Did your girlfriend’s mother give you the evil eye at Christmas dinner this year? Or did your boss stare at you in horror as you shovelled food into your face at the office holiday party? Have you ever found yourself at a restaurant where there was more than one fork or knife beside your plate and had a panic attack?

If you can relate to any of these scenarios, chances are you’re not all that well-equipped as far as proper dining etiquette is concerned. Considering that most people eat their meals either on the go, at their desks, or sitting in front of the television, it’s not surprising that the average person might not have the most polished table manners nowadays. Just follow the simple rules below and not only will you save yourself a heap of embarrassment in the future—you’ll also feel much more confident when dining with others in public.

The Basics

Chew with your mouth closed.

If most of your meals consist of shoveling chicken nuggets into your mouth while playing video games, it’s quite likely that you’re not paying attention to whether or not your lips are closed as you chew. Those you might be dining with don’t need to see the mashed-up bits of whatever you’re masticating as they slosh around your mouth, nor do they want to hear the smacking and snapping that goes along with your oral food-processing technique.

Keep your lips closed at all times when you’re chewing, and if you find that you have difficulty doing so because the bites you take are too big and are just begging to peep out from your face, take smaller bites. Teensy ones, if needed.

Don’t speak when your mouth is full of food.

Just as nobody wants to see what it is you’re chewing on, they certainly don’t want to see bits of it fly from your mouth while you speak. They especially do not want to be struck by stray food particles escaping from your cavernous maw, so wait until you’ve finished swallowing before you answer a question or share some random bit of brilliance.

Don’t slurp. Ever.

If the soup you’re eating is too hot, let it cool down a bit, and then take small sips from a shallow spoon.

Use cutlery from the outside in, and rip pieces off your bread roll‒don’t bite into it.

This is just some basic and easy to remember advice.

More Advanced Etiquette

Hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right.

Most people hold their fork with their right hand, using it to shovel food into their faces until a larger piece needs to be cut. Then, they’ll switch the fork to their left hand and use it to spear the large piece while cutting it with a knife held in the right. Afterward, they’ll put the knife down and pick up the fork right-handed again. This is known as the American style of eating.

A more genteel method (known as Continental style) is to always keep the fork in the left hand. The fork can be used to propel foodstuffs upwards to your mouth, and the knife is always at the ready. This way, whether you’re slicing something, folding salad, or scooping something onto your fork, you don’t have to worry about dropping utensils during the drop-shift-switch cutlery dance.

Spoon your soup away from you, not toward.

This might seem like an effete bit of poncery, but it actually serves a purpose; if you accidentally tip your soup bowl, it’ll spill onto the table in front of you, rather than into your lap.

Place cutlery to show that you’ve finished eating.

Waiters rely on non-verbal cues when it comes to clearing your place setting, so if you’d like to let them know that you’ve finished, place your knife and fork together across the plate. You can either place them perpendicular to you, or so they point to 10 and 6 (clock-face) on your plate. Fork tines should face upward, and you can then place your dinner napkin beside the plate as well.

The proper method of calling a server over to you.

If you need to get your server’s attention, raise your hand and make eye contact. Once eye contact is made, nod; they’ll make their way over to you as soon as they can, as you’re likely not the only person in the restaurant.
Never wave at them, yell at them, whistle, gesture wildly, or grab at them as they pass.

Most of these tips are just common sense, but in an era when we might not spend much time in formal dining situations, these habits can be easily forgotten. In addition to these, remember to always be polite, remember to say “please” and “thank you” (even when ordering at Starbucks), and you’ll do just fine at any social gathering you may be invited to.

Here’s how to be polite in 20 different countries: How to Be Polite in 20 Different Countries

 

Featured photo credit: The table covered by a holiday with drinksvia Shutterstock

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