Hey, I was raised in Europe by a European family that has always been very strict with etiquette, especially at the table. Even at home, when eating dinner, I was always expected to dine like I was dining with the queen. I have recently moved to the US and I'm appalled by certain things I see people do at dinner time. What I'm wondering if I can get from you is some tips on American dinner etiquette. What are some things I am expected to do when eating out with people in a formal setting? What are some big no-nos?
Hi, My name is XXXXX XXXXX X am your Etiquette Expert.Thanks so much for your question. I can relate to your question as I was born in the UK and have lived in the US for 20 years.As you allude there are differences between the two styles of dining and conversation. Having said that I wouldn't make too much of it and I wouldn't let it get in the way of you having a great time. Regardless of what you think about certain US habits or dining etiquette I have two pieces of advice for you. First - let your US hosts be themselves and don't in anyway feel obliged to point out anything you see them doing that you feel is bad etiquette. Second - don't change the way you eat or conduct your self at the dinner table. Most notably you will likely see a big difference in table manners and in the way the knife and fork are used when eating. I am sure that your style of eating and in particular holding the knife and fork may attract attention and if it does explain how you learned these techniques - but don't try to covert your US friends to your way of doing things. Let the differences remain.You will find that in general the US style is more relaxed vs. the European way. But again don't let it get to you. Remember - "when in Rome...etc"....On a related front you will find (being new to the US) that not only do dining habits vary but also certain words have a US and different European meaning. So be aware that something you say may attract a laugh or more specific comment from your friends. So to sum up, relax and have a great time. Your US friends will love your European style and habits so enjoy it but don't be judgmental. Good luck with this - I am glad you asked the question. if you have any related follow up questions I would be happy to answer them for you.
Certified Etiquette Trainer.
-- I host proper tea and meal events in order to teach etiquette to adults in many situations. You should find yourself right at home during a proper American dinner service since we emulate European etiquette. In fact, it is your home land that wrote the book we refer to.
Many Americans are moving away from the overly-casual, relaxed behaviors that have grown to be embarrassing stereotypes among our more proper cousins across the pond.
Certainly, if you are dining at one of our far too common 'fast food' outlets you would be fine in keeping with manners dictated at your own more relaxed fish 'n chip type places.
In our restaurants you should find table settings very similar to if not identical to your own.
Wine, water glasses (all glasses) go on the upper right hand side as the plate is in front of you. The order of the glasses is how one would use them, in order, starting with the outside and working your way 'in' .
The cutlery is also positioned as it will be used: On the right side of the plate, if soup is being served, that spoon is first; then the teaspoon, then the butter knife and if a cutting (steak) knife will be necessary, that is closest to the plate. Be sure that all knifes blade side face the plate.
Dessert spoon, knife (if any necessary) and dessert spoon are positioned over the top of the plate (not on the plate)
Forks are to the left and again, placed in the order they will be used: Salad fork; dinner fork.
The napkin is at the left of the plate as well, unless you are using a fancy fold or napkin ring and wish to place it in the center of the plate.
Bread plate is positioned at the upper left and the bread knife is positioned on that plate.
And while not everyone you meet will know the proprieties behind table manners, you should find most Americans interested in learning so don't be surprised if you are asked for instruction.
Be patient, be kind and welcome to the U.S.
Formal event coordinator/officiate, announcement author