international dining etiquette
Dining etiquette for drinking. The more you drink, the more you will be offered. If you really cannot drink, you'll need a very good excuse.
Dining etiquette for toasts. Never break eye contact while making a toast, from the moment the glass leaves the table until you place it back down. There can be much toasting throughout the meal, and when it is possible, glasses should be clinked. You will be expected to make a toast in a small group at some point during the meal, especially if you have been toasted personally or are the guest of honor.
If dining with Muslims, do not drink alcohol.
Dining etiquette for beginning to eat. Do not begin eating until the host invites you to.
Dining etiquette for utensils. The knife remains in the right hand, and the fork remains in the left. When the meal is finished, place your fork and knife together so that they are parallel and lie vertically across the middle of the plate, fork tines left of the knife. If you're unsure of which utensil to use, always start from the outside and work your way in, course by course. The fork and spoon above your plate are usually for dessert.
Dining etiquette for bread. Bread is usually served without butter and there is usually no bread plate. A substantial quantity of bread is consumed with every meal.
Dining etiquette for salad. Salad, when available, is served with the main course on the same plate.
Dining etiquette for your hands. Your hands are expected to be visible above the table. Rest your wrists on top of the table.
Dining etiquette for your napkin. It is always kept on the table.
Dining etiquette for passing food. Pass all dishes at the table to your left.
Dining etiquette for gravy or sauce. If there is gravy or sauce, you can generally use your bread to soak some of it up, but not with your hands; put the bread on your plate, then move it around in the gravy with your fork, then eat it.
Dining etiquette for seating. The most honored position is in the middle of the table; as the guest of honor, you will probably be seated there, although the hosts will usually be at either end of the table. In some conservative Muslim homes, women and men may eat separately, with the men being served first.
Dining etiquette for order of service. At meals, the oldest woman or most honored guest is served first.
Dining etiquette for restaurants. In informal restaurants, you may be required to share a table: if so, do not force conversation; act as if you are seated at a private table. Waitstaff may be summoned by making eye contact and raising your hand slightly.
Dining etiquette for discussing business. The business lunch or dinner (if there is one), depending upon how well developed your relationship is with your colleagues, is generally not the time to make business decisions. Take your cue from your local associates.
Dining etiquette in the home. Allow the more senior members of your party to enter rooms ahead of you. Do not seat yourself, the seating arrangement is usually predetermined. You might have to remove your shoes before entering a home.
Dining etiquette for paying the bill. 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 the payee (such as rank).
Dining etiquette for tipping. A 10 percent tip is usually sufficient for restaurants. Restaurants usually have the 10 percent tip already included on the bill, but it's okay to ask to make sure.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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