Having proper table manners opens doors with key people in business meals and with friends and new acquaintances in social events. The way we eat and what we do at the table speaks about our educational and social background. To succeed, table etiquette must be practiced all the time, whether you are alone or not.
Here are some guidelines for table etiquette:
- Keep the right posture at the table. Your back must be straight and not curved and your arms on your sides.
- Pay attention to your drink. Look into it while you drink instead of over it.
- Good table manners dictates that you be discreet with your medicine. Do not announce that you are taking medication to everybody. Discreetly take your medicine so no one notices.
- Try a little of everything without overloading your plate. If it is a buffet, keep it simple and organized. Try a little of what you desire without overloading.
- Table manners would suggest using the utensils the right way. Carry the food with the utensils in the right position and avoid turning them around while you eat. Avoid turning them around when you eat and never eat your food with your knife. Utilize the fork and spoon as appropriate.
- Take small bites. This way it will be easier for you to participate in the conversation and avoid talking with your mouth full.
- Sip your beverage after you swallow. This way your mouth will not look fuller than it should. However, it is fine to take a small sip of water if the food in your mouth is very hot.
- Table manners would suggest the use of your fingers to remove strange objects from your mouth and put them at the edge of the plate. Do not spit them on the napkin or on the plate.
Absolutely Do Not:
- Do not announce your need of the restroom. Nobody needs to know that while eating. Excuse yourself, accommodate your chair and discreetly go.
- Do not complain. Making bad remarks about the food or the service in front of others will not solve anything and it will make you look very bad. If you have a complaint, excuse yourself and talk to the manager or host: they are the ones in charge of taking care of this type of problems.
- Do not touch your head or hair at the table. Do not scratch your head or fix your hair while at the table. Excuse yourself and go to the restroom instead.
- Do not groom at the table. Some women like to comb their hair or put on makeup at the table. Excuse yourself and go to the restroom.
- Do not put your personal belongings on the table. Briefcases, telephones, pagers, purses, etc. must be placed away from the food, small items on your lap, big items near your feet.
- Do not smoke during meals. Wait until dessert is finished by everybody. No ashtrays means no smoking.
- Do not have your plate overloaded. Put on your plate only the amount of food that makes your plate look barely full and organized. If after you finish you are still hungry, you can serve yourself with more food.
- Do not reach across the table to get something. Ask the person near the object you need to pass it to you.
- Do not put crackers in the soup. Eat them separately.
- Do not put the knife in your mouth. Sometimes it seems easier for us to just lick a knife or take food from the knife. Instead, use the right utensil.
- Do not blow hot food. Wait until it cools enough so you can eat it. Start with the top layers of food on your plate.
- Do not chew with your mouth open. When you do that people around you can see the food inside your mouth. Keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed your food.
- Do not smack your lips. Making noises while eating is very unpleasant and it is a lack of consideration towards the other people at the table.
- Do not spread your elbows while cutting food. It gives the impression you have a lot of trouble cutting your food. Keep your elbows close to your body.
- Do not saw your food. This also gives the impression you are having a hard time cutting your food. Just make one stroke towards you.
- Do not make gestures with utensils. If you need to gesture, leave the spoon, fork or knife on the table.
- Do not push plates away. When you are finished, leave the plate where it is.
- Do not use the table water to wipe a stain. If you stain your clothes, excuse yourself and go to the restroom.
- Do not wipe your face with the napkin. Eat carefully enough to just pad your mouth if anything at all.
- Do not pick your teeth at the table. Some people have the habit of picking their teeth at the table, either with a toothpick, or worse, with their fingers. If something is between your teeth, excuse yourself and go to the restroom.
- Do not make noises under the table. Both of your feet must be resting on the floor.
- Do not rock the chair. The four legs of your chair must be on the floor at all times.
Remember that a good listener is a pleasant person to be around. Provide your undivided attention to whomever is speaking and be tactful and considerate of other people's feelings. Think before you speak!
Some habits are hard to get rid of and some are easy. It is important you practice good table manners every time you eat. This way it will become natural to you in less time than you think.
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