Regardless of our status in life, we need to acquire — and continue to practice — table manners for two reasons: (1) to make others comfortable (would you like to dine with someone who may have filthy hands and with disgusting table rudeness?); and (2) to keep us from embarrassing ourselves (imagine this – you’re halfway through your soup when the host says, “Bon Appetit!”).
Table etiquette or table manners are so neglected in today’s world. Men sometimes feel out of place when dining simply because they don’t know how to follow table manners, especially if they have been invited to a business lunch/dinner or they need to take their ladies in a more formal date.
These skills are something that can easily be taught, however, it takes practice before it becomes natural to you.
Sit a comfortable distance away from the table, so that with the elbows bent the hands are level with the knives and forks. Do not put elbows on the table.
Place your napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting down.
Napkins should be placed on the lap as soon as you are seated. Make sure to unfold it while it is in your lap. When you leave the table, leave the napkin (unfolded) on the table to the left of the place setting.
Turn off or silence all electronic devices.
If you forgot to turn off your cell phone before entering the restaurant or venue, and it rings, immediately turn it off. Do not answer the call. Do not text and do not browse the Internet at the table.
Wait until everyone has been served before picking up your cutlery.
Do not begin eating until everyone has been served, unless the host or hostess gives their permission for diners to start.
Use the appropriate cutlery.
If there are many utensils in your place setting and there is more than one course, use the “outside-in” rule to tell which knife, fork, or spoon to use at the dinner table. Use utensils on the outside first and work your way in with each new course. Again, observe your host if you have any doubts.
- Cutting Food. Cut your food into only one or two bite-sized pieces at a time.
- Seasoning Food. Proper table manners dictate that you taste your food before seasoning it.
- Reaching. Items are within reach if they are within easy reach of your arm when you’re leaning only slightly forward. Don’t lean past the person sitting next to you
- Passing. When someone ask you to pass a condiment or anything in particular, reach for it only if you are the closest one to it. Take the item and place it next to your person sitting beside you. Continue passing the item in this manner until it reaches the person who asked for it. Pass from the left to the right. Do not stretch across the table, crossing other guests, to reach food or condiments. If another guest asks for the salt or pepper, pass both shakers together, even if they only asked for one of them.
- Removing Unwanted Food from your Mouth. Food is removed from the mouth in the manner in which it is put into the mouth.
- Food Caught Between your Teeth. When food is caught between the teeth, even when it feels uncomfortable, wait to remove it privately.
- Unfamiliar Food. You can wait until someone else starts to eat and follow suit. Also, you can politely ask how the food should be eaten. Or, simply avoid the food altogether.
Keep your mouth closed.
Try to avoid making noises of any kind while eating, including the use of silverware against the plate, or with actual ingestion of the food, e.g. slurping soup. Scraping a plate or loudly chewing is unpleasant to listen to and considered impolite. Smacking and slurping food are major mistakes and a sign of bad table manners
Do not talk while your mouth is full.
If you have more than a few words to say, swallow your food, rest your fork on your plate, and speak before you resume eating.
Do not leave the table without a word.
Say “Excuse me,” or “I’ll be right back,” before leaving the table. Do not say that you are going to the restroom. Leaving without a word is rude. If a woman excuses herself, stay seated. The older practice of rising upon her departure and return is passé and confuses people nowadays.
Do not drink with a full mouth.
To avoid leaving food on the rim of the glass, make sure your mouth is free of food and blot the lips with a napkin before taking a sip of a beverage.
Learn to hold the wineglass properly.
White wine glasses are held by the stem, not the bowl; red wine glasses may be held by the bowl.
Be careful when you drink hot beverages.
To test the temperature of a hot beverage, take a single sip from the side of the spoon. When an extremely hot beverage is sipped, take a quick sip of water to decrease the effect of the burn.
When you have finished, place your knife and fork properly.
The proper way to signal you are finished with your meal is to place your knife and fork in the 4:20 position. Your fork should be closest to you with tongs pointed up, the knife with its cutting edge facing the fork’s tongs; not only does this tell a waiter or host that you are finished, it is the most stable position for your silverware when a person seeks to clear your place for dessert or drinks. Place the napkin gracefully on the table, and do not place it on top of your plate.
There are more rules but let’s keep it simple and easy to remember. If you follow these rules you will keep yourself out of the faux pas (social blunder) situations and you don’t want to embarrass yourself on a business lunch/dinner or on a first date with a stunning woman. Remember, good manners never go out of style.
The Little Book of Etiquette Revised Edition by Dorothea Johnson
The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man by Brett McKay