So, the party season is upon us. We’re either going to be hosts, or we’re going to be guests. There is one thing that gets my goat no end and it’s lack of proper etiquette. The way to act as a host or guest in public or at a private function was drilled into me using the technique of shaming. We ate out frequently as I grew up and there were always rules to follow and if I acted up, if my brother acted up we only ever did it once in our lives. Never again, the shame was too much.
Obviously there’s “I’m going to see Carmen at The Royal Albert Hall with dinner in the restaurant etiquette, and then there’s “Lets go for breakfast at Puccino’s in town.” etiquette. They are on two completely different scales. We’ll start with the first type.
Social gatherings come in the form of dinner parties, weddings, funerals etc. They all have their own set of unspoken rules about how you should act in public. Etiquette is the one thing that if you have it you shouldn’t fall on your face at any occasion. Knowing how to act, present yourself, and to an extent, hold conversation can leave a lasting, positive impression on the people around you for a long time. Don’t do the following and you’ll always be remembered as the man who wore jeans and a Hawaiian shirt to a wedding.
Etiquette is a term synonymous with politeness and respect. It isn’t an upper class snobbish thing, it’s respect for your host and/or their/your guests. They’re not rules, they are ways to assist you coping in social situations. If everyone is comfortable and behaving in one way and you’re acting in the complete opposite you’re going to stick out, and not for the right reasons.
One post is not enough for this, but I’ll start with the basics. The sit down meal. At some point we’re going to either be invited to a restaurant that isn’t “a tenner a head” and it will have a set menu (yeah, you have to eat what is given to you) or present at a function with an evening dinner provided. Such as an opera or wedding.
As a guest…
- You sit where your place card is. This isn’t primary school and you don’t get to move the seating arrangements at all because your best friend is sat somewhere else. You never move the place cards at all.
- The napkin remains where it is until the host takes theirs and places it on their lap.
- The amount of silverware will indicate the number of courses. A formal dinner will be seven courses.
- Drinks are served from the right, even if you ask your glass will never be completely filled.
- There will only be four glasses on the table.
- The water glass will be a smaller version of the red wine glass, the red wine is a large curvy glass, the white wine glass is tall and wide and the champagne glass is a flute shape – tall and thin.
- Your bread is served on its own plate and there will be a knife with that plate. Tear the bread with your hands, and butter only when you are ready to eat that piece.
- Bread is one of only a few foods that should be eaten with your fingers.
- You work with the silverware from the outside in and when you are finished that piece of cutlery should never touch the table again. AND under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you wipe it down with your napkin because “you might need it for the next course” !!
- If you are missing cutlery, tell the waiting staff or your host.
- On the LEFT (outside in)
- Salad fork
- Fish fork
- Meat fork
- On the RIGHT (outside in)
- Soup spoon
- Salad knife
- Fish knife
- Meat knife
- Above the place setting
- Dessert spoon (eat food with this)
- Dessert fork (push food with this)
- When eating soup you always spoon away from you and when there isn’t enough to spoon then you tilt the bowl away from you and then spoon from the slightly deeper puddle of soup. DO NOT SLURP.
- Bring the food to you, do not bring yourself to the food. You are not eating out of a trough with no hands.
- Don’t clink glasses while toasting. If this is a formal dinner you might be drinking out of crystal.
- A toast should never be longer than a minute, and toast in the native language of the host.
- If you need to leave the table (and you should never leave the table) place your napkin on your chair and leave your cutlery crossed on your plate. Fork at the eight o’clock position and the knife on the four o’clock with their necks crossed.
- When you are finished the napkin is placed loosely on the table ONLY when the host does the same. Your cutlery should be placed together in a pair from the bottom right hand corner to the center of your place. Do not cross them. Any dessert cutlery should be left in the saucer of your coffee/tea course.
- Do not leave the table until the host invites you to.