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Modern Etiquette: Table Manners 101

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Modern Etiquette: Table Manners 101

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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