American Dining Etiquette

One of the most important factors in being successful in the business world is being able to give the right impression. Image does matter, and it is just as important as any other skill necessary for the market or industry you want to be a part of. Personal image, however, does not limit itself to the clothes you are wearing. It also takes into account other factors such as body language and conversation skills. This article will focus on another factor that makes part of your personal image: Dining etiquette. Dinners and meetings are crucial in business, therefore, proper dining etiquette can turn out to be a deciding factor in your career.

American dining

Napkins are those items on the table that most people seem to have no idea what to do with, however, they belong in a very special place at the beginning of every dining activity: your lap. Napkins are to be unfolded, NOT shaken open, placed on your lap, and remain there until the end of the dinner.  In cases where you might excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold your napkin and place it to the left of your plate. Same procedure is to be followed at the end of dinner. Napkins should never be left on your chair. At private dinner parties, the same steps are to be followed, however, the napkin is also a cue for when the guests can start eating their food. Once the host unfolds his/her napkin, the dinner starts.

Silverware and dinnerware are more familiar with most people, however, proper dining etiquette has a rule of thumb: Eat to your left, drink to your right. Any food dish to the left is yours, and any glass to the right is yours.  Starting with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate, work your way in, using one utensil for each course. The salad fork is on your outermost left, followed by your dinner fork. Your soup spoon is on your outermost right, followed by your beverage spoon, salad knife and dinner knife. Your dessert spoon and fork are above your plate or brought out with dessert. If you remember the rule to work from the outside in, you’ll be fine. When employing the fork and knife, the “American style” is: Knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in. Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless you are left handed). A left hand, arm or elbow on the table is bad manners. Once utensils are used, they must not touch the table again. They are to be rested on the side of your plate. For more formal dinners, from course to course, your tableware will be taken away and replaced as needed. To signal that your are done with the course, rest your fork, tines up, and knife blade in, with the handles resting at five o’clock and tips pointing to ten o’clock on your plate (4:20). Any unused silverware is simply left on the table.

In order to have a more complete understanding of dining etiquette, it is important to learn about dress codes, gifts to the hostess, toasts, rules for socializing and many others. In order to work towards a better personal image, it is important to work towards a flawless etiquette.

How do you feel about American dining etiquette? Tell us on Twitter @nycimageacademy.


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