Ultimate Guide to Sam's Dining Etiquette 

Sam Park


Having suffered from OCD, I document and make a showcase of detailed symptoms I have experienced to draw attention to OCD and have a debate about the misconceptions around it. My OCD is mainly expressed through an obsession around my eating habits - food has to be eaten in a specific order, manner and way. If I do not follow these rules, I regard it as dirty.

According to the International OCD Foundation and DSM-5, “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so-called OCD, is a mental health disorder that affects people, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.” Commonly expressed symptoms are the extreme disgust and fear of contamination, disorder, and the sense of not being in control of the situation. But the point is that - compulsive behavior is not just about cleanliness and organizing; its goal is to reduce and deal with stress and anxiety. Patients would feel pressured and ‘forced’ to do.

In her book ‘Purity and Danger', Douglas (1966) argues that “Dirt is a matter out of place, and it implies two conditions: a set of ordered relations and a contravention of that order. Dirt then, is never a unique, isolated event. Dirt is the by-product of a systematic ordering and classification of matter.” In other words, dirty refers to a thing or condition that fails to implement the completeness defined by a particular culture, or that seems to perturb a given order and violate boundaries. This is not decided by a scientific or sanitary standard but rather a specific social value system, which reflects 'social and symbolic categorization'.

So that all of the worlds have developed their different ethics, customs, religions and orders. For example, it is allowed people to eat food only with their right hand in Arabic and Islamic countries, and their left hand is for only unclean actions such as wiping their butt in the toilet. In short, eating with the left hand is treated as taboo. These traditions may also be called ‘cultural compulsions’ according to a similar mechanism - here can be seen the both “force” and “understanding”, even though there are a varied number of dining etiquettes, we can respect each of those because it’s a matter of a historical, cultural and social difference. This means that understanding more society and culture broadens the range of ‘normality’ you can embrace.

In this project I position my OCD eating habits in the context of different cultures dining etiquettes. I hope people will be able to look at OCD compulsions with greater respect and understanding, if contextualised as a different etiquette or culture rather than just a disorder. According to this, the purpose of taking the form of formal instruction is to enable the public to communicate with my rules in a certain context.