Etiquette Tips for Dining

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Part of the Etiquette For Dummies Cheat Sheet

People usually think of the mechanics of eating when the word etiquette is mentioned and for good reason. Dining is one common area where rough edges show. To keep social and business dining situations less stressful here are some etiquette quick tips:

  • Always introduce yourself to those around you at the table and talk with those on each side and across from you.

  • Sit up straight at the table with your feet flat on the floor; it makes a good impression. If you must cross your legs, do so at the ankles. And keep your shoes on!

  • The meal officially begins when the host unfolds his napkin. This is the guest’s signal to do the same. The napkin remains on your lap throughout the entire meal and should be used to gently blot your mouth.

  • You can start eating when your host starts eating. If the first course is brought to the table in twos or threes and not everyone has food yet, don’t begin to eat; wait until all the people around you have been served the first course, and then begin to eat together. Sometimes the host may encourage you to “Go ahead, please don’t wait.” In this case, beginning eating is perfectly fine.

  • Use the utensils farthest from the plate, working from the outside in. Remember the rule of solids to the left and liquids to the right. All properly set tables have glasses to the right (liquid) and solids to the left (bread and salad plates).

  • Never cut your food into bits all at once; cut only two or three bits at a time. Take small bites and always remember to chew with your mouth closed — and don’t talk while you have food in your mouth.

  • When you’re not eating, keep your hands on your lap or with wrists resting on the edge of the table. Elbows on the table are acceptable only at the end of the meal when no food is on the table.

  • If you must leave the table during a meal for any reason, do so with as little interruption to others as possible. Politely and quietly excuse yourself, lay your napkin on your chair, and leave without fanfare.

  • After the meal is over, the host signals the end of the meal by placing his napkin on the table. You should follow suit by placing your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate, with no soiled areas showing. Don’t refold your napkin, wad it up, or place it on your plate.

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