Burping, also known as belching, is the act of expelling gas from the stomach out through the mouth. It is a natural bodily function that occurs when the stomach becomes distended with air or gas, often from swallowing air while eating or drinking. While burping is considered impolite in many cultures, there are some countries where it is not seen as rude, and may even be encouraged or appreciated in certain contexts.
In this article, we will explore the cultural attitudes towards burping around the world, looking at which countries view it as polite or acceptable behavior. Though views on burping etiquette can vary between different regions and backgrounds even within the same country, some broad generalizations can be made. We will also dig into the reasons behind these cultural perspectives on burping.
Countries Where Burping is Often Considered Polite
In China, burping is often seen as a compliment to the cook or host of a meal. Burping indicates that you enjoyed the food so much that you ate quickly and became full. Burping quietly into your hand or sleeve is considered polite, while loud, uncovered burping may still be seen as rude. Children are taught from a young age that burping is a way to show appreciation when dining at a friend or family member’s home. The Chinese view burping as part of the digestive process, and suppressing it is seen as unhealthy.
In Japanese culture, burping is not considered particularly rude or vulgar. It is seen as a natural result of enjoying a good meal. However, loud or forceful belching is still discouraged, and politer ways of burping discreetly into a napkin or hand are preferred. Japanese etiquette emphasizes consideration for others, so any burping should be done discreetly to avoid offending others nearby. Children are taught to say “shitsurei shimashita” (“excuse me”) afterwards.
In Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East, burping is considered inevitable after a large meal. Rather than indicating poor manners, burping shows one’s satisfaction with the meal. In fact, suppressing a burp could be seen as an insult to the host or chef. Polite burping will be done discreetly behind a hand or cloth. Loud, uncovered belching may still be frowned upon in some contexts, but generally burping is accepted across Saudi culture.
Many traditional Indian families view burping as normal and expected after a hearty meal. This is tied to the Ayurvedic belief that burping helps release excess air from the stomach and aids digestion. Suppressing burps is seen as unhealthy. Polite burping is done by covering one’s moth or burping quietly, but in many contexts even loud belching goes excused. Children are often taught to say “excuse me” afterwards. Burping is less commonly polite in urban, westernized households.
In Nigeria, burping after a meal is considered a compliment to the cook. It indicates you enjoyed the food and ate your fill. Burping is done lightly behind a napkin or the back of the hand, while loud belching can still be considered crude. But overall, burping is seen as a sign of satisfaction and appreciation for the meal.
Countries Where Burping is Considered Rude
In the United States, burping is viewed as a bodily function that should be avoided in polite company or social settings. Burping indicates a lack of manners or self-control. Children are taught from a young age to say “excuse me” if they accidentally burp and to stifle burps by swallowing air or sipping water. Even suppressed or light burping into a napkin is seen as impolite during meals, conversations, or formal occasions. Loud, uncovered burping is considered very rude.
Like in the US, burping is considered quite impolite in most Canadian social contexts. Burping loudly, openly, or frequently is seen as vulgar and a sign of poor etiquette. Children are taught to say “excuse me” if they burp, but to avoid burping altogether in public settings. Canadian manners emphasize reserved, discreet, and polite behavior when in company. Loud belching would be seen as very rude during a meal, conversation, or formal event.
Burping is also seen as quite rude and vulgar in British culture. Openly burping in company demonstrates a lack of manners and self-control over one’s bodily functions. Polite UK manners require discretely stifling burps or sipping water to avoid releasing gas from the stomach. Loud belching is considered very impolite, especially during dining. Saying “pardon me” is appropriate if one accidentally burps, but the ideal is to avoid burping completely around others when possible.
French culture prioritizes good manners and refined etiquette, so burping is seen as quite vulgar and inappropriate. Burping openly during meals or conversation shows a lack of self-control and politeness. Even suppressed burping into a napkin or hand is impolite. The French are taught from childhood to avoid burping by discreetly swallowing air or drinking water. Saying “excusez-moi” is polite after an accidental burp, but the goal is to avoid burping entirely in company. Loud, uncovered belching is considered vulgar.
In Italy, burping is viewed as rude and unrefined. It signals a lack of manners, dignity, and control over bodily functions. Social occasions and meals are times to present one’s best etiquette. Loud, open burping during dinner or conversation is seen as vulgar and inappropriate. Burping should be avoided by sipping water and holding in gas until one is alone. Children are scolded for burping and taught to restrain themselves. “Scusa” is polite after accidentally burping, but Italians aim not to burp in polite company at all.
Reasons for Cultural Perspectives on Burping
Beliefs About Health
In cultures where burping is accepted, beliefs about health often shape perspectives. Burping is seen as necessary for proper digestion and releasing air from a full stomach. Suppressing burps is unhealthy. In cultures that frown on burping, beliefs focus on willpower, self-control, and manners over perceived health benefits. Burping is just a bodily function that should be restrained.
Food Culture & Eating Habits
Cultures with shared dishes, communal eating styles, or spicy cuisine tend to accept burping more. It’s a natural result of their food culture. Those with individual plating, milder cuisines, and reserved eating habits see burping as disruptive. Different styles of eating and drinking impact burping frequency.
Social Values & Etiquette
Cultures that place high value on social hierarchy, interdependence, and etiquette tend to discourage burping. It demonstrates poor self-control. Those that prioritize social harmony and closeness may accept burping as natural, especially among family/friends. Views on politeness, dignity, hospitality, and respectability shape perspectives.
Perspectives on burping shift over generations as cultures change and adapt. Younger generations in historically “burping polite” countries may adopt more reserved, Western manners. And some Western youth may view banning natural burping as unhealthy or pretentious. Generational gaps emerge on burping etiquette.
Urban vs Rural Differences
Rural areas in some countries retain traditional acceptance of burping as natural, while urban centers and middle/upper classes adopt more “refined” manners that prohibit burping. This urban/rural or class-based difference reflects changing cultural values.
Individual vs Communal Culture
Individualist cultures put personal responsibility and self-control first. This leads to restraining natural burping to avoid offending others’ sensitivities. Communal cultures accept natural bodily processes, as the group comes before the individual. Burping isn’t offensive among family/friends.
Though views vary globally, many Asian and Middle Eastern cultures traditionally see burping as a sign of appreciation for the meal. Burping is restrained but accepted, especially given spicy cuisines. Meanwhile, Western societies largely view burping as impolite, expecting people to suppress burps around others. Different beliefs about health, etiquette values, generation gaps, and individualist vs communal orientations shape these cultural perspectives on burping. But attitudes are gradually changing over time and across contexts. What is constant is the need to be respectful of others based on the situation and cultural expectations. Knowing the polite burping practices can help avoid offense when traveling or interacting cross-culturally.