We’ve all been there, sitting at a round-table gala dinner event staring at the various cutlery laid out before us. We consider grabbing any fork to eat that salad, but then realise there’s an actual etiquette – was it outside-in or inside-out? And then we decide we’ll just follow the person sitting next to us, who coincidentally or not, also hesitates with the choice of fork.

While it’s acceptable to make these mistakes early on in life, we really should get our act together and learn from them.

Image: thechefgroup.com
Image: thechefgroup.com

Here are 17 common table etiquette mistakes and lessons to learn 

1. Your bread is on the left. Don’t accidentally reach for the wrong bun, that awkward moment when two hands reach for the same piece can be very uncomfortable. While it’s easy to just laugh it off, it doesn’t make a very good impression and no one likes knowing their ration has gone missing. Reach for the bun on the place to your left and you’re safe.

2. Don’t finish first. It’s not a race and no matter how hungry you are, don’t scoff your food down in a hurry. You could be naturally very quick at eating, but that just means you need to slow down. Pick on a pea until someone else is finished too. And when you’re done, place your knife and fork at the 4’o clock position on your plate.

3. Don’t reach across the table. Here’s a little mistake that I think many of us make because we don’t want to inconvenience other diners – but it’s etiquette really. Plus, it’s difficult to eat when someone’s arm or half their body is sort of hovering across your plate. Politely ask someone to pass whatever dish it is you need. Imagine how awkward it looks for a lady in a lovely cocktail dress or gown, scrambling over a table for a dish.

4. Bread is on your left, so that means drink is on your right. A simple trick, your left hand is B and your right hand is D – B for Bread, D for Drink – and you won’t ever go wrong. There are of course instances in the night when you may pause and double-check with the person sitting next to you “Is this mine?” but really it isn’t necessary. Your glass is to your right and above the knives.

5. Dropped your fork? Ask for a clean one. Pretty basic but there are some people who declare that the five-second rule applies, well it doesn’t. If you dropped your fork, pick it up, and call a waiter over for a new one. Don’t worry, it happens.

6. Try not to eat with your hands. Usually at a formal event, meals are carefully selected so you won’t have to eat with your hands and potentially stain your lovely outfit. Cutlery is there for a reason, please use it. Unless it’s pizza by the slice (which we doubt a formal event would serve), refrain from digging in with your fingers.

7. Elbows off the table. A mistake that I often make, but it’s a terrible habit. Elbows on the table cuts off conversation between other guests and it’s also a very improper way to sit at the table because your posture will be in a slouched position, or heavily leaning forward. You may also run the risk of the table flipping downwards on your side, which is really embarrassing

Image: buzzwhat.co.uk
Image: buzzwhat.co.uk

8. It’s outside-in. Don’t panic by the sight of knives, forks, and spoons. Begin with the outer most layer and work inwards.

9. Napkin manners. Place it upon your lap as you are seated, and do not start eating until it is on your lap. Also, when you get up to excuse yourself to the restroom, please leave the napkin on your chair and place it on your lap upon your return – do not under any circumstance put it on the table.

10. Don’t talk with your mouth full. We know you’re hungry and we know it can sometimes be awkward when you’re asked a question while chewing and the other person has to wait until you’re done, but swallow and then speak. The last thing you want is for food to fly out of your mouth while talking. Disaster!

11. Don’t lick your fingers, you are not at KFC. Finger lickin’ good stays at KFC. When you’re at a proper dinner, resist the urge to lick your fingers, that’s what your napkin is for.

12. Pass to the right. Dishes go counter-clockwise.

13. Phones off the table. We could all learn this while dining, phones should be kept in your bag and off the table. For one, it takes up space, and secondly, you’re at a formal dinner with other guests. Respect that, your phone can wait. If it’s an important call, excuse yourself and answer it, or lean behind the chair next to you – don’t answer it at the dinner table.

14. Put your knife and fork down. As you are in between bites, or if you’re in a conversation, put it down on your plate. Do not start making gestures while your knife and fork are in hand – this is rude and also dangerous.

Image: pinterest.com
Image: pinterest.com

15. Soup. Don’t slurp. Don’t move your mouth to the spoon, move the spoon to your mouth. And don’t bring the bowl to your mouth ever, tilt the bowl and scoop the last portions up with your spoon.

16. Wait until all are served. Unless your dining partner or guests encourage you to start first, you should always wait until all are served before you begin.

17. Small portions, there are others at the table. If you’re sharing food, remember to take small portions first. There are others that need to take their share and you can always have seconds if there are left-overs.

– Cover Image: bonvivant-mag.com