What is the line between behavior that might be considered offensive in another culture and that which is just different? I started thinking about this question with respect to table manners. Americans are taught to always keep their fork in their right hand at the table (if you are right handed, that is) except when using a knife, and then the fork gets transferred to the left hand. When you're done cutting, you put down the knife and transfer the fork back to your right hand to eat.
Now the French (and for that matter most Europeans), when dealing with a dish that requires a knife, just keep the knife in the left and the fork in the right, and eat in a two handed style, piling up food on the back side of the fork. They even set the table with the fork and spoon facing down; often silverware is imprinted on what we Americans would consider the back side. And there's almost nothing that they'll eat with their hands, except, as my husband pointed out to me, asparagus.
So here's my question. I'm fine with using a fork and knife for things I might have eaten with my hands back home, pizza, for example. I can see how that might gross out someone who's not used to seeing that. But is the whole changing hands thing going to make my French dinner companion recoil? If a French person came to my house and put their bread on the table instead of on a plate, should that bother me?
I'm not sure and I certainly don't want to offend. Where do you draw the line between the truly rude and the quaintly other? Help me out here.