international dining etiquette
Dining etiquette for making a toast. The most common toast is salud (to your health).
Dining etiquette for beginning to eat. Start eating only after the host says, "Buen provecho!"
Dining etiquette for holding utensils. Knives and forks can be used U.S. style (switching) or European style (keeping the fork and knife in the same hands throughout the entire meal).
Dining etiquette for signaling you are finished eating. When the meal is finished, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other across the plate. If you put both utensils down on the plate for any real length of time, it is a sign to the waitstaff that you are finished, and your plate may be taken away from you. Alternately, if you lay your cutlery down on either side of the plate it means you haven't finished; but if you really are, the host might interpret this as a sign that you were not happy with the meal.
Dining etiquette for using your hands. When not holding utensils, your hands are expected to be visible above the table: this means you do not keep them in your lap. Rest your wrists on top of the table.
Dining etiquette for passing food. At the table, pass all dishes to your left.
Dining etiquette for seating. The most honored position is at the head of the table, with the most important guest seated immediately to the right of the host (women to the right of the host, and men to the right of the hostess). If there is a hosting couple, one will be at each end of the table. In the European tradition, men and women are seated next to one another, and couples are often broken up and seated next to people they may not have previously known. This is done to promote conversation. Men typically rise when women enter the room, and continue to hold doors for women and allow them to enter a room first.
Dining etiquette for accepting, refusing food. If you do not want more food, or cannot eat everything on your plate, it is okay to leave some food on your plate, but try to eat most of it. If serving yourself family style, take only what you will eat.
Dining etiquette for restaurants. In informal restaurants, you will rarely be required to share a table. Waitstaff may be summoned by making eye contact; waving or calling their names is very impolite.
Dining etiquette for discussing business. The business lunch (more common than dinner) and dinner are very acceptable, but, depending on how well developed your relationship is with your Dominican colleagues, they are generally not times to make business decisions. Take your cue from your Dominican associates: if they bring up business, then it's okay to discuss it.
Dining etiquette for eating in a home. Meals at home are typically informal affairs, and people who drop by at mealtimes are always expected to have a bite and stay a while if they can. It is considered bad form to leave the table before the meal is over. If it is a formal meal, once you (and the group) are invited to another room, most probably the dining room, be sure to allow more senior members of your party to enter the room ahead of you: men should move aside to allow women to enter the room ahead of them.
Dining etiquette for paying the check. Usually the one who does the inviting pays the bill, although the guest is expected to make an effort to pay. Sometimes other circumstances determine who pays (such as rank).
Dining etiquette for tipping. A 10 percent tip is usually sufficient in restaurants.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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