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5 Most Common Dining Etiquette Questions

Some cocktails could hardly be imagined without their typical garnishes. For example the olive in a Martini, onion in a Gibson, a Bloody Mary with celery stalk, or the cherry in a Manhattan. The purpose of cocktail garnishes is to either enhance and compliment or contrast the flavours of the drink and to add a nice aesthetic touch and some style to a cocktail at the same time. Whilst some garnishes have an aesthetic function only, some cocktail garnishes can be eaten! Let’s find our way out of this cocktail confusion and learn how to handle the cocktail garnishes properly. If you’re interested in learning more about proper table manners, check out my courses or get in touch.

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If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already questioned yourself if you have accidentally taken your neighbour’s bread or glass. Proper dining etiquette is important for making a favourable impression at business lunch or dinner, or even at more casual affairs, such as a date or family gathering. The purpose of dining is to spend your time engaging with others, and not worrying about which fork to use. Although common sense is often the best guide, this post will answer the 5 most common dining etiquette questions to help you stand out! If you’re interested to learn more about dining etiquette, please check out my courses.

1. My neighbour’s stolen my utensil?!

As a good rule of thumb, navigate your place setting from the outside inwards. In other words, with each course use the utensils from the outside and work your way towards the plate. Each course should have its own utensils. If the utensils are not laid out on the table, they will be brought with your meal or just before the meal is served. Don’t panic if you’ve used the wrong utensil. Just ask the waiter for another.

2. Have I used the right glass? Am I eating my neighbour’s bread? 

Remember that your glasses are always on the right, above your knives. Whilst your bread and butter are always on the left. If you get easily confused about the correct place setting, there are two easy-to-remember ways to help you out.

First, think of the acronym “BMW” for Bread, Meal and Water. It will remind you that your bread-and-butter plate is on the left, your meal is in the middle, and your water (or wine) glass is on the right.

If you don’t fancy BMW, try to make “OK” signs with each hand: the bread is on the left as your left hand reminds you of the letter “b” and the drink glasses on the right as your right hand reminds you of the letter  “d”.

3. What should I do with my napkin?

Place your napkin on your lap upon seating. In high-end restaurants, the waiter may do this for you. If you’re attending a dinner with an official host, wait until they take their napkin first, and then follow suit.

4. There’s a fishbone in my mouth, how should I remove it?

There’s a general rule when removing an item from your mouth – the way it went in it should go out as well. If there’s a bone in your fish, use a fork and place it on the edge of your plate. The “discards” place is typically on the upper left part of your plate. Make sure, however, to not spit anything into your napkin.

5. I have never eaten oysters, caviar, or any other difficult food before, what should I do?

If you end up in a situation where you really don’t know which fork to use or how to eat a challenging food then just watch what your host or other guests are doing and copy it. If you order some challenging food at a restaurant, ask the waiter as they are there to help you. 

# Tip

Whether you are having lunch with a prospective employer, dinner with a client, or just a casual lunch with a friend, try to relax, smile and enjoy your company and the food. Even if you make a dining faux pas, such as taking someone else’s bread, keep calm, apologise to your neighbour and offer them yours. I’m sure others at the table will help smooth it over and keep any faux pas at bay. 

If you want more tips on how to navigate various social situations, check out my classes. For more personalised help, I’m also available for 1-on-1 sessions.

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