Whether dining with the President of a large corporation, toasting with a promoted co-worker, or sitting with friends and family on Christmas Eve, an understanding of good dining etiquette makes time spent with others around a table more enjoyable.
The rules may vary from place to place but this should serve as a good guide. Whether you are dining in someone’s home or in a restaurant, using proper etiquette at the table will also help you socially and professionally.
1. If there are a large number of guests, you must not start eating until everyone has been served. However sometimes the hostess may indicate that you may begin before everyone is served. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to begin.
2. If you are eating something that has bones or pips in it, you may discreetly remove them from your mouth. Place them on the side of your plate. It is never appropriate to use a toothpick at the table, nor should you blow your nose. If you have something stuck in your teeth that you must remove, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom to remove it.
3. Do not salt your meal before you have tasted it; it is an insult to your hostess. If you do need salt, allow some time to pass from the time you receive your food. Use this time to sample all the food on your plate, then conservatively add salt as normal.
4. Small snacks that could accompany the dinner must always touch your plate before being put in the mouth. Do not remove it from the serving tray and put it straight in your mouth.
5. Should a lady wish to be excused for the rest room, it is polite for the gentlemen to stand up as she leaves the table, sit down again, and then stand once more when she returns. As old fashioned as this may seem, it will definitely reflect positively on the character of the gentlemen.
6. Good dinner table etiquette sometimes involves a degree of diplomacy when it comes to the host’s choice of food and wine. Even if you feel that you can do better, it is imperative that you never offer your criticism. If you feel unable to pay any sincere compliments, at least remain silent on the subject.
7. Bring your food to your face, not your face to your food. You shouldn’t be leaning over your food. Instead sit straight, balance a single bite on the utensil of choice and bring it directly to your mouth.
8. Now, despite this being a quick modern reference to dining with etiquette. This next point doesn’t actually have anything to do with the actual dining experience, but it is still quite important. When you are dining at the home of a friend or business associate, it is a good idea to bring a host or hostess gift. It isn’t mandatory, but it is however always a nice gesture on your behalf.
“The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet.” – Judith Martin