Dining etiquette isn’t so much a specific set of rules as it is a bundle of civility skills pertaining to sharing a meal with others. Socially or in business, it is appreciated and necessary.
Situations and circumstances vary whenever people gather to dine. Etiquette and manners are directional rather than directive. As you learn to be present in the social situation of dining, you embrace a willingness to learn patterns of orderliness, and to be alert to what a situation calls for.
The end result is that you dine under the radar. As I teach in my dining etiquette seminars: no one says, “Oh look how properly she holds her fork," or "see how careful she was to avoid getting lipstick on the edge of her glass.”
But if you wave your fork excitedly during conversation, or if your glass ends up with lipstick all around the rim, someone will notice.
Knowing what to do when dining, whether at a restaurant, at a formal gala event, or in another country or culture, is a worthwhile aim. It’s accumulated knowledge, but at the core is a desire to learn recognized practices that encourage respect and help others feel comfortable and welcome.
An appreciation of dining etiquette is also a ticket to your increased confidence and comfort and fosters the ability to relax and enjoy yourself. You know the boundaries of your personal space at the table - what tools are yours to use and what tools belong to your table companions.
It’s a system of understanding that no one speaks of while actually engaged in. It would be bad manners to correct a fellow diner. Dining etiquette is about following signals, particularly those of your host, rather than judging those who aren't aware of the guidelines.
There are certain dining rules that can help make any meal effortless and enjoyable. Here is a round-up of the guidelines I recommend everyone get to know well:
If you're new to dining rules, don't let this list overwhelm you.
Before you know it, you'll approach every table with confidence. After all, sharing a meal with your friends, family, or business colleagues, shouldn't be stressful. It should always be a pleasure.