Practicing proper dining etiquette at home can help make it easier when kids are eating at a friend’s house, interviewing for a college scholarship over lunch, or out at a fancy restaurant for the prom. Exhibiting good table manners at informal and formal dining settings can make a lasting impression.
Passing food is a simple task that is not really noticed when performed properly. For family-style dining, pass items to the right to maintain the food flowing in the same direction. Place items directly on the table when passing them to others, including lightweight items such as bread baskets and butter plates. Keep the salt and pepper shakers together, even if a table mate only asks for one of them. It is best not to reach out to grab an object on the table or to cross over other guests with your arms to hand something to another person. Avoid intercepting an item that a guest is passing to another person.
When you take your seat at the dinner table, gently unfold your napkin and place it across your lap and leave it there until the end of the meal. Even if you are tempted, do not use the napkin to wipe off your silverware, glass or your nose. If you need to leave the table to go to the restroom, fold the napkin and place it on the table on either side of your plate. The napkin should not be placed on the chair at any time.
Noises and Other Bad Habits
Eating in front of the television too often can foster bad dining habits. Proper etiquette is a quieter affair, including chewing with your mouth closed and not making smacking or slurping noises while eating. Use cutlery to cut one piece of food at a time, butter one bite of bread at a time and to remove a foul bite of food, if necessary. Unless you are choking, drink only after swallowing your food. Remember to sit up straight and keep those elbows off of the table.
Ending the Meal
The meal does not necessarily end just because you ate all of the food on your plate. To indicate that you're finished, place the handles of your utensils on the plate at the position where 4 would be on the face of a clock. Do not push your plate away from yourself. Patiently wait until your host places her napkin on the table as the signal that the meal is over. That is your cue to also place your napkin on the table. Rise to leave when your host rises.