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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dining Etiquette and Table Manners

On etiquette and manners, you may also refer:

(Executive Etiquette and Manners),

(Email Etiquette),

(Telephone Etiquette),

(Cross Cultural Etiquette and Manners)

Dining Etiquette and Table Manners (Common for All Cultures and Environment)

Dining etiquette and table manners vary from country to country and culture to culture. While one may like to know all these varieties of dining etiquette and table manners in depth, yet it may not be always possible. However, the minimum one should learn is the general decencies one must observe everywhere, in any cultural setting, at the dining table.

We have distilled from all the dining etiquette and manners of all the cultures, some common factors and essentials that everyone should know and follow in practice so as not to shock or embarrass the hosts or the other guests or the traditionalists on the dining table as well as to use the more sophisticated and pleasant side of you.

Given below are the essential dining etiquette and table manners:
  • Arrive on the appointed time. You may arrive a bit early but never be late.
  • When invited for dinner at homes, decision to remove the shoes at the entrance of the home will depend upon the cultural aspects. For example, in many Asian countries, it is expected that you remove the shoes before going inside of the house.
  • As the dinner is announced, take your seat at the table. If there is any particular seating arrangement planned by the host, be guided by it.
  • Hosts will normally provide cloth napkins to guests. When paper napkins are provided, they should be treated the same as cloth napkins by the guests.
  • After you take your seat, remove the napkin placed on the dining table in front of you, unfold it, and spread it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for you, but even there, it is OK if you place the napkin in your lap.
  • At a private dinner party the meal begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Or at times, the hostess or host will announce the start of the dinner.
  • Keep the napkin on the lap till the end of the meal.
  • Do not clean the cutlery or wipe your face or nose with the napkin.
  • If you have to move away from the table for some reason, fold the napkin loosely and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not place the napkin on your chair.
  • Setting of plates and the silverware on the table may vary from place to place and culture to culture. For example, in USA, UK, Canada and France etc, food is eaten using fork, knife and spoon, in China and Japan chopsticks are used more and in India, most of the items of food are eaten with fingers.
  • Given such differences, most formal restaurants and homes almost all over the world follow similar table settings for plates and silverware for a sit down dinner. Bread or salad plates are placed on the left side of the main plate. Beverage and water glasses are placed to the right of the main plate. Salad fork is on your outermost left, followed by dinner fork. Soup spoon is on your outermost right, followed by beverage spoon, salad knife and dinner knife. Your dessert spoon and fork are above your plate or brought to you when dessert is served.
  • Start using the silverware from the outer most silverware to the inner most. Use appropriate silverware. For example, soup is generally served at the beginning of the meal and soup spoon is the outer most silverware on the right side of the plate; so you should use the soup spoon being the outermost.
  • While in western culture, formal dinner may be served in several courses served one after another in sequence, in Asian countries and particularly in India, all the food items will be put at one time on the table for everyone to see, from where the food will be served.
  • If you have dietary restrictions, it will be preferable not to request other food at a private function. If you have any food allergies and if you must inform about it, do so politely and preferably when accepting the invitation.
  • In a restaurant, start to eat only after all the other guests have been served. At private dinners or at homes, when your host or hostess picks up the fork to eat, then you may start to eat. Do not start before this unless the host or hostess insists that you start eating. In this case, host may request the guests to start eating.
  • Soup is normally served in the beginning of a meal. When eating soup, you should hold your soup spoon in your right hand and dip your spoon away from you into the soup, scooping the soup in movements away from yourself. Take soup noiselessly, from the side of the spoon. When there is a small amount left in the soup bowl, you may lift the front end of the dish slightly or tip the bowl slightly with your free hand to enable collection of the remaining small quantity of soup with your spoon.
  • For the main course or for eating solid food, you may have to use the silverware set placed on the inner side towards the plate (use the dinner fork and dinner knife). You may use one of two methods when using fork and knife, either American Style or Continental/European Style. In American style, hold the knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in. Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless you are left handed). In Continental/European Style, hold the knife in right hand and fork in left hand. Eat food with fork still in left hand. The difference is that, in continental style, you do not switch hands- you eat with your fork in your left hand, with the prongs curving downward.
  • Do not blow on food to cool it. If it is too hot to eat, wait till it cools down.
  • Once used, your silverware should not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives and spoons on the side of your plate or in the bowl.
  • For more formal dinners, from course to course, your pates and cutlery (tableware) will be taken away and replaced as needed. To signal that your are done with the course, rest your fork, tines up and knife blade in, with the handles resting at five o'clock, on tips pointing to ten o'clock on your plate. Any unused silverware is simply left on the table.
  • If you must leave the table or you are resting, your fork should be at eight o’clock and your knife at four o’clock positions (with the blade inwards). Also, while moving away from your seat temporarily, as mentioned earlier, fold the napkin loosely and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not place the napkin on your chair.
  • Ask for permission from the host and excuse yourself if you need to leave the table. Say "Excuse me," or "Excuse me. I will be right back," before leaving the table. Do not mention that you are going to the restroom or for any other reason.
  • Do not use your cell phone during the dinner. Use it only in emergency. In that case apologize, excuse yourself and move away from the dining table so that your telecommunication does not disturb the
  • Do not talk loudly during dinner. Also give others opportunities for conversation. Preferable speak with the persons sitting by your sides. Avoid speaking with the persons seated across the table.
  • Do not turn a wine glass upside down to decline wine. It is more polite to let the wine be poured and not make fuss of it. Alternatively, you may also hold your hand over the wine glass to indicate that you do not want wine.
  • When a dish is offered from a serving dish as per the traditional manner in most homes, the food may be passed around or served by a host or staff. If passed, you should pass on the serving dish to the next person in the same direction as the other dishes are being passed. Place the serving dish on your left, take some and pass to the person next to you. You should make a rough judgment of the quantity of food on the serving dish and take from it onto your plate only a proportional amount so that everyone may have some. If you do not want a particular dish, pass it to the next person without comment. If being served by a single person, the server will request if the guest want the dish. The guest may say "Yes, please," or "No, thank you."
  • Do not lean over somebody else’s plate. If you need something to be passed, request the person closest to it. If you have to pass something, only pass it if you are closest to it and pass it directly to them if you can. Pass on the salt and pepper together.
  • Remember to say "please" and "thank you" as appropriate.
  • Before taking additional helping, finish the serving on your plate first.
  • Bring the food to your mouth by the fork while you sit straight and not lean towards your plate.
  • Cut and eat in small bites and slowly.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Do not slurp and do not talk with food in your mouth or make loud or unusual noises while eating.
  • Do not put your elbows on the table. You may rest forearms on the table.
  • Avoid constant clinking of the cutlery.
  • Do not play with your food or cutlery. Do not wave or point silverware at others.
  • Do not blow your nose at the dinner table. Do not use the napkin to wipe your nose.
  • Avoid burping, coughing, yawning and sneezing at the table. If you do so, say, "Excuse me."
  • Do not slouch over the table or tilt back your chair.
  • Do not stare at others.
  • Never pick food out of your teeth with your fingernails or even with toothpick in public.
  • Do not apply makeup at the table.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork together at six o’clock with your fork on the left (tines facing up) and knife on the right with the knife blade facing in. This signals that you are finished. Some people signal by resting the fork, tines up and knife blade in, with the handles resting at five o'clock, and tips pointing to ten o'clock on your plate.
  • At the completion of the dinner, leave the napkin neatly but loosely on the table. Do not make a ball of it or do not screw it. Also you need not fold it back meticulously. Give the same treatment to both the types of napkins, the cloth napkin and paper napkin.
  • Wait for your host or hostess to rise before getting up from the table.
  • Once dessert and after-dinner coffee have been served, do not be tempted to overstay. The guest who first wishes to leave should rise and may say, "This has been such a nice evening. We hope we can see you again soon."
  • Thank your host and hostess when leaving.
For More Guidance, Assistance, Training and Consultation


Also refer: (Prodcons Group), (Training Programs by Prodcons Group), (Productivity Consultants)

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