. Tea is ?aj. Which is usually a mix of medicinal herbs. White tea does not exist. Ask for some mlijeko instead.
6, Wine is vinski. It is customary to drink vinski with your food when dining in Montenegro. Vranac, a type of red wine is the most popular but rakije, a white wine/brandy type spirit is considered the national drink.
7. Expect meat, meat and more meat.
8. If you're a vegan you might opt to bring your own food instead when traveling to Montenegro. If you are a vegetarian you have a slightly better chance of surviving. A word of caution if you think of ordering stuffed vegetables, they might be stuffed with meat.
9. If you're dining out with a Montenegrin expect meat, meat and more meat.
10. Children are very welcome in restaurants.
11. Montenegrins like their smokes even at lunch or dinner tables. If the smoke bothers you tell them politely otherwise it wouldn't occur to them. If you see a lot of locals smoking and it bothers you move to another restaurant.
12. It would be appreciated if you would leave some tip but not expected. A little extra change would be okay but a 10% tip is expected when eating in poshier restaurants.
13. When paying expect for a long delay, estimated at least an hour by Lonely Planet, before you get your bill and another 15 minutes for them to get your money. If you have to wait for a change expect more hours of delay.
14. While waiting just enjoy the ambiance and don't let the delay spoil your fun.
15. It's okay to eat alone. Do take note that you might be facing a large serving on your own.
When Invited to a Montenegrin Friend's House
1. It will score big points for you if you bring a small gift to your host when visiting. I bottle of wine is customarily well appreciated. Greeting among friends is usually an exchange of 3 alternating kisses on the cheeks. Do not be alarmed if they ask you to take off your shoes and put on slippers when entering a house. Your shoes will still be there when you leave.
2. Remember that eating is always a social affair to the Montenegrins, so expect a lot of laughter and chatter on the table.
3. Arrive with an empty stomach if you don't want to go home bloated."I'm on a diet" is not an acceptable excuse. They will force feed you if they need to.
4. Don't ask for tea if you don't want to be greeted with surprised looks.
6. Cutleries are the same as those at home except if you're from China or Japan.
7. Using your hands to pick fish bones is acceptable.
8. Again, Montenegrins like to smoke at table even at home.
9. They serve more than one course so expect a feast when visiting a Montenegrin friend's house. Remember they don't take no for an answer.
10. Expect meat, meat and more meat.
11. Do not talk business over the dinner table, it is impolite.
Not only in Montenegro but where ever in the world you find yourself in for the first time it is always best to keep an open mind and an open stomach. Prijatno!
Lonely Planet Montenegro by Peter Dragi?evi?