Article Adapted: https://www.thespruce.com/table-manners-and-dining-etiquette-1216971
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Although dining out has become more casual, it still isn’t acceptable to talk with your mouth full of food, rock the table with your elbows, or interfere with other diners’ experiences by displaying improper etiquette. It’s important to follow certain manners guidelines in both formal settings and fast-food restaurants.
Table manners are important in both professional and social situations, so it’s a good idea to know some basics. There may be some slight variations, depending on your region and what is locally acceptable. So if you are at a dinner party, pay close attention to the host or hostess and take cues from them.
Whether no one ever taught you dining etiquette or you’ve forgotten what you learned, here are some tips to show that you know how to behave at the table. Using proper etiquette at the table will also help you socially and professionally in a restaurant or in someone’s home.
If you are invited to have dinner with someone, it is always a good idea to respond, even if an RSVP is not requested. This helps with planning. Don’t ask if you can bring extra guests if the invitation doesn’t make the offer. However, if your family is invited to someone’s home for dinner, it is okay to ask if your children are included. If they are, make sure your children know good manners before they go.
When you are dining at the home of a friend, it is a good idea to bring a host or hostess gift. Don’t expect your gift to be used during the meal. Most dinner parties have carefully planned menu items, and your gift may not go with the meal.
Some dinner parties are formal and have place cards where the host or hostess wants you to sit. If not, ask if there are seating preferences. Wait until the host sits before you do. In some cultures, a blessing will be said. Even if you don’t follow the beliefs of the prayer, show respect and be silent. If the host offers a toast, lift your glass. It is not necessary to “clink” someone else’s glass.
As soon as you sit down, turn to your host or hostess and take a cue for when to begin. Once the host unfolds his or her napkin, you should remove your napkin from the table or plate, and place it on your lap. If you are dining out, you should place your napkin in your lap immediately after you sit down.
Keep your napkin in your lap until you are finished eating. If you must get up at any time during the meal and plan to return, place the napkin on either side of your plate. After you are finished, place your napkin on the table to the left of your plate.
If you are eating out, you should wait until all the members of your group have been served before picking up your fork. At a private dinner, observe the host or hostess and pick up your fork when he or she does. However, if you are at a buffet, you may start when there are others seated at your table.
One of the most common issues to confuse today’s diners is which utensil to use for each course. A typical rule of thumb is to start with the utensil that is farthest from your plate and work your way toward the centre of your place setting.
If you see the host or hostess doing something different, you may follow his or her lead. The important thing is to remain as inconspicuous as possible. You don’t want to call negative attention to yourself.
For dinners where food is served at the table, the dishes should be passed in a counter-clockwise flow. Never reach across the table for anything. Instead, ask that condiments be passed from the person closest to the item. Salt and pepper should be passed together. Always use serving utensils and not your own to lift food from the serving dish.
Table manners were designed to keep people from scarfing food down like animals, so learn them before you eat with others. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should never call attention to yourself by blatantly breaking the rules set by society.
Always send the host or hostess a thank you note or card in the mail, and don’t wait for more than a day or two after the event. Address the host or hostess, thank him or her for the lovely dinner, and add another short, positive comment to show your appreciation. Your note may be brief but heartfelt.