How To Use Table Manners

Businessman eating scallops

Using good table manners shows a respect for your fellow diners. Even in today's typically casual dining atmosphere, displaying good basic manners is necessary. Most of us have shared a meal with someone who made the experience unpleasant by exhibiting a lack of manners--you don't want to be that person! Here are few tips on using good table manners:

  1. As soon as you are seated, place your dinner napkin on your lap. As you use it during your meal, return it to its place on your lap. At the end of the meal, place your soiled napkin next to your plate, but do not refold it.
  2. When your place setting contains a number of utensils, the general rule of thumb is to use them in order, from the outside in. If your host or hostess has properly set the table, the flatware will be laid out to match up with each course served. Once you have used a utensil, never place it back on the table or tablecloth. As you finish each course, place the utensil on the plate or bowl, along the edge furthest from you.

  3. Sit up straight and keep your elbows off of the table. It is not okay to lean back in your chair, slouch, or lean forward onto the table. While you should never place your elbows on the table, it is permissible to rest your wrists on the table edge between courses.
  4. At meals that are served "family style," platters should be passed to the right, or counterclockwise.

  5. Never chew with your mouth open or talk with food in your mouth. Take small bites so that you can swallow your food easily and maintain a pleasant dinner conversation.
  6. Be sure to swallow your food before taking a sip of your drink.
  7. When eating a salad, be sure to cut the lettuce and other vegetables into comfortable bite-sized servings. Never try to wrangle a large chunk of food into your mouth!
  8. If soup is served, dip your spoon into the bowl moving away from you and then sip (not slurp!) the soup from the spoon. As the bowl nears empty, it is alright to tip it a bit away from you to get the last few spoonfuls. Never pick up your soup bowl and "drink" the remainder.

  9. When eating a bread roll, tear off a bite at a time rather than biting into the whole roll. If you choose to butter your bread, place a small pat or two on your bread plate and then butter each individual bite-sized piece. Do not dip your bread into gravy or other sauces.
  10. Very few foods should be eaten with your fingers. When in doubt, use your utensils or follow the lead of your hostess.
  11. If you need something that is out of your reach (the salt shaker, for instance), politely ask someone to pass it to you. Never lean across the table to grab something.
  12. If you drop your napkin or a utensil during your meal, lean over to pick it up only if it is within easy reach. If not, leave it be. For formal dinners, always leave it and ask the server to bring you a fresh one.
  13. Remain seated throughout the entire meal, unless you have an emergency or become ill. If you must leave the table, be sure to excuse yourself.
  14. Always turn off pagers and cellular phones during a meal. If you must leave your phone on because of the potential for a work or personal emergency, be sure to excuse yourself from the table before taking a call.
  15. If you are dining in someone's home, do not sit down until your hosts do, unless they request that you do so. Never begin eating until all guests are seated and the host begins his meal.
  16. If you get something stuck in your teeth, do not try to remove it at the table. If it is bothersome, you may excuse yourself to the washroom to remove the offending item.
  17. Never do any personal grooming at the table. If you need to straighten your hair or freshen your lipstick, do so after the meal in the privacy of the restroom.

  18. If you are a guest in someone's home and they choose to pray before a meal, you have two choices.  Either bow your head and join in or remain quietly seated until they are finished.
  19. Try to be open-minded about trying new foods, especially when dining in someone's home. Your hosts went to considerable effort to present you with a pleasurable dining experience; do not offend them by refusing their offerings. If you have a food allergy that would prevent you from trying something, politely explain. You can say, "It looks delicious, but unfortunately I am allergic to strawberries."
  20. Compliment the cook. Be sure to thank your host or hostess for your meal and offer a sincere compliment on the meal. Even if you didn't particularly enjoy the food, you can certainly come up with something nice to say!

 

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