American vs European Styles (Part 3 of 3) – Dining Etiquette #1



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The understanding of “table manners” is important and has to be reminded;

Table manners are the rules of etiquette used while eating, which may also include the appropriate use of utensils. Different cultures observe different rules for table manners. Each family or group sets its own standards for how strictly these rules are to be enforced.


A continuation from the article “The Dining Etiquette – American vs European Styles #2”.

Here are some interesting findings that will be helpful to you.

In cases whereby accidents occurred

– If you spill anything on the table or yourself discretely use your napkin or ask the waiter for sparkling water. Do not dip your napkin into your water glass.
– If you spill anything on someone else do not try to mop up the spill, offer them a napkin and let them do it for themselves. Offer to cover any laundering or cleaning costs.
– If you burp cover your mouth with your napkin. After it happens, say a quiet “pardon me” to no one in particular, do not make a big deal about it.
– If you break anything, call it to the waiter’s attention. In a private home, speak quietly to the host and offer to replace the item.
– If you get some food stuck between your teeth do not use toothpicks, fingernails, or napkins to dislodge the food at the table. If necessary go to the bathroom and take care of it.

Did you know that there is social protocol to observe while sitting in a formal dining?

– The male guest of honor sits on the hostess’ right.
– The next most important man sits on her left.
– The female guest of honor sits on the host’s right.
– The second most important woman sits on the host’s left.
– Men and women should be alternately seated.
– Couples should be separated.
– Use of round tables puts everyone on an equal basis.
– There may be place cards at a formal dinner or your host/hostess may indicate where you should be seated.
– Social manners are expected: males should seat females and rise when they leave and return to the table.

Conveying the right posture and conduct

Things you should do:-
– When being entertained at someone’s home it is nice to take a gift for the host and hostess. A bottle of wine, bunch of flowers or chocolates are all acceptable.
– On arrival in a restaurant or at a formal function give your coat to the waiter, never hang it on the back of your chair. If in doubt ask your host(ess).
– When you wish to use the toilet, excuse yourself and leave quietly. Do not ask people where they are going if they excuse themselves.

Things you should not do:-
– Elbows should not be on the table until after all courses have been cleared away.
– Never lean on your elbows! Keep your posture erect.
– Never rock back in your chair.
– Never smoke during a meal. Smoking should not take place until dessert is finished. Follow the lead of the host or ask if you may smoke. Use ashtrays only.
– Never apply makeup or comb your hair at the table.

Observing basic manners of eating

Things you should do:-
– If you are at a dinner party wait until your host(ess) starts eating or indicates you should do so.
– Chew and swallow all the food in your mouth before taking more or taking a drink.
– Soup should be spooned away from you. Tilt the bowl away from you.
– Break bread and rolls with your fingers not with your knife.
– Break off a small piece of bread (or roll and butter it. Do not butter the whole slice or half a roll at one time.
– You may use a piece of bread on a fork to soak up sauce or gravy. Never hold the bread in your fingers to do this.
– Only clear consomme should be drunk directly from the soup bowl, and then only if it has handles.
– You may eat chicken and pizza with your fingers if you are at a barbecue, finger buffet or very informal setting. Otherwise always use a knife and fork.

Things you should not do:-
– Never chew with your mouth open.
– Never talk with food in your mouth.
– Never put too much food in your mouth.
– Never mash or mix food on your plate.
– Do not blow on hot food or drink.
– Do not sip from a coffee spoon or teaspoon.
– Never use your fingers to push food onto your spoon or fork.

Managing serviettes, crockery, and cutlery correctly

Things you should do:-
– Your serviette should always be placed on your lap. If it is small you may open it out fully. If it is large it should be kept folded in half with the fold toward you. ( In some of the more exclusive restaurants the waiter will place your napkin on your lap for you.)
– The fork is held in the left hand, the knife in the right to cut food and to help carry food to the fork. The fork is held, tines down, and the knife used to move food unto the fork or support food so the fork can pick it up. There is no shifting of cutlery.
– When you are finished eating, soup spoons, coffee spoons, and dessert spoons should be placed on the side plate or saucer, never leave them in the bowl, cup etc. Do not push your plate away or stack your dishes. Place your knife and fork together in the “twenty past four” position, as if your plate were the face of the clock, with the knife on the outside and the fork on the inside. Or place the utensils side by side in the middle of your plate, fork tines down, knife to the right, sharp blade turned inward toward the fork.
– Keep your serviette in your lap until you leave the table.
– When you leave the table place your serviette in loose folds at the left side of your plate, never on top of the plate.

Things you should not do:-
– Never tuck your napkin into the collar of your shirt.
– Never use a napkin as a handkerchief.
– Do not wipe off cutlery or glassware with your napkin. If dishes aren’t clean, ask the waiter quietly for replacements.
– Do not cut up more than three bites at a time.
– Do not scrape the plate.

Knowing the cue of passing dishes and food

Things you should do:-
– Soup spoons, coffee spoons, and dessert spoons should be placed on the service plate or saucer when you are finished eating. Never leave them in the bowl, cup etc.
– Always pass to the right.
– Initiate the passing of rolls, butter, and condiments even if you do not want any.
– Pass jugs, gravy boats etc. with the handle toward the recipient.

Things you should not do:-
– Never reach across the table. If anything isn’t directly in front of you, ask for it to be passed.

To wrap up, we hope that these information will help you a great deal to be an individual who knows how to carry yourself well in the society both locally and internationally, be it socially and in career. As life is full of surprises, this information may comes in handy tomorrow.

In the perspective of being Malaysians, it is good to broaden our minds with such knowledge since we share the world we live in with other cultures too. It is a pathway that we should not choose to be ignorant. The key is to be sensitive and respectful of others.

While in the eyes of parents’ role in a society, this piece of information can serve as useful and relevant education materials in grooming your children about the world around them and teaching them the social requirements in preparation to their adulthood. Quite frankly, an average Malaysian who solely rely on our general education system may have little to zero knowledge on this area as little to none of these soft skills are covered in the syllabus. It is sad but is true.

However, always remember that learning is a life time process. Ignorance is never an excuse in life. We have to continuously in search for the right knowledge to make ourselves a better person. That is why wishes to create awareness to you, Malaysians in filling the knowledge gap existed in our education system. For those who already knows this, we say “good for you” and for those who have no knowledge about this matter, we say “it is time to learn something new to enrich yourself”.

So have a wonderful time in learning new things in life!

Please note that viewers discretion are required while reading this article. Thank you.

Kindly note that truly appreciates the passion, generosity and contribution of others to the world of culinary. Therefore we wished to emphasize that some of our article contents are taken from the world wide web with an intention to create awareness only. Then again, kudos to those who had put so much effort to produce these wonderful contents and their willingness to share to the world. Thank you. – –

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