Practicing dining etiquette often gives you the edge over others when seated in a formal or informal setting.
You might be a beginner trying to match up to dining etiquette standards or well-versed in it. However, over the years there has been a change in many practices with increasing globalization and the acceptance of international cuisines the world over. Thus, we know as a beginner it can get confusing. Even as one following all dining etiquette, it can be challenging to keep up with trends. So, sit back and relax as we show you in a few simple steps how to perfect your dining etiquette for that great first impression.
A Bit About Dining Etiquette
Whether you are in a formal setting or an informal one, dining etiquette creates a good impression and has many benefits. Another advantage is it’s not meant for a few, but it’s a handy list for most of us. But because dining etiquette varies as per the culture and country, it's important to take note of it.
Why is dining etiquette important?
Dining extends beyond satisfying our hungry tummies. When in a group, following social practice creates a harmonious atmosphere to converse, enjoy the meal, and also build relations. And, because we follow a fixed protocol, it makes others feel welcome. A sense of belonging and being in place makes the guest, as well as the host, feel comfortable.
For ages, dining etiquette has been a social standard and a mark of respect for the culture and food. With times, dining etiquette has evolved, but its importance continues to remain intact. Therefore, its influence is equally significant for anyone in a social setting.
Who benefits from knowing dining etiquette?
Creating a favorable impression with dining etiquette can impress your peers. Many interactions take place at the table. Similarly, in a business environment, you are ready to set your best foot forward with the best dining etiquette.
Because dining etiquette is observed everywhere, it can be a saving grace in a casual dinner date or when meeting family and friends. Alternatively, wherever you work or live, dining is integral. Start your introduction to proper dining etiquette irrespective of whichever part of the world you live or travel.
How does dining etiquette differ around the world?
While some basic dining etiquette is standard across the world, being aware of unique practices the world over is helpful. While eating with a fork and knife is a common practice in the US, UK, and Europe, eating with the hand is often seen in Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. If you visit China or Japan, you are likely to have chopsticks to eat. In recent times though, you might also get spoons and knives at some places that could be as per your liking.
Dining Etiquette Around the World
Contrary to popular belief, good dining etiquette begins before you even sit down around the table. Take these important consideration to heart next time you're invited to any setting.
1. Prepare Before the Meal
If you have been invited for the first time, learn a few things about the place and the host. Therefore, this will help you keep a few related topics ready for a conversation. Dress for the occasion. Keep the host informed in case of any delays in your schedule.
2. Know Your Way Around a Table Setting
As a beginner, following proper dining etiquette can keep you calm and comfortable. Place the knife and spoon on the right-hand side of the dinner plate and fork(s) on the left side of the plate. Place the water glass above the knife. In case of a desert, plate place it above the fork(s).
Similarly, a formal dinner has a dining placement with knife, spoon, and fork on the right side of the plate and water glass on top of the knife. Once the table is set, wait for the host to begin eating or until everyone at the table has been served. When eating, eat slowly and pass around the food from left to right.
If you have to pause, place the knife above the fork to the right of the plate. After a meal, it’s best to place the used utensils of the knife and the fork in parallel to each other in the four o’clock position pointing to the right of the plate.
3. Stay In Place
Avoid getting up in-between the meal. If you must, only do so if you are feeling sick or have an emergency. Since you will be moving in-between a meal, excuse yourself and make your way.
4. Know the Rules for Business Dining Etiquette
Generally, for a business meal, the dining placement will be the same. However, there are a few practices you'll need to note. For example, if you are meeting the group for the first time, introduce yourself to each person. Let the host be seated, and take your seat after that. Allow the host to choose the meal items. If offered to select the items, consider the priorities of others and ask for any preference or food allergies. Try to keep your food orders similar to the type of food ordered by the host. Once there is a consensus, don’t go for drinks unless offered.
Since the purpose of a business meeting is to network, it’s only apparent, you should be talking. However, make it a point that your mouth is closed when eating to avoid any discomfort for others in the group. Keep the conversation a bit light to start the meal before delving into business relations. To converse and fill your stomach simultaneously, take care to break your morsels into small bites rather than large ones. Pace your meal to finish with the host. Once your meal is over, wait for the guest to signal the end of the meal. Then ask the server to pick up the dishes.
5. Consider the Country for International Dining Etiquette
Even though dining etiquette appears familiar, there are subtle differences that can help you in a foreign country or a multi-cultural restaurant. What may be deemed polite in one culture could cause offense in another. Thereby, it is extremely important to brush up on the dining etiquette of the country in which you're visiting. Here are a few notes to keep in mind:
- Middle East - In Saudi Arabia, the host might suggest you sit anywhere, however, wait until the host sits and offers you a seat too. Even though Turkey is known to have transcontinental influences from Europe and the Middle East, dining etiquette dictates that you respect the food and avoid business talk.
- Asia - If you are in Japan or China, you could ask for a spoon instead of chopsticks. But, if you are in South Korea, learn the use of chopsticks before you go out to dine. In Thailand, sharing is considered a sign of respect. But be sure to avoid taking large amounts of food.
- America - A few simple dinner etiquette rules dictate when in America. For instance, if you are invited to an event, be sure to send yes or no. Once you reach the venue, greet everyone and engage in small talk. Place the napkin on your lap during the entire course of your meal. Offer food and drinks to others in the group before you begin. Dining is usually a two-course meal and you should free to take a second helping if offered.
- Africa - In Kenya, if you are offered a cup of tea, then it is wise to take it and sip it a bit even if you don’t wish to have it. Refusing could be is seen as a lack of courtesy.
- Islands - On the other hand, in Jamaica, business relations decide if you should have a business conversation in a meeting. Lunch is usually a preference than dinner for a business meet up. Tipping is often 10% of the bill.
4. Know the Rules of Fine Dining
Most luxury travelers are prepared with their travel kits and accessories. But we know that dining etiquette determines how you'll be perceived in a foreign country. We suggest a few practices as a luxury traveler at a fine dining restaurant. For example, if you are staying in a hotel and have not received your meal as per your liking, it is acceptable to send it back for a new dish. Do this prior to digging in too much instead of eating it halfway and then leaving it. Additionally, work from the outside when selecting cutlery. Make it a point to eat soup from the edge of the spoon.
5. Informal Settings Usually Allow You to Help Yourself
The mention of informal dining should make you feel relaxed without any formal rules. However, a casual environment also calls for basic eating etiquette. Know the occasion and the dress code. In an informal setting, the host might not have a server. If you need something specific, ask. Or, if you are familiar with the host, guests, and venue, help yourself. Try to lend a helping hand wherever needed.
Proper dining etiquette is a great help in a variety of situations.
We hope you enjoyed the list and hope it serves as an excellent guide for your travel plans as you begin your journey across countries. Follow these tips to create an excellent first impression.
For those looking for an international career leap, share this list with them as they make the transition with the right table etiquette!
Related Article: Tipping Etiquette From Around the World to Know Before Traveling