Your head is probably full of future dinner destinations from reading this issue. You might be physically salivating, too. However, before you hack the dining hall, explore food trucks or indulge in some of Springfield’s fine dining, brushing up on your table manners and etiquette may be a wise thing to do. After all, your dear mother is not here now to tell you to close your mouth and get your elbows off the table.
Practicing good manners and table etiquette can impress dates and potential employers or bosses. It will also give the message that you are a respectful and well-behaved young adult.
Nancy Mitchell, founder of an etiquette training firm called the Etiquette Advocate, has more than 25 years of experience of protocol and etiquette consulting.
“When you know that your manners measure up, you’ll be able to concentrate on your dining companions and your agenda … not on your silverware,” she said in a video on dining etiquette.
There are many websites, videos and books devoted to teaching proper etiquette and manners. There is enough information on different aspects of etiquette and manners to fill a book series. Since there is not enough time to give you a complete course in proper etiquette, here is a list of 12 tips and guidelines to help you impress and not offend your fellow eaters.
This information comes from multiple sources on etiquette and manners, including Etiquette Scholar, Art of Manliness, and the Etiquette Advocate. A few of these tips can be applied universally while some are specific to one’s situation or meal.
1. Place your napkin on your lap, not in your shirt like a bib. Do this in the first one to two minutes after sitting at the table.
2. Turn off your phone, and put it away. Giving your phone attention tells the people around you that they are unimportant or boring.
3. Wait for everyone to be served before eating.
4. Cut your food one piece at a time.
5. Chew with your mouth closed. Avoid speaking with your mouth full.
6. Don’t reach across the table. Ask the person closest to pass the item you need.
7. Say “excuse me” when leaving the table. Use “please” and “thank you” generously.
8. Talk to the people on your left and right in a formal setting. Ignoring people will appear rude.
9. Don’t yell to your waiter or make a scene to get their attention.
10. Pay attention to your host. Being observant and picking up on cues will enable you avoid potentially embarrassing situations.
A good piece of life advice is to be respectful of others, especially people from different countries and cultures. Like the United States, Chinese culture stresses the importance of good table manners and etiquette. Some table manner practices in China are similar to those in the United States, but other practices are quite different.
For celebrations like the Mid-Autumn Festival or Chinese New Year, families in China will gather to share a meal. The cultural focus on seniority, leadership and respect shows in how families sit around a table in a formal meal setting.
Rulong “Nate” Feng, a junior animal science major from Ningxia, China, said the person who is the oldest or the leader of the family, like a grandfather or father, should face the east while sitting at the table. The leadership or guest of honor may also sit facing the entrance as well. Meanwhile, lower-ranking people and younger family members sit closer to the entrance.
Once all the dishes are ready, everyone should wait for the leadership or guest to begin eating. Everybody waiting is a display of respect. Once he or she starts, everyone else might can start eating.
Dr. Weirong Yan-Schaefer is from China and teaches Chinese, Japanese, and Asian Culture Studies. She said respect, socializing and making connections are a big aspect of the eating process. In China, one or two people might pay for a meal for 10 people or more as a sign of respect and hospitality.
“I think it’s through the eating process, we get to know each other,” she said.
Alcohol consumption also plays a role in relationship building and socializing, similar to the United States. Yan-Schaefer said that part of the culture feels somewhat obligated to consume alcohol and be social while building relationships.
Although there are some differences in etiquette and manners between Chinese culture and American culture, the underlying themes of mutual respect, socialization and community seem to be universal.