6 Categories of "Never-do"
Sharing a meal is an inclusive experience. The company, the food, and the conversation work together to blend the time at the table into a nourishing of body and soul.
Part of this experience includes individuals "flying under the radar" of being noticed for how we eat and, therefore, avoiding the judgments of fellow diners. No one is perfect and we all commit faux pas when dining with others.
But whether or not our dining skills are polished or a little rough around the edges, there are things we never do that would bring our common courtesy into question.
- Napkins belong on laps, not tucked inside a collar, tied around your neck, or left ignored on the table.
- Napkins are not used to blow your nose or wipe a sweaty or dirty face at the table. Excuse yourself to the restroom to take care of those tasks.
- Spitting food into your napkin is no way to be rid of it.
- But don't forget to use your napkin to wipe the corners of your mouth, to cover an unexpected sneeze or cough, and to blot a greasy mouth before drinking from a glass.
Properly used, napkins are the most important tool a diner has. Their use signals the beginning and ending of the meal by the host, and they are convenient for catching crumbs and drips.
- Never reach or lean over someone else’s plate or across the table. This includes shaking hands when others are already sitting.
- Helping yourself to bread before the host has signaled the meal has begun.
- Taking food from someone’s plate.
- Asking another diner for a bite.
- Moving plates around to suit yourself.
- Placing cell phones on the table.
- Passing bread and other items to the left on the initial serving round, rather than to the right.
- Placing unwanted food from your mouth on the table.
- Drinking before the host has signaled that the meal has begun.
- Eating before others have been served or before the host signals it’s time.
- Talking or laughing loudly such that it's interruptive.
- Being anything other than kind to the server.
Our space at the table is our own, but at the same time, we share common space with all the other diners, too. Being mindful of the boundaries between personal and shared space can prevent accidents and spills and help everyone feel respected and honored.
Unmannerly Sights and Sounds
- Picking your teeth.
- Scratching yourself or repeatedly touching your face, mouth or hair.
- Swishing your food in your mouth.
- Belching or burping.
- Talking with your mouth full.
- Taking really big bites that cause difficulty chewing.
- Applying lipstick at the table.
- Making a mess of your table space with your food.
- Leaning on the table or eating with one arm on the table.
- Sitting back in the chair with your hands on the back of your head - you could go crashing to the floor!
- Slouching in your chair.
- Crossing your legs at the knees - difficult to do under the table, but a sure way to kick a fellow diner.
- Eating with your fingers - when you're not eating finger foods.
- Shoving food onto your fork with your fingers.
What we can’t help but see and hear while dining together can leave unpleasant impressions. Being aware that only we can manage ourselves as we engage with others over a meal, and being mindful of shared space, will make everyone glad they are with you.
Utensil and Glassware Errors
- Licking or sucking on utensils.
- Stabbing your food.
- Waving or pointing with utensils during conversation.
- Leaving utensils hanging off your plate.
- Using a butter knife for anything but spreading butter.
- Placing a used utensil on the table or tablecloth - they always belong on a plate.
- Setting your glass down where it might be knocked over - glasses always go above the knife area and toward the right of your place setting.
- Bringing a thermos or water bottle to the table when it is already set with glassware.
- Picking a dropped utensil up from the floor. Quietly signal your server to obtain another.
A well-set table feels orderly and comforting, unless it’s not there—or unless diners upset the balance by mindlessness. Disorder doesn’t have the same appeal as order.
Table Conversations that Raise Eyebrows
- Updating everyone on your latest diet.
- Complaining or bringing up unpleasant topics.
- Forgetting that small talk is a bridge between strangers or people you haven’t seen in a while.
- Asking for food that is outside of what is to be served.
- Dominating the conversation with your news or opinions.
- Engaging in ‘conversation stoppers’ such as politics, religion, or topics of a personal nature.
- Talking to one neighbor beside you but forgetting the neighbor on your other side.
- Talking about another restaurant’s or person’s food or cooking.
When people dine together they have given their permission to be involved in pleasant conversation. At a dining table, everyone should feel welcome. This means sharing talk time and engaging in topics that will contribute to the general good (and good digestion) of all.
General Bad Dining Habits
- Sitting down without first being invited to sit.
- Hanging handbags on the back of chairs. This is not only potentially disruptive, it might also invite trouble.
- Hanging a suit jacket on the back of your chair. These should be worn during the meal.
- Out of sync ordering at a restaurant - diners should order course for course so the meal flows smoothly.
- Failure to pass the food.
- Getting up from the table without excusing yourself.
- Picking up hamburgers or sandwiches to eat without first cutting into halves or fourths.
- Asking for a doggie bag indiscriminately.
- Forgetting to compliment the food and thank your host.
When you dine, assume that not everyone knows the guidelines for table etiquette. There is no need to correct someone if a rule is broken. Leading by example usually makes a stronger statement of your good manners.
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