Where to begin from? Which cutlery to use? How to use the napkin? Where to place the fork and knife once done with the meal? You may encounter a series of questions when invited for a dinner. It is quite a matter of concern for many people because any breach on the table manners can be embarrassing for you and annoying for your co-diners. And if you believed that table manners are not that easy to grasp, you might just be in for a shock. Not only are table manners easily understandable, they are also pretty practical. It is always good to be aware of the basic lessons of formal dining because it helps you in being disciplined and confident on the table. You don’t have to rely on others to pick up your cutleries or to get started with your dishes. This article helps you learn some basic table etiquettes so that dining with friends always means fun for you.
Table Manners For Guests
- Maintain a straight posture without leaning backward or forward. Place your hands on your lap while not eating. Do not rest your elbow on the table.
- The first thing you should do is unfold the napkin. Do not unfold it on the table, do it on your lap and place it there itself.
- The napkin should be kept on the lap till you are done with the course and should be kept back on the table neatly. Open the napkin smoothly; do not try to shake it to unfold. If it is a large one, then unfold it half and if it is a small one, you can unfold it full. Don’t tuck a napkin on your collar or between the buttons of your shirt or even in your belt. Tucking it in the collar is accepted only in case of kids below 11 years of age.
- If the napkin has a ring, then take it out and keep it to the top-left of the setting. Once you are done with the course, pull the napkin through the ring, and keep it on the table in such a way that its point faces the center of the table.
- Use knife and fork for formal dining; using fingers is not appreciated much. Fork should go to the left hand and knife should be on the right hand. Use fork to balance the food while you cut out bite-sized morsel using the knife. Then use the knife to push the food on the fork and place the food in your mouth with the fork.
- If you are not done with meal yet and have to take a short break, place the knife and fork crossed, in a wide ‘v’, on the plate.
- Do not add salt or pepper before tasting the food. It is just like insulting the person who prepared the food. Taste it and if you really feel to have salt/pepper, then add it.
- If the knife/fork slips from your hand and lands on the floor then don’t bother bending down to retrieve it. Ask for the person serving get another one for you. This is applicable for the napkin as well.
- Eat slowly and quietly and always chew with your mouth closed.
- Don’t smoke while you dine with someone. Also avoid touching your nose or teeth while having food. It is considered quite disgusting.
- Soup or dessert can be served in two ways – either in a deep bowl/cup/stemmed bowl-set with a plate beneath or a shallow bowl (soup plate). In the first case, you can keep the spoon on the plate once you done with soup while, in the second case you can leave the spoon in the bowl itself.
- Do not make loud eating noises such as slurping and burping on the table. This is the most important table etiquette one should practice.
- Never keep your personal belongings such as cell phone, hand bag etc. on the dining table. The hand bag must rest near your feet with all your belongings safely placed in it. You must also switch-off or silence your cell phone to avoid disturbing others with the ringing of your phone.
Table Etiquettes For A Host
- While serving food, pass it in a counterclockwise movement around the table. Serve the food from the left-side of the guest and clear the used ones from the right-side. You can set the plate before the guest arrives.
- Always pass salt and pepper together, even if the person asks for either salt or pepper.
- Do not use large center pieces that may obstruct the guest from seeing the dishes on the other side of the table. You should not use scented candles as it may have an unappetizing effect.
- You should completely clear the table off the previous courses before you serve the main course.
American Vs Continental
Though the basic table etiquettes are the same, there are certain differences between these two styles:
- The basic difference lies in the usage of fork and knife. In continental or European style, once you pick up the fork and knife, you continue using it till the end of the course, unless you go for a temporary break. Here, you always hold the knife in your right hand and eat with your left hand (with fork).
- However, in American style, you start eating holding the knife in your right hand and the fork in your left but the rules change soon thereafter. The difference here is that you once you’ve cut the food with the knife, you are supposed to keep the knife diagonally on the top-right of the plate, transfer the fork to your right hand and have food. This repeats every time and hence American style is also called zigzag style.
- In continental style, for a temporary stop, you keep the knife at the 4 O’ clock position and the fork on 8 O’ clock position, with tins downwards. In American style, both fork and knife are kept in 4 O’clock positions with the fork tins upwards.
So, these were some basic table etiquettes that should be followed in a dinner, whether formal or informal. However, when it comes to informal or semi-formal dinners, these rules are not set in stone; you can change them a bit. The formal dinners, on the other hand, require that you follow these etiquette to the “T”.