After spending a bit of times in a few Middle Eastern countries, I have noted one stark difference between the Middle Eastern and the Chinese customs observed by my family (I am overseas Chinese).
In the Middle East, people tend to order a lot of food (which comes in generous portions in the first place), picked at it a bit, then left it. I saw this extreme example when I was in Bahrain. Unfortunately, they cleared it before I managed to take a photo. This family ordered a mountain of Biryani rice which was served on a large plate. They took three spoonfuls and left it. They also left a big pile of flatbreads and the other dishes, too.
For us, this is a major taboo! When we were growing up, our grandparents taught us to take or accept only what we needed and what we could finish, even if it is free! They always told us when we were young that the farmers and the cow would cry if we waste our rice. Of course, taken to extreme, this also not always good, as one tends to overeat at occasions. The key is to take or accept what you can finish.
This post is not meant to judge which culture is better or worse. Coming from my background and being aware of Planet Earth’s exploited resources and much starvations in Africa even today, seeing wasted food is sad. Yes, one can argue that food in Dubai is not going to arrive in Somalia or whichever country to feed the starving kids, but think about it…if wasting food is minimized, the funds will be available to help those in need! At the minimum, the countries can import less and have better trade balance, especially given the low oil prices and their desert landscape which prohibits most agriculture.
Does it sound too idealistic? Perhaps but if one does not try, one would never know.