Eating at a restaurant can be intimidating. And if you're going to school or even working somewhere that requires you to dress up, it can be overwhelming. When you add manners and etiquette into the mix, it's easy to feel overwhelmed.
Table manners have been around for centuries. And that's because what was acceptable to eat back then is as relevant now as it was then — maybe more. This is why this post on food etiquette makes a fun gift for anyone who wants to be an expert at the dinner table.
Some simple rules of etiquette can make your dining experience more enjoyable and even strengthen professional relationships. Table Manners 101 is a comprehensive list of proper table manners that lead to success in professional situations.
What are the 10 table manners?
Table manners are a set of behaviours that demonstrate civilized tastes and proper etiquette. These customs govern how people behave at the dinner table, particularly during formal dining events.
While there is some variation across cultures and within cultures as to what constitutes acceptable table manners, there are some general rules which apply in most social situations:
#1: No elbows on the table
Though it might be tempting, do not rest your elbows on the table. It is a sign of disrespect and impatience. When dining with someone else, your elbows should be held close to your body at all times. If you are eating alone, arm yourself with a napkin for use as needed.
When you place your elbows on the table while dining with others, it shows that you don't care about them or their company; that you're bored or frustrated; that they're taking up too much of your time and energy; or even worse—that they're beneath consideration in terms of respect and importance (i.e., they aren't worth listening to).
#2: Eschew your phone
Your phone can wait. You may not feel you have time to sit down and eat, but it's a good idea to put your phone down and focus on the people around you. This will improve both your social interactions and your manners!
If you want to bring up something funny or interesting that happened online, try saving that for after dinner when everyone is done eating. And don't check email or surf the internet unless all phones are off—it's too distracting to others around the table.
#3: Your napkin goes on your lap
Your napkin goes on your lap, not under your plate. It's an important part of the meal and should be used to keep you clean throughout.
If you want to use your napkin for something else—maybe wiping a spill or dabbing your lips—just fold it and place it back on the table when you're done.
It's fine if you spill a little bit of something. It's not fine if you leave a mess on the table.
#4: Don't talk while you're chewing
You should not talk with your mouth full. You should not speak in the presence of food in your mouth. If this is a problem for you, consider using a napkin to cover up any food or drink until it is finished.
If you are eating a meal that requires silverware and has several courses, such as an appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert followed by coffee/tea/drinks, then wait until everyone's finished eating before starting any conversation at all. This will help ensure that no one has to worry about interrupting others while they're chewing their food.
#5: Don't put your face close to your food
This is a good rule of thumb, whether you're eating with a group or dining solo. It's impolite, it's unsanitary, and it just looks gross. Even for the most skilled chefs with the most delicious dishes in front of them—and even if there are no other people around—your dining companions will appreciate it if you don't constantly give off the impression that you're about to start devouring their meal like a wolf after its prey.
#6: Don't pick up your soup bowl or drink from it
Use your soup spoon to eat from it. Don't hold the bowl in one hand while you use your other hand to eat. This is a sign of bad table manners, and it can also be messy if you're eating with other people.
The most important rule about soup is never to drink directly from your bowl. If you need more than one helping, ask for another serving instead of using the same bowl over again.
#7: Never slurp, lick or smack your lips
When you eat, it's best to avoid making noises with your mouth. This includes:
- licking your lips
- smacking your lips or tongue against the roof of your mouth (called "lisping")
Also, don't make noises with utensils and glasses. The most common culprit is when someone places a spoon back in their soup bowl and creates a loud clank noise as it hits the bottom of the bowl. To avoid this problem, hold your spoon by its handle and place it on top of your plate while you sip from it (don't dangle it over an empty bowl). When finished eating, place your spoon back into its original spot on either side of the plate or upright in front of you so that everyone knows where you left off.
#8: Make sure that everyone else at the table is served before you begin eating
Once you've received your plate and utensils, make sure that everyone else at the table is served before you begin eating. Don't start until everyone is served and ready to eat; if someone takes an unusually long time to receive their food, let them know in a polite manner that it's okay for them to start eating. Remember, this isn't just about manners—it's also about consideration for others.
#9: Be polite and considerate at the table
As regards table manners, you should be to be polite and considerate. That may sound obvious, but sometimes people forget that it's not just about what you do with your utensils.
Your behaviour at the table can affect others' experiences as much (if not more) as to how you hold your fork or knife. You need to think about the people around you and avoid being disruptive, arrogant, and rude.
You should also avoid being a bully—even if someone else is acting like one! If someone is being rude or disruptive while they eat, say something subtle like "that was funny" rather than saying anything directly to them that could cause an argument or make things uncomfortable for everyone else at the table.
And remember: there's nothing wrong with showing off once in a while—but when doing so becomes inappropriate (e.g., making fun of another person), stick with "polite" instead of "arrogant."
#10: Use utensils correctly
When dining, you should use the correct utensil. For example, a knife is used to cut food and not to stir it or eat it directly from the plate. A fork is used to push food onto your fork and not to spear a bite of steak.
Finally, when eating soup or other foods that are served in bowls, always put the spoon back into the bowl after each bite so as not to drip on yourself or others around you.
Whether you like it or not, good table manners are important to learn. They're a must for any social situation, and they can be the difference between looking classy and respectable at a dinner party—or embarrassing yourself! Luckily, I've put together some easy tips that will help you master your dining etiquette.
Why is it important to use your best manners at the dinner table?
Because it shows respect for the other people at the table, as well as a willingness to follow social rules, table manners are a way of showing respect for those around you, and they are also a way of showing that you are willing to follow social rules. If everyone followed these rules, then we would have less conflict and more peace in our lives.
What should I do if I spill food or drink?
A polite way to deal with a minor mishap is simply to say "Oh no!" and then continue eating. If you've made a mess, ask your server for a napkin, which they will be happy to provide. If the spill is more substantial, ask your server if they have any paper towels or tissues that you can use to clean up.
How do I know if my table manners are good or not?
If you feel like you can get through a meal feeling confident and comfortable, then your table manners are probably pretty good! If not, don't worry—it's never too late to learn. Just keep practicing.
What country is it polite to burp?
In China, burping after a meal can be a sign of appreciation to the chef. Burping is considered a compliment to the chef, who carefully prepared what you ate, and it can also be a way of relaying your satisfaction with the meal.
You don't have to be a professional chef to know that food has the power to connect us with each other and with our surroundings. Food is a fundamental part of life—it's not just a means of sustenance; it's an activity in and of itself.
Good table manners are important because they convey respect for the people around you, as well as yourself. The more you practice good table manners, the more able you'll be to treat everyone around you with kindness and consideration—and that's something we can all get behind!