A Man’s Guide to Dining Etiquette and Proper Table Manners

by Antonio on March 26, 2010 · 110 comments

in A Man's Life, Money & Career, On Etiquette

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” -Clarence Thomas

Why Table Manners Matter

As a young Marine Corps Officer, I was dumbfounded one afternoon when after training on the Mark19 we transitioned into a class on proper table manners.  Taught by a petite older woman, the class covered the basics of dining etiquette. We practiced these skills at various unit dinners over the next six months. At the time, I thought the classes were useless and a waste of my time.  Yet as it turns out, while I never again fired that heavy grenade launcher, the skills I learned those evenings concerning table manners have enhanced my enjoyment of dining for over a decade.

Whether dining with a 4 star general, toasting with a Medal of Honor recipient, or sitting with friends and family on Christmas Eve, an understanding of dining protocol makes time spent with others around a table more enjoyable.  When you know the rules there is no awkwardness or questions about how things should be done; instead there is only opportunity to spend quality time with the company present.

The Need for Better Dining Etiquette

When I began to spend more time outside of military circles I noticed that many men had never been taught proper dining etiquette.  I was amazed when I returned to graduate school and met people who were spending 100K on their education but were sabotaging their own interviews over a meal that they ate from their plate like a horse.  Still other times I would witness friends embarrass themselves by eating half the food on their plate before noticing everyone else was waiting to give thanks.  A man in the year 2010, like his great-grandfather in the year 1910, still sits and eats three meals a day.  The purpose of this article is to give you the basics to dine with respect like he did.

If nothing else, live by these four rules:

  1. Pay attention to your hosts – Being an observant diner and picking up on cues from your host will enable you to avoid 95% the embarrassing situations you could find yourself in. Simple things like waiting to eat until you see others eating and using the utensils others are using will enable you to “wing it.”  However, this constant observing and following does not allow you to relax and enjoy the evening.
  2. Chew with your mouth closed and do not talk with food in your mouth – Yes, in the year 2010 we still have a problem with men chewing with their mouths wide open.  And if you have something to say, refrain from filling your mouth the moment before.  In order to recover if expected to speak, only put a single bite in your mouth at a time.  The days of stuffing your mouth with as much food as it can hold are over.
  3. Bring your food to your face, not your face to your food – You shouldn’t be leaning over your food, shoveling it into your mouth with a distance traveled of only 6 inches.  Instead, sit straight, balance a single bite on the utensil of choice and bring it directly to your mouth.  And never drink from your soup bowl.
  4. Say Thank You, Please, and Excuse Me – These small words are magic and should be used liberally.

The First Rule of Dining Etiquette – Know Who You Are Dining with and the Setting

As the Boy Scout Motto goes, be prepared.  RSVP within 3 days of receiving an invitation, or if no invitation was sent ask what to expect and how many people will be in attendance.  Dress to the level you feel appropriate, you do not need a custom suit but I advise looking professional.  It shows respect to the host and chances are you’ll be making important first impressions.

If you are visiting a person’s home, consider bringing a small gift such as flowers in a vase or a bottle of wine.  If the meal is being hosted by a close friend, find out how you can help make their life easier – perhaps by bringing a dessert.  Arrive on time, but not more than 10 minutes early as last minute preparations are always underway on the host’s end.

Informal Dining – Non-seated

By non-seated, I mean there will be no set time in which everyone sits around a table to dine as a group. Examples are picnics and barbeques where people arrive, eat, and leave at various times.  And although table manners here are much more relaxed, there are still a few rules of dining etiquette you should pay attention to.

  • Take an average sized serving – It is bad form to find you can only eat half the food on your plate and that your excess caused a fellow guest to miss out on the dish entirely.  Going back for a second serving, assuming there is plenty, is always a compliment to the chef.
  • Do not double dip – If you really like the dip, and need every part of your chip covered in it, use a spoon and make your own dipping station on your plate.
  • Precutting meat- Cut for yourself and those immediately around you – do not cut the entire roast as it will cause the meat to dry out quicker.
  • Clean-up after yourself – Do I need to say more?

Informal Dining – Seated

Informal Dinner Setting

By informal seated dining I mean that at some point all parties will be seated and a set meal will be served and conversation will take place over food.  Examples are recruiting events, business meals, or Easter dinner with the fiancée’s family.  Below is a place setting you might see.  Note the word Luncheon could be substituted for breakfast or dinner, as you can see this set-up anytime of the day.

The general guidelines are this: everything revolves around the plate, forks to the left, spoons and knives to the right. When it comes to silverware, you start on the outside and work inward.  Therefore, if in the picture above we had a fork for appetizers (which we do not), it would be to the left of the dinner fork (which is the one seen).  Your glass, when not in use, should remain in the upper right area of your setting.  Notice the water goblet is usually larger than your wine glass.

Formal Dining

Formal Dinner Setting

The first clue that you’ll be attending a formal dinner will be the uniform – suits and in many cases black tie are required.  Although I will not be covering formal dining in this article – there is too much information to cover in a single post – don’t be too alarmed if you have one coming up.  A man can learn the basics within 30 minutes of study and practice.   The picture below will give you an idea of the set-up you’ll face.

The Napkin

Place your napkin in your lap within 1 minute of sitting at the table to dine.  Do not tuck it into the front of your shirt collar like a bib or into your pants; unfold it just enough to cover your lap (usual leaving it half folded is enough, although fully unfolded is fine for larger men).  Although it can serve to protect your trousers from a spill, its main purpose is to enable you to seamlessly remove food from the sides of your mouth.  As such, use it when needed and when finished or excusing yourself from the table place it neatly to the left of your plate.

Don’t hog all the food for yourself

When to Start Eating?

The simple and safe answer to this question is when others do.  The reality is that it is often unclear, as that hot food is being served and the hostess along with a helper are still in the kitchen and a few guests are out wandering around out of earshot.  In this case, if hot food is being served and at least two people are seated, you may begin.  If the meal is orderly, and everyone is seated, then once three to four people have been served you may begin (assuming a group larger than 4 – if 4 or smaller wait for everyone to be served).  The general guideline is to never eat alone, but to eat hot food while it is still hot.

A prayer, if to be said, should be initiated by the host but can be given by anyone.  It should be given before the meal is served.  Toasts, on the other, hand can happen anytime glasses are filled and except at formal events can be initiated by anyone; oftentimes a guest toasts the host for their hospitality.

Don’t reach across the table

Elbows, Reaching, and Spills

Placing your elbows on the table while the meal is in progress should be avoided; however, there is nothing wrong with putting them on the table during a conversation between meals and during coffee or tea.  Reaching on the other hand is never allowed; if anything is beyond your normal reach (meaning you have to rise from your seat to get to it) or is within another’s personal space, always ask the person closest to pass the item you need.   And if something spills?  First, deal with the item spilling and next do what you can to assist the host with the immediate clean-up.  And then forget about it and enjoy your meal.

Dealing with Food You Do Not Want

  • You simply do not want to try it – If you haven’t tried it, how do you know you won’t like it?  Always try to take just a little of all dishes offered; sometimes that little stays on the plate after a single bite, but at least the host was not offended. 
  • You have a restrictive diet – Depending on how restrictive, you may want to notify your host beforehand so that they can make special arrangements.  I recently hosted a dinner where a number of the guests were fasting for Lent.  Although it required a little extra work, my wife and I were more than happy to accommodate our guest’s diet restrictions.  If the event you are attending is large and the host is not easily accessible, you may want to eat well the meal before in the case you are forced to eat light that evening. 
  • Saying no to alcohol – Being a non-drinker, I have run into situations where alcohol consumption is expected by all men present.  On many occasions when visiting family in Ukraine I have been pressured heavily to partake in traditional shots of Vodka.  My solution here is to take one glass, toast with the family, and then touch it to my lips.  This works for me, and now that I have built a reputation as a non-drinker the issue rarely arises.  The key is whatever your decision when pressured to drink, keep your choice consistent and you will run into less problems and hurt feelings.

How to Signal You Are Finished

The proper way to signal you are finished with your meal is to place your knife and fork in the 4:20 position.  Your fork should be closest to you with tongs pointed up, the knife with its cutting edge facing the fork’s tongs; not only does this tell a waiter or host that you are finished, it is the most stable position for your silverware when a person seeks to clear your place for dessert or drinks.

I’m Finished with my Meal

Saying Goodbye

Before leaving, say thank you to your hosts – all of them.  If the event is large (more than 30 people) and you must leave immediately but your hosts are in the middle of entertaining other guests, you can pull a French leave and slip out without saying goodbye directly – in these situations it is prudent to ask a trusted friend, if present, to pass a goodbye message.  However, a follow-up call or message within 24 hours is mandatory to explain why you departed without saying goodbye.

Final Tips

  1. Enjoy yourself and have a few drinks if you are so inclined; however do not ruin your host’s night by being the guy who after a half-dozen drinks starts making off-color comments and then argues loudly with his girlfriend.
  2. Talk with people – I mean, really listen to them, understand what they say, and have a good conversation.  If you are the only person who has spoken for the last 10 minutes, you are not having a conversation – you are giving a presentation.
  3. Turn the cell phone off and enjoy the moment.  Do not put it on silent, as nothing says “Our conversation is less important than some random call” than you peeking at your cell phone every 5 minutes.  You can live without Twitter and Facebook for a night.
  4. The best way to acquire proper table manners is to practice them at every meal; make them a habit, teach them to your children, and when you need them they will be there.

“The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet.”   -Judith Martin

Written by
Antonio Centeno
President, www.ATailoredSuit.com
Quality Custom Clothing & Sound Style Advice
Join our Facebook Page for a chance to Win Custom Clothing

{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Playstead March 26, 2010 at 3:08 am

Interesting article — you don’t see much on manners anymore — and you should. I’ll tell you where guys really need these tips — business settings. When you’re trying to climb your way to the middle, acting like a high school kid while dining with a multi-million dollar client can kill your career. If you’re lost as to what to do at any point in the evening, watch the others and follow their lead. I’ve been there.

2 The Counselor March 26, 2010 at 3:21 am

Once again, an excellent article from AoM. As the author pointed out, formal dining events can be quite enjoyable when you can allow yourself to “be in the moment” rather than worrying if you used the right fork for the appetizer. Some of this might initially seem outdated or needlessly formal in our modern world, but I was always taught that good manners were meant as a sign of respect for those around you (since you respect them enough to act on your best behaviour)—not as a way to show off your perceived cultural sophistication. Like saying “please”, “thank you” and “yes sir/ma’am,” good table manners simply make the occasion more pleasant for everyone.

3 DROC March 26, 2010 at 4:29 am

Great post. Table manners are sadly neglected today, by both men and women. The most important in my opinion is eating with your mouth open or speaking with food in your mouth.

I agree with Playstead, at a business dinner seeing someone’s food as they spit it all over the table while waxing lyrical is pretty much a guarantee he’s not taking that next step up the ladder.
But it’s not just formal occasions, I remember one particular case with a young lady I worked with. We had flirted a little and an invitation to lunch was extended. 15 minutes into the meal I had seen enough of her digestive system to put me off any idea of pursuing a relationship.


4 Benjamin March 26, 2010 at 4:36 am

Thank you Mr. Centeno. I try to do my best to be well mannered. The areas I fail in are eating to fast, leaning over for each bite and bad posture. It’s weird that playing in Orchestra required proper posture, but I never seem to carry that over to any other setting.

5 RLH March 26, 2010 at 9:12 am

Great reminders for the basics of table manners. As a father, the mistake I made was not to have the kids practice good manners at every meal. Once learned , manners do not inhibit the family meal at all. My thinking at the time was that a kid should be able to relax at their own table; there are “home behaviors” and “dining out behaviors”.THIS IS INCORRECT, DADS! If they have their elbows on the table at home and food falling out of their mouths, this is how they will behave out also; or else they will be intimidated by the strange environment. Basic good manners ALL the time.

6 Mike at The Big Stick March 26, 2010 at 9:14 am

I went to an all-male private high school. A few days before our prom the school had all of the seniors attend a 1-hour class on manners, offered in our assembly hall. To this day it remains one of the best educational moments of my 4 years there. I felt more confident in the expensive restaurant I took my date to and I still remember 17 years later how to signal to the server that I am done with my meal.

7 Mathias March 26, 2010 at 9:42 am

Thanks for this great article. You write: “its [the napkin's] main purpose is to enable you to seamlessly remove food from the sides of your mouth. As such, use it when needed”

You should add when this is necessary. Use the napkin every time you drink from a glass, i.e. before every sip you take from a glass. If you drink from a straw, you don’t need to do this.

8 dagwud March 26, 2010 at 10:01 am

At university, my program was in the former college of Home Economics. As part of the student council, I helped plan and implement the annual “networking morning” for seniors. It was a Saturday morning of information on etiquette intended to get students employed. It ended with a business lunch during which time one of the Food Science & Nutrition professors would walk the students through basic business etiquette at meals.

Thanks to my mom, I didn’t learn much at lunch. But there were a lot of students who did, based on the feedback. They were mostly women and this was 20 years ago!

I wonder if I should propose something similar for the students where I work now.

9 Jon March 26, 2010 at 10:04 am

Never RSVP a “maybe”. I think this has to be the result of our culture turning into a coordinating society instead of a planning society, but a host cannot plan an elaborate meal if a couple of guests RSVP with a “maybe”. We are not planning on putting out pretzels and buying a keg. This is a dinner party involving trips to the market for fresh tuna for Sushi, a farmers market for fresh vegetables, or an out-of-the-way store for rare cheeses and spices. COMMIT.

10 Chelito March 26, 2010 at 10:34 am

Good article. There are a couple of things that drive me absolutely crazy when dining with people who don’t know how to eat, or attend, dinners properly.

The first and foremost is “the elbow jabber”: These people don’t know the proper way to hold a knife and fork; fork in the left, knife in the right. Keep your elbows tucked against your sides, not sticking out at right angles and in the faces of the people beside you. If you turn the fork with the tines facing downwards, you can use the knife to easily press things onto your fork. There are some exceptions, but mostly this works the best. I’ve been at formal, and I mean VERY formal dinners, and have seen people stabbing their forks downwards with a clenched fist in their right hands. It looks so slovenly and violent, and is rude to the people sitting next to you.

Baby eaters: You are not a child. You do not need to cut everything on your plate into little pieces before eating it. It seems like a useless thing to mention, but it really is very juvenile. You really only need to cut off one or two small pieces at a time. There are, of course, exceptions to this, such as health reasons.

There are whole lists of rules that, when adhered to, really make dining a much more pleasant experience. Ugh, chair rockers are the worst. At the end of the meal they lean back on the back legs of their chairs and rock back and forth. I saw a man do this at a dinner party once who had had a little too much to drink. He leaned back too far, toppled backwards on his chair, and took a chip out of the wall behind him. So incredibly rude.

11 Bob March 26, 2010 at 10:38 am

Great article! One little thing: I learned that when one is finished, the knife and fork are crossed on the plate with the fork over the knife, tines down. Some people pu their napkin over their plate when finished. What’s the feedback on that?

12 Chelito March 26, 2010 at 10:47 am

For Bob: While leaving the knife and fork crossed on the plate isn’t too bad, it’s really hard to clear the plates with the utensils placed like that. If you are going to clear your own plate, go ahead and do whatever you want. But Often someone else is clearing, and it’s easier to grab the knife and fork when their handles are together than it is to try and grab them separately, especially if you have a stack of plates in your other hand. As to the napkin on the plate, that is definitely a faux pas; it could get really dirty and stained. The napkin has likely already gotten a little soiled over dinner, why let it sit in the remains of the meal? It just makes extra work for the host.

13 Pipp March 26, 2010 at 10:49 am

Definately in europe the 4:20 position shown here is the the norm. You may also see that the dessert fork and coffee spoon are positioned above your plate.

Excellent aritcle! Good table manners are so important in an interview of any kind, socal or professional, and they are just such a simple way to make a good impression.

14 AL March 26, 2010 at 10:49 am

When a lady stands up from a table, it is mandatory that the males stand up as well. When she returns, it is also customary for the males to stand up and sit after she sits. This may seem a bit awkward to the ladies who are uninitiated with such a practice, so I have noticed that staying slight hunched over (kind of half standing) and holding onto the napkin in front of me gives the impression that it is only temporary and that I do not intend to leave. When she returns, you give the same kindness and they understand then.

15 Andrew E. March 26, 2010 at 10:57 am

A mentor of mine with impeccable manners taught me the proper way to eat bread at a fancy dinner. Besides the obvious of using the bread plate and butter knife provided, proper etiquette dictates that you tear small bites from the bread THEN butter each piece individually. Never take a slice of bread and butter the whole thing or bite in to a large piece of bread.

Also worth noting at business dinners in restaurants is to order something that is easy to eat and will allow you to converse with your clients. Avoid lobster, ribs, spaghetti, or hand held foods like sandwiches.

16 The G&S March 26, 2010 at 10:58 am

Great article! Thanks for posting that. A few other things to consider,

* Taste your food before seasoning it. No need to insult the cook, right?

* Pass the salt and pepper shakers together, even when only one is requested.

* Used utensils never touch table.

And an uncommonly good guide for restaurant staff:


-The Gentleman and Scholar

17 Titus Andronicus March 26, 2010 at 11:20 am

re: Knife & Fork

Placing the fork with the tines up is the American practice. If you find yourself eating in Europe, it is customary to place the tines down. But don’t think that makes it more refined: doing that in the US will just make people think you are a pretentious ass (or perhaps simply ignorant).

18 Adventure-Some Matthew March 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

It amazes me how many people do not have any knowledge of basic table manners. Thank you for this guide! While I was less-than-thrilled to have to sit through a course on table manners while in college, I am certainly glad to have learned this vital knowledge.

19 antonio March 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

I know that we should cut food into bite sized portions before putting them into our mouths. Question though, what happens if you chance upon a piece of bone, or something you dislike. What should one do? Do you spit it out? Or excuse yourself to the bathroom to clear it?

20 Titus Andronicus March 26, 2010 at 11:24 am

When a lady stands up from a table, it is mandatory that the males stand up as well.

This is sometimes a source of confusion. I think this statement is correct if a lady arrived at the table unattended. If, however, a lady has come with an escort, seated to her left, I believe he takes upon himself the responsibility of standing up, from which others are excused.

And “males”? Surely there won’t be any antelopes or lizards at the table. The men stand up.

21 Bruce Williamson March 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

Good article but that’s how we were taught to eat. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. There was a little mention regarding cutting meat. Cutting your meat. You should not cut your meat into more than four pieces at a time. I usually only cut one piece from the meat at a time.

22 Ben March 26, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I completely agree with what you say about eating with your mouth closed. I’ve noticed that so many people today never seem to have received that useful bit of advice. Personally, my dad drove that into me so much when I was younger that it now drives me insane to hear people chewing with there mouths open or talking with food still in their mouth. But, then again, a lot of other people don’t seem to be bothered by it, so maybe I’m just overly sensitive to it.

23 mamatoo March 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I’m generally horrified by table manners these days, but I find the typical offenders are women. I was a bit nervous to read this wondering if I was one of those women as well…:), but most of the manners I still cling to, if oblivious to actually doing them. Kuddos to my mom! And the RSVP?? It’s vital for a host whose planning a meal and takes less than two seconds of your time, just respond!

24 Antonio March 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

@Playstead – You’re absolutely right – Business Manners are on the List!

@The Counselor – Great point, manners are a sign of respect.

@DROC – Thank you for the story…..a perfect illustration of why it matters and unfortunately the bad effects a lack of manners can have on a budding relationship.

@Benjamin – Practice makes perfect!

@RLH – Thank you sir for your story; I receive compliments all the times on how well behaved my 5 year old son is. Although I encourage him to think outside the box, question things, and have fun outside…..at the table there are unbreakable rules. I feel like a “Hard A## Enforcer” sometimes….but that’s the life of a dad

@Mike – Exactly, you nailed it!

@Mathias – Thanks for the additional info sir!

@Dagwud – Feel free to contact me if you need help….or better yet join the AOM community and there are a lot of people that can help you put this class together.

@Jon – Great point!

@Chelito – Thanks for additional info on Jabber and Rockers!

@Bob – Chelito comments are exactly what I would have said!

@Pipp – Thanks!

@AL – In 2010 and outside of formal occasions, this is a hard one to keep up. Not that I disagree with it being proper, but the fact it has fallen so out of fashion it can embarrass not only the lady not sure why this is happening but also other men who have no idea what is going on. Be aware of your surroundings, and always think of others and how the would receive the gesture. It is not about us being right, but ensuring the evening is enjoyable for all.

@Andrew – Great Tip!

@G&S – Absolutely…..so many tips, so little room to write them all!

@Titus – Exactly

@ASM – It is amazing!

@Antonio – Great Name If this happens, discreetly bring your fork up, take the food out, and place on the plate. If that’s too hard, use your napkin. And if something is stuck in your teeth, stand up, excuse yourself, and go to the bathroom.

@Titus – The rules are a bit confusing….maybe we should address it in a separate post?

@Bruce – Lucky you sir!

@Ben – It drives me crazy as well.

@Mamatoo – Double kuddos to your Mom! Sounds like she did a great job!

25 Peter Katt March 26, 2010 at 2:13 pm

For Antonio: If you find yourself with a bit of bone or gristle in your mouth, I’ve read that you should remove it with your fork, as unobtrusively as you can manage — after all, that’s how it got in your mouth in the first place.

I learned this from a good blog with many articles on manners, and behaving like a gentleman in social situations: http://www.socialprimer.com/
The article there has additional tips on social dining. http://www.socialprimer.com/2009/04/the-fork-and-the-knife-together-in-the-end/

26 Joseph S March 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Aren’t dessert forks and spoons sometimes above rather than to the side? I’m sure they were at a white tie event I was at a couple of weeks ago.

27 Anthony March 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Antonio – about finding a bone in your bite, I was taught to discreetly spit it into your napkin. It probably doesn’t matter too much whether you use your fork as Peter Katt recommended, or your napkin, as long as you do it quietly and without making a fuss.

Another thing I’ve found: even if you are well-versed in table etiquette, you should adjust as necessary to the the people around you. For instance, I was taught to always pass to the left, but many people pass whichever way is convenient. In which case, it’s not worth it to try to get things going the proper way.

28 Juice March 26, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I find if crazy that the things in this post even needed saying. I come from a laid back kind of family, but I guess we aren’t as laid back as I thought. These are ways I have always acted when sharing a meal with others. I guess men today (myself included of course) really do need to be taught how to be men.

29 Rob March 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

All reasonable stuff except for the prayer nonsense. It’s rude to inflict religion on guests, although people still try to do so. I take it as my responsibility to sabotage the “let’s all say grace” nonsense!

30 Sasha Martin March 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Great article! I am glad to see the table settings.

I wonder if using two goblets of the same size for water and wine is acceptable? I don’t have a lot of variety of glassware in the house and would like to avoid purchasing more.

31 Thad March 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Few more things that did not get mentioned:

~ At formal events, when served port, you should always pass to the left. Also, you should not let the bottle rest, even if you don’t want anymore. Someone else may not have gotten any or may want more, and the lack of movement can cause great annoyance.

~ If at an event where a formal grace is said, it is inappropriate to sit until after the grace. Also, if their is a formal closing grace/recession, it is appropriate to stand during it.

~ For passed beverages (water, wine, and port), the men should pour for the women and, depending on the level of formality and staffing, glasses should never (unless requested to go unfilled*) become empty. * If this is so, the glass should be turned upside down or removed from the table by the host/server.

~ Don’t be late! At many Oxford colleges, doors are locked at the beginning of meals to enforce this rule but I was still amazed at how many people think that it is okay to be late for events, especially formal ones.

32 KRA March 26, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I agree that one should always pay proper respect while dining, but I also don’t agree with promoting practices that have become “etiquette” which are completely arbitrary. As to the person who advised not to cut up your entire serving before you eat it, what business is it to anyone at the table other than myself how I choose to cut my food? There’s no need to subscribe to a dogma (other than in a business setting where a higher up might care), it seems that all you really need to do is be conscientious of the people around you, which this article does a good job of going into.

33 humperdinck March 26, 2010 at 6:47 pm

@KRA You don’t cut up your entire serving before you eat because you are not a toddler. Nearly all etiquette can be dismissed as dogmatic and arbitrary. Cut your meat up all you want, just don’t be surprised if you’re not invited back.

34 KRA March 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I hope to never be invited to your house nor anyone else who would care how a guest chose to cut his/her meat.

35 KRA March 26, 2010 at 7:11 pm

And not all etiquette can be dismissed as dogmatic. You don’t chew with your mouth open because its disturbing to those around you. You turn your cell phone off because its rude to have your attention focused elsewhere. You don’t double dip because its unsanitary. There are logical reasons based on the respect of those around you. How you cut your meat has to effect on anyone around you and if you honestly care about how other people cut their meat in your household I feel sorry for you.

36 antonio March 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Antonio (yeah, great name!) and Peter, thank you for answering my doubts!

37 Etienne March 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Here in the French part of Switzerland there are some things we do differently which makes a lot of sense:

- If invited to a formal dinner, any gift like wine, champagne or flowers are delivered BEFORE the dinner (in the morning). It allows the host to cut, arrange and exhibit the flowers without needing to do it while guests arrive. The wine can be treated to be served with dinner.

- Arrive a little late. Yes, your read that right. 10-15 minutes. The host is NEVER on time with preparations, cut her / him / them a bit of ‘margin for error’.

- A used napkin is NEVER left on the table but left on the chair. Do you really want to exhibit your dirty napkin on the table?

Sensible, no?

38 Ian March 26, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Excellent article. I learned, when finished with the meal, to place my utensils at the 3 o’ clock position, rather than 4:20, but I won’t quibble about details such as that. A note on napkin use: I was taught that when rising from the table for only a moment (eg. a visit to the men’s room), one should place his napkin on his chair, and only when finished with the meal and leaving the table should he place the napkin back on the table, and then to the left of the setting. My apologies to KRA if this is too dogmatic for him. I, too, learned that a gentleman only cuts one bite at a time from his meat.

39 Stephen March 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm

It’s much ruder to “sabotage” grace than to just suggest it. If someone acts rudely you don’t jump down their throats to show they’ve made a faux pas, that’s unmannerly too.

In the first case you have one person being presumptive (and generally in good faith, they’re suggesting to say grace after all), but if someone then then disagree with them suggesting a religious action you’re dealing with the possible beginnings of sectarian war.

40 Rob March 27, 2010 at 1:03 am

Stephan: It’s all perspective, I suppose. If you sabotage grace by eating when all the food is served, and people are seated, but before they begin some religious silliness, they’ll typically forget the religion and move on. It’s all in the timing.

41 Adelaide March 27, 2010 at 3:30 am

@Rob: It would be more polite to simply sit quietly and wait while the other guests go through their religious “silliness.” Proper etiquette does not demand that you join them, only that you politely wait for them to finish their prayer. I’m sure their purpose in praying isn’t to offend you, so you shouldn’t make your purpose to offend or sabotage them.

42 Adelaide March 27, 2010 at 3:35 am

Some additional etiquette tips:

When eating soup, always move your spoon AWAY from you when filling the spoon with soup. Otherwise it gives the impression of shoveling food into your mouth.

Never slurp or smack your food.

When temporarily leaving the table (ie: to use the restroom, etc.) never announce where you are going — unless asked, of course. Simply say, “excuse me” and leave.

Great advice, gentlemen! Keep up the good manners.

43 LB March 27, 2010 at 8:31 am

KRA, you do not cut up your meal into little pieces because it allows it to dry out and cool faster. One presumes the dish arrives at the table in the condition in which it is intended to be eaten, allowing it to cool or dry artifically quickly shows disrespect to the host and chef.
Etiquette is adopted so it can be transmitted at large allowing any member of society, high or low, to dine with the other and not be embaressed by ignorance. If you start flouting parts of it, however minor, you may inadvertently transmit incorrect etiquette to those less knowledgeable and thus cause embaressment. Not the act of a gentleman.

44 Sir Lancelot March 27, 2010 at 9:25 am

Maybe it’s just me but it seems all those militant born-again ‘atheist’ trolls who come up every now and then have in common an unhealthy dose of adolescent petulance and a distinct lack of class.

45 Rory March 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm

This is excellent. Thank you. I now have more reasons to be grateful to my parents and grandparents for taking the trouble to teach me from the start how to behave properly. A few points of potential difference between the UK and Europe and the USA, I was taught to put a little salt on the side of my plate and never to sprinkle it over my food. Also at the end of a course the knife and fork were placed in the 12 to 6 position on the plate. All food taken or served onto the plate was eaten. I wonder if this dates from WW2 rationing. I was advised to drink too little rather than too much alcohol even if I was nervous. Finally in Europe, if not the UK, wine would often not be considered a suitable gift as it would be assummed that the host would have chosen a particular wine or wines to go with the particular meal.

My father also had lessons provided by the Royal Navy at the start of WW2.

Again thank you.

46 Algernon March 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I’ve learned that you should place your napkin on your lap only once the food is served. During the meal, you’re supposed to place the napkin on your chair if you need to excuse yourself for a moment and put it to the left of the plate, slightly crumpled but not folded or in a ball, once you’re done eating.

Similarly, silverware should be rested touching the plate and table when you’re taking a break from eating and rested entirely on the plate when you’re done. I use this to signal that someone can take my plate between courses so they don’t have to ask every diner.

I’m American, so these recommendations probably came from Emily Post or Miss Manners. I’m sure there are subtle differences between countries and even within the states.

47 KRA March 28, 2010 at 10:49 am

LB, well the meat thing was a bad example since, as you pointed out, it is a stupid thing to do, but the point is that it seems very ungentlemanly to me to hold your guests to a standard of judgement that is not derived from any universal sense of respect. Even if one of your guests did choose to cut up their meat entirely before they ate it, while odd, would you really judge them negatively or be personally offended? I’m all for etiquette out of the respect of other people, but when you hold people to a standard that’s either completely arbitrary or doesn’t make any difference to you or any of the other guests, then you start to look down on people who don’t follow those rules as ungentlemanly when it could be no fault of their own since these rules can’t be universally deducted.

48 King Arthur March 29, 2010 at 5:15 am

@Sir Lancelot

You will probably never realize the degree of self-awareness you lack by the gross ignorance and bigotry you exhibit in your post.

As a challenge to you I would suggest you really think about what you said. Maybe, (hopefully) you might learn something and feel the shame.

I can only hope.

49 Sir Lancelot March 29, 2010 at 5:37 am

Your Majesty, please save that patronizing attitude for your children.

50 King Arthur March 29, 2010 at 7:22 am

It is impossible for you to lack this much self-awareness.
My post was in answer to your original patronizing attitude. (And ignorance, generalization, bigotry).

(To give one example, what is a ‘militant’ atheist?
Do atheists blow themselves up?
Do atheists fly into buildings? How does one become ‘militant’ about reason and demanding evidence?
The moment the atheist request for equal treatment and respect, they are branded ‘militant’. This while atheists have endured the forced participation of public displays of religious ceremony for centuries in every sphere of life. It is only now that they say: Enough! And suddenly, they are ‘born-again’ and militant?
Here is a newsflash: they are not ‘born again’. They have always been there. They have been too scared to voice their opinion exactly because of the sort of bigotry and treatment exhibited in your post.
But of course, you won’t take the time to think about it.)

Take my advice and think what you are writing, you are making a fool of yourself on so many levels.

51 Cambias March 29, 2010 at 11:40 am

KRA: yes, etiquette codes are arbitrary. That doesn’t mean you can ignore them. Forget the practical aspects — if we wanted efficiency we’d have glucose and vitamins delivered intravenously. Following THE RULES shows respect for the other people present. You are saying “I am following the proper code of conduct because I respect you all.”

NOT following the rules doesn’t say “I am a free spirit with no time for such trivialities,” which is probably what you think. What it says is “I don’t care what any of you think because I have no respect for you. And I probably don’t know the right way to behave anyway.”

So, you’re entirely free to ignore stuffy old etiquette, and we’re all entirely free to think you’re a moron for doing so.

52 The Renaissance Wife March 29, 2010 at 11:44 am

Is there any reason to turn a discussion about table manners into a religious debate, Gentlemen? I’m sure we can all agree that a lack of (table) manners and respect is not exclusive to atheists or religious people. It can befall anyone, as our noble “Sir” Lancelot kindly demonstrated for us.

Regarding topic at hand: While I wholeheartedly agree about the importance of table manners, I also find it essential that a man knows how to cook – even when he has the means to eat out every day or has a housewife at home. That doesn’t mean he needs to be a master chef worthy of three Michellin stars, but he should know the basics of preparing and processing food, as well as its nutritional value. I made it a point of having a potential boyfriend prepare a home-cooked meal for me as part of my “dating ritual”. You can learn a lot by the way someone is handling food and drink. Such a man is self-reliant. He has a taste for the finer things in life, which is of importance to a lady. He treats food with respect and care, as it should be.


53 Seth March 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Is there any reason that even on a website for men, women can’t help butting it and cuckolding men? I would hope that one aspect of being a “Renaissance Wife” is letting men have their own discussion.

54 Wolfmanjack March 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

One dining etiquette topic that deserves further elaboration here is the use of the knife and fork. There are two dichotomous methods of cutting your food into bite-sized pieces and transferring these to your mouth:

The first and simplest is the ‘European’ method: whereby food is held in place with the fork in the left hand and cut with the knife in the right. With the fork still in the left hand, the freshly cut portion is then transferred to the mouth with the tines down, while the knife remains in the right hand. In the strictest interpretation of this method, all food goes in the mouth in this manner. Soft foods, like mashed potatoes are piled on the ‘back’ of the fork.

The second and perhaps more complicated is the ‘American’ method: Food is cut in a similar manner, fork in the left hand and knife in the right, but then the knife is placed down on the plate and the fork is transferred to the right hand. Each of the several portions you have cut is then conveyed to the mouth with the fork in the right hand, tines up. Foods that do not need to be cut are eaten in the same manner, with the fork in the right hand, tines up.

World travelers may want to master both methods.

55 King Arthur March 29, 2010 at 6:37 pm

@Renaisance Wife

You are most welcome here, your opinions are welcomed.
Anna-Sophia, our discussion wasn’t about religion, the underlying issue was, amongst others, discrimination.
As a woman you should be very aware of what I am saying. (I think ‘Seth’ illustrates this point better than I can.)

56 The Renaissance Wife March 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm

@ 55 King Arthur:
I believe you are mistaken in thinking that you had a discussion with this person to begin with. His posting was a pretty obvious cry for attention, an attempt to provoke a response and stir up trouble. I highly doubt that you will manage to engage in an honest debate with him, so it’s best not to give him the time of the day.

As for the “cuckolding” comment above, I’m a guest on this fine web site – just like you – and not the host, so I certainly won’t tell you with whom to engage in a discussion. That would be presumptuous. If you believe “Sir Lancelot” to be worthy of your time, that’s your call.

Have a good night everyone.


57 hgo March 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm

I have to say that I’m not big on arbitrary rules like how to place your fork and knife, when to put your napkin on your lap, etc., but I do want the people I eat dinner with to at least chew with their mouthes closed, avoid bodily emissions, and to ask for things to be passed around the table. These things I like because they are about respecting others, whereas stuff like eating your grilled chicken salad with the wrong fork doesn’t affect. another’s dining experience

58 Gerald A. Stone, IV March 31, 2010 at 4:10 am

The napkin issue- there is much debate on whether or not the napkin should be placed on the table again before you are completely finished with the meal (e.g. you leave the table to go to the restroom.

@ Etienne, I would NEVER place it on the seat of the chair. It may have food on it that will stain the upholstery and possibly your pants when you return. Also, I don’t want something that will be touching my mouth on an area that has been sat upon.

@Algernon- I would place my napkin on my lap as soon as seated (assuming that there is no host, if so wait until they place theirs on their lap). The reason behind this is that the napkin may be placed in an area that a glass may be meant for or a dish. If you don’t remove it when you sit down, you may have a server placing it on your lap for you to make room for something.

Placing it on the back or arm of the chair is what I do, making sure that none of the stained portion, if there is one, is showing. If there is no arm or back or the napkin is extremely soiled, I would fold it and place it to the left of where the fork is (or was).

59 Shane March 31, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Sabotoging someones prayer to their diety is probably the height of rudeness, especially in their own home, if that be the case. Try not to be such a clod.

60 -JC- March 31, 2010 at 10:20 pm

I was raised by a career officer and learned to always be well-mannered. I raised my boys the same way, and feel especially proud when someone comments on their manners.
And of the first four rules; number 4 is the first everyone should learn.

61 Seth April 3, 2010 at 5:58 pm

An excellent article. I was lucky enough to have parents who taught me proper manners, but I can’t count how many times I’ve witnessed terrible table manners, from men and women. Generation Y can really use some education in this area.

62 Rick G April 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

Great article, I enjoyed it. It was kind of ironic for me that a Marine wrote the article. When I was in the US Navy, I had the good fortune to be stationed at the same base that my best friend from childhood was stationed at, only he was a Marine. My wife invited my friend to dinner and told him he could bring a few fellow Marines with him. During dinner the last piece of roast beef was sitting there on the serving platter and one marine asks if anyone minds if he has the last piece of roast. He asked the question as he was reaching for the meat, another Marine promptly goes for the meat at the same time and accidently stabs his fellow jarhead with a fork :)

63 Allen April 5, 2010 at 7:47 pm

As the Supply Officer on a submarine I found a lot of parts of this post very interesting. We eat from what is effectively the “formal setting” every day for lunch and dinner. It always amazes me when new junior officers show up and don’t understand the concept (start from the outside, almost always works). But it also gives an example of how many people hardly ever experience any sort of formal dining. It is something that has been lost other than to those in certain groups or certain income brackets. I was taught these things at a young age, but then I was the son of an Army officer and a Naval officer.

Some basic tenets of manners are more important now than in the past if you ask me, professionally as well as personally. It has definitely paid many dividends in the relationship spectrum when girlfriends never have even a hesitation about whether or not they are okay with me meeting their parents. Though maybe that’s partly because I’m a Naval officer. Hate to play partisan but us Navy guys do certain things right. ;)

64 Anthony April 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

I am almost finished reading “Etiquette for Dummies” by Sue Fox–she’s the modern Emily Post, it’s a good place to start.

65 Cody April 11, 2010 at 5:46 am

The old man with the turkey is Ogden Nash, 20th century American poet and pretty cool hombre.

And to all you Court of Camelot gibbons, this isn’t a ruddy renaissance fair. Don thine tunic and wooden-sword and venture onward to another fiefdom.

Other than that, thanks for the tips Antonio. It’s more than likely I’ll be needing them soon.

66 Farley April 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

Another tip with bread annd butter: as noted in a comment above, you should tear pieces of bread and butter those smaller pieces, this is true.

But regarding the butter, you should cut a small piece away from the butter tray and place that smaller pieve on your individual bread plate. Then you take from that smaller piece with your knife, not from the larger piece intended for the whole table.

I put my sales team through a dining ettiquette class last year taught by a wonderful coach named Pat Mayfield. She has a book on dining etiquette which covers all these basics and more related to entertaining business associates or guests called “Please Don’t Drink from The Finger Bowl!” http://www.patmayfield.com/p_fingerbowl.html.

Good stuff!

67 Manliness Artist April 17, 2010 at 12:52 am

What you and all the posters have unironically posted above is, in fact, the art of womanliness.

Seriously. Table place settings? This is what they might teach in a girls’ etiquette class.

Maybe I’m new here, but I don’t see anything that has to do with the rugged, individualistic art of being a so-called man. When I think of “manly” table manners, I think eating with your hands, wiping your face with your sleeve and belching loudly as a show of appreciation.

Here, read about beefsteak clubs, ye sissies, and despair: http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/beefsteak/

This is the first time I’ve visited this site and I see nothing but pantywaisted metrosexuals here masquerading as Victorian-era “gentlemen.” I’m disappointed and a little disgusted, as would be the bare-knuckled boxer you dare to display in your logo.

68 Rory April 17, 2010 at 10:08 am

‘When I think of “manly” table manners, I think eating with your hands, wiping your face with your sleeve and belching loudly as a show of appreciation.’

I wonder how many women appreciate this behaviour.

With regard to the insults to the members of the armed services of both the UK and the USA might I suggest that you are insulting those on whom our freedom depends. I am a proud Scot. My freedom to live in a liberal democracy is a consequence of those from both our countries who gave their lives in order that I might do so. Might I suggest an attitude of greater respect. The tradition of good manners in the services is part of the excellence in all that they do.

69 John April 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

I was taught never to put my napkin on my chair, since it might be soiled and would stain the upholstery. I was told to always place my napkin to the left of my plate if I needed to excuse myself.

70 Mattan April 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm

It seems odd to me that we still consider double standards between men and women an okay thing to do.

This whole thing of pouring drinks for the women, standing when a woman comes to the table, and holding chairs out for women is utterly ridiculous. They are not some frail and weak other species.

Certainly when it is practical these things may be done, but that is practical in the sense of who gets there first. If I arrive at a door first, I will hold it for man or woman. If a woman arrives at a door first, I expect her to hold it for me. If I am near the drink, I will pour for man or woman, if a woman is near the drink, she can just as easily pour for me!

I know quite a few women who would be quite annoyed at a man going out of his way to do these things on principal rather than just when practical.

71 Men's t-shirts April 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Great post guys. Manners are a forgotten art…

72 Jim April 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

There’s manners and then there’s just silliness. I know no one who eats like this. Silly “rules” for the sake of having rules.

73 Charlie April 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

Very good article. Manners are an important aspect to civility. I would include proper grammar as an important part of being well mannered. Like education, manners and etiquette will never hurt you, but may help in way that you could never imagine.

74 Barry April 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm

A refined follow up on the placement of knife and fork after finishing.
I spent a year in Paris refining my culinary education and was told by an old (well seasoned) waiter that actually one must “cross the two utensils” and place in the similar position as described – maybe even closer to the upper two o’clock edge. The reason; the waiter usually removers from the right and can deftly grab both the knife, fork and plate in one clean action. No fumbling with pieces of silverware. Of course a good waiter will ask if you are finished, even if your plate is empty. Manners go in both directions.

75 MB April 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Good article.

I find it interesting that by and large, I learned proper table manners from my parents. We aren’t rich, but didn’t go to enough ‘fancy’ dinners that I learned how to deal with all the extra utensils, etc.

Its funny I now advise a co-ed fraternity chapter, and several times the members have been stumped by what to do when we attend a formal dinner. A few have commented that maybe we should have an etiquette class or the like. But I guess most college students today never learned this sort of things from their parents. Heck, too often the males don’t even have a proper suit (my parents made sure I had atleast one nice suit when I went off to college).

76 BBinKC April 29, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Good article but the part about soup is incorrect. It is perfectly acceptable, and in some cases the proper way, to drink it. It is never acceptable to slurp it.

“Thick soup served in a soup dish is eaten with the soup spoon. If you want to get the last bit of it, there is no impropriety in tipping the dish away from you in order to collect it at the edge. Indeed you are paying a subtle compliment to your hostess by this demonstrating how good it is. Drink thin soups and bouillons served in cups, as you would tea or coffee, ;but if there are vegetables or noodles left in the bottom, eat them with the spoon, rather than struggle unattractively to make them slide from the cup into your mouth. (Book of Common Sense Etiquette, 1962)”

Multiple other sources provide essentially the same advice.

77 SUBWO April 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm

This was a great article, and reminds me that I see hardly anyone using basic table manners while dining out anymore. Allen’s (the submarine supply “Porkchop” officer) comment reminded me of my days on my first submarine as an enlisted man. We ate family style at four tables in the mess. The etiquite was relaxed at all tables, especially the table which was known as the “animal table” where the nubies were overseen by the crusty qualified submariners. Later in my career I happened to earn a commission as a chief warrant officer and had to attend officer indoctrination school in Florida. It was known as “knife and fork school” as we learned formal etiquite from a senior officer’s wife as part of the instruction. Dining in the wardroom on surface ship resulted in a lot more rules in addition to normal ones. I recall a staff officer’s shock when a fellow submariner reminded me that we used to call the veal parmesan “elephant scabs”. He came around fast.

78 SUBWO April 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Forgive me, “etiquette”.

79 Lee April 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Excellent article and comments overall. Thank you for all your insight. Here are a few other tips:

1) Don’t go to a dinner party hungry. Eat a snack beforehand. The dinner party is not really to eat, but to be social. Furthermore, meals usually start late and you don’t want to feel the urge to eat too quickly.

2) Shots – If you have to do a shot, make sure you have a chaser, like a bottled beer or another drink of the same color. Take the shot and then spit it out into your other drink, so that nobody knows what you are doing.

3) This has already been said, but it’s important… never cut up all your food before you eat it. Just cut the piece you plan to eat for that bite.

4. Timing – The pace with which you eat is important. Never finish a course before or after everyone else. Watch the speed and tempo of how the others are eating and finish your course at about the same time.

5. Smile. A smile goes a long way. The host will know you enjoy the meal and the guests will know you are enjoying their company. :)

80 Sometimes Disgusted April 29, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Great reminders, especially about chewing with your mouth closed and not slurping your soup.

Maybe sometime there can be a reminder that those two rules also apply to gum chewing? I can’t stand the sight, sound, or the stench of gum chewing, and most people seem to not only chew it with an open mouth, but they also make horrible chewing/slurping/shlomping noises with it even when they’re not actively cracking it. What a disgusting habit!

I do medical transcription, and all those slobs who think they’re not making any noise at all are, in fact, making lots of them. And because a medical transcriptionist wears earphones to hear the dictation, all those disgusting sounds go directly from the dictator’s mouth to the transcriptionist’s ear.

The erstwhile dictator, who probably was raised to believe that he or she is high-class, is instead revealed to be horribly low-class.

81 Jeff April 30, 2010 at 3:26 am

To those who think that being a man entails eating like a prehistoric beast, you are just revealing yourself to be an uncivilized savage. A Gentleman with proper etiquette, and refined table manners does not imply that he is a metrosexual, or effeminate man. George Patton and many others like him, were gentlemen who used proper etiquette and refined table manners, and as we all know Patton was no wimp.

Even though I grew up in the woods hunting, fishing, gardening, playing baseball and cutting wood, I am grateful that I was taught civility, and proper table manners from my mother as a young boy. As a result I can fit in anywhere. Eating like a pig does not prove how tough you are.

Aside from that, I was injured in an accident and ended up a quadriplegic. Nevertheless, I can still practice good table manners, however I am unable to cut meat and some other foods. Therefore, when I am out at a restaurant, or a dinner party I ask the waiter, or waitress when giving my order, to have my meat cut up in the kitchen before serving it to me. Doing so, I can avoid making a mess at the table, or having someone else at the table cut my food. It avoids an awkward situation.

Having good manners is to be civilized. Also, it will impress the ladies in your presence.

One more thing that was not mentioned in the article. Gentleman do not eat with a hat on their head, or wear them inside. Especially in the presence of ladies. I see many man wear hats inside at the dinner table, and it shows how rude they are.

The increasing lack of table manners among many people is a sign of the deteoration of civilization.

82 Forky forkyton April 30, 2010 at 4:10 am

I have been a waiter for many years and work in NYC. People have no manners at all anymore, completely ignore servers, then randomly call out to random staff for random items right after their server walks away. Asking questions that have already been explained if they had only been paying attention. Asking if things are “fresh” or “whats the most popular” “whats your favorite?” Just make a fucking decision you frugal little morons. Talking so much that you don’t even eat, delaying the next course. Talking soooo much that orders can’t be taken quickly. If you go out to eat and think “the service sucks” stop and think that its probably the behavior of the fucking douchebags all around you fucking up the whole process. Asking questions is OK but being an indecisive freak is another. If you have OCD or an eating disorder (yeah you ugly old soccer mom) stay the fuck away from busy restaurants please, you ruin lives.

83 Jeff April 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I noticed I didn’t proof read what wrote earlier, so I corrected the mistakes.

To those who think that being a man entails eating like a prehistoric beast, you are just revealing yourself to be an uncivilized savage. A Gentleman with proper etiquette, and refined table manners does not imply that he is a metrosexual, or effeminate man. George Patton and many others like him, were gentlemen who used proper etiquette and refined table manners, and as we all know Patton was no wimp.

Even though I grew up in the woods hunting, fishing, gardening, playing baseball and cutting wood, I am grateful that I was taught civility, and proper table manners from my mother as a young boy. As a result I can fit in anywhere. Eating like a pig does not make you a man, or prove how tough you are.

Aside from that, I was injured in an accident and ended up a quadriplegic. Nevertheless, I can still practice good table manners, however I am unable to cut meat and some other foods. Therefore, when I am out at a restaurant, or a dinner party, I ask the waiter, or waitress when giving my order, to have my meat cut up in the kitchen before serving it to me. Doing so, I can avoid making a mess at the table, or having someone else at the table cut my food. It avoids an awkward situation.

Having good manners is to be civilized. Also, it will impress the ladies in your presence.

One more thing that was not mentioned in the article. Gentlemen do not eat with a hat on their head, or wear them inside. Especially in the presence of ladies. I see many man wear hats inside at the dinner table, and it shows how rude they are.

The increasing lack of table manners among many people is a sign of the deterioation of civilization.

84 Anthony Duldulao May 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm

never put your elbow on tht table when eating

85 gary May 8, 2010 at 11:43 am

Prayer at the table-
I would not presume, as a guest, to pray for a meal without a request from the host or hostess. If there is no prayer before the meal I am capable of offering my own private prayer without creating a spectacle.
I would not assume, as a host, that a guest would attempt to ‘sabotage’ prayer before the meal. I won’t ask you to sing a chorus, or say “Amen”. Your silence is sufficient.

86 Chris Bloom May 9, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I have to second gary’s comment above. As a Christian, I will offer a prayer — a quick one, no sermons — before I eat. If I am the host, I will offer it publicly on behalf of my guests. Anyone who doesn’t want to participate is free to not do so; I certainly can’t fault someone for not joining in a ritual in which they don’t believe. However, deliberately sabotaging a prayer is extremely disrespectful to your host. You won’t look like the brave free thinker you believe yourself to be, but rather like a bratty child who either can’t control his appetite or just gets his giggles from making others uncomfortable.

If I’m the guest, I’m perfectly capable of silently thanking God and openly thanking my host. The host sets the rules; if he’s not religious, then it’s not my place to “sabotage” his way of doing things.

Rob, it’s never a matter of me forcing my beliefs on anyone. I say thanks because I’m thankful. If you don’t want to participate, then don’t. I promise that when I’m at your house, I won’t make a fuss about your non-prayer “nonsense”, where you “inflict” your atheistic “silliness” on me. ;)

87 Ian May 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm

My father was raised in Scotland, and he taught me to rest fork and spoon at the 6 o’clock position after finishing a meal. His reasoning was because that is exactly how the queen does, and it would be an insult not to follow the queen. I seem to be the only one that’s heard of this way though.

88 Ian May 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm

^ Wikipedia confirms that this is standard practice in the UK. I guess I’m not the only one that’s heard of this way.

89 Axe Robinson May 31, 2010 at 1:29 am

Great article. For the world-explorers amongst us, I think it’s important to point out that Western table manners might not always be appropriate elsewhere. A gentleman has no excuse for ignoring the homework necessary to show proper respect to hosts wherever he may be.

When I lived in Japan, I was surprised to find my silent eating solicited a heartfelt apology from a ramen chef. Having just arrived, it didn’t even occur to me that the sucking sound for eating noodles acts as a cooling mechanism and the chef mistakenly thought I was making a statement that his broth was too cool. While that was certainly an unusual case, I think the statement above of following the manners of those around you can help one navigate any dinner table around the world smoothly.

90 Richard T June 18, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I concur with Ian on how to rest the cutlery on the plate. I guess us aussies tend to follow the British practice.

91 Cheryl July 17, 2010 at 12:38 am

Great tips.
I don’t think I’ve seen anything written about what one should do if there’s fat, skin, or grissel on the meat that you don’t want to eat. My son has OCD and insists on spending time cutting anything off his meat that he doesn’t like. How can explain to him that that is not good manners?

92 Cheryl July 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Actually, my question is: if there’s anything on your plate that you like, but you feel there’s something you want to remove from it, should that be done. What are the limits to that? That’s the issue my son has that I need some help with explaining to him what’s right and what’s wrong. Do any of you have any ideas for me? My son is in his twenties and still lives at home (due to his disorders) so I’m wanting to help him improve his manners and need good reasons for him. Any advice will be appreciated.

93 Stephanie January 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I wish there would have been a section on eating with fork and knife, not just a fork (and a finger!). Fork in left hand, knife in the right. Never, ever shove your food onto your fork with your finger!

94 Joanna February 24, 2013 at 8:40 am

What an article — but take out the wine bottle, as a gift, as though serving alcohol at meals was such a normal part of “everyone’s” existence. You don’t know what demons lurk in what families’ backgrounds, and who’s currently battling one. That’s about as sensitive as bringing Cuban cigars for dessert and wondering why everything thinks you’re boorish or hopelessly outdated. If you ASK, “May I bring a bottle of wine for dinner?” Then by all means. But assuming that it’s okay is as clueless as lighting up your cig at the table.

95 Ashakur April 13, 2013 at 11:31 pm

This is the first website I selected and read to my husband, who has horrible etiquette when he’s eating. He slurps when he eats, smacks, slurps and sometime sniffle if the food is spicy. When I ask him to close his mouth, stop smacking, or wipe his nose he always gets offended. He’s driving me crazy! A little history he was born in Asia when it’s ok to slurp and smack, but he’s been in America for 20 years. HE’S DRIVING ME CRAZY. JUST RUDE. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

96 Melissa April 23, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I wish there was more attention paid to etiquette..manners…to show respect for others around and pride in ones self. Very strange to me how many make fun of these values.

97 Dave Ross June 29, 2013 at 6:45 am

Question; what to do in case of a laughing spell that cannot be stopped. You know the ones that make tears flow. And what about choking at the table? Thanks, Dave.

98 James October 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for the great article. I don’t think that any of this is a “dying art”; it is just simply the social setting. If you find that people aren’t living up to these standards, then simply spend time with people who are. As a Naval Officer from a British Commonwealth country, we are expected to dine formally every evening in the mess, so all this seems pretty normal to me.

Here are a few points I would like to bring up.

It is best if you start teaching your children table manners when they are young. Having dinner every night as a family, where the kids are expected to behave correctly, not only creates a great family bonding time but the lessons learned will serve them well in their futures.

Standing whenever a lady leaves or joins the company at the table is automatic, but I must tell you that it leaves such a good impression on the ladies that you’ll be lucky if they don’t rip your clothes off later in the evening. On the same note, always open the car door for them. If a lady gets upset with you for doing this, then perhaps she is no lady…

Learn to use a knife. There is nothing worse than the habit (unfortunately attributed to Americans) of swapping hands when cutting meat, holding your fork with an uncomfortable simian grip, stabbing downwards and then swapping back again, fork in your right hand, to eat. This is no longer the wild west…

Although it is completely correct to name the main course the “entrée” due to the French 4 course meal structure, remember that in the rest of the world the entrée is what you would call starters.

You don’t have to be a wine snob – a cheap bottle will turn any dinner into a pleasant occasion. Just learn the basics, know a few cultivars and which pairs nicely with what food. The ladies and your taste buds will thank you for it.

A bit of a weird one… Melba toast or other dry crackers should be eaten directly from the table; press down on it with your hand until it breaks. This works better if you are not using a table cloth. I was having dinner with a Baron, an Admiral and an African “resistance leader” one evening and saw this technique for the first time when they did it, the assured me that it is normal etiquette.

The main thing to remember is that table etiquette is never there to make other people feel uncomfortable. There is a famous story of Queen Victoria dining with Paul Kruger (president of the South African Republic during the Second Anglo Boer War), he was not schooled in the finer point of etiquette and when finger bowls were brought to the table he drank from his bowl. Queen Victoria immediately followed suit and drank from her bowl too so as not to embarrass him.

99 Bucolic Buffalo October 27, 2013 at 1:36 am

Great article as usual. I learned the intricacies of good table manners in 7th grade Cotillion and this is a good refresher. I’ve heard that you should signal you are done with your plate by placing the knife and fork in the prescribed manner, but with the fork turned upside down.

100 Wasim October 28, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Thanks for a really helpful article! I’ve always been curious about all those fancy knives, spoons, and forks all in order.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter