international dining etiquette
Dining etiquette for toasts. The most common toast is salud (to your health).
Dining etiquette for beginning to eat. Do not begin eating until the host says, "Buen apetito!".
Dining etiquette for utensils. Spaniards do not switch knives and forks. The knife remains in the right hand, and the fork remains in the left. When the meal is finished, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other across the right side of 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. If you lay your cutlery down on either side of the plate, it means that you haven't finished.
Dining etiquette for the place setting. The fork and spoon above your plate are for dessert. There are often many additional pieces of cutlery; if you're unsure of which utensil to use, always start from the outside and work your way in, course by course. There will be separate glasses provided at your setting for water and white and red wine (after-dinner drink glasses come out after dinner).
Dining etiquette for eating bread. Bread is usually served without butter so there will not be a butter knife. There will generally be no bread dish. Bread is placed on the rim of your main plate or on the table by your plate.
Dining etiquette for your hands. When not holding utensils, your hands should be visible.
Dining etiquette for passing food. Pass all dishes to your left.
Dining etiquette for eating salad. Never cut the lettuce in a salad. Fold it with your knife and fork into a lit¬tle bundle that can be picked up with your fork.
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 seated at each end of the table.
Dining etiquette for restaurants. Tabernas are family-run restaurants. Marisquerias serve only seafood. Asadors usually serve cooked meats. In informal restaurants, you may be required to share a table.
Dining etiquette for discussing business. Depending upon how well developed your relationship is with your Spanish colleagues, meals are usually not the time to make business decisions. Take your cue from your Spanish associates.
Dining etiquette for the home. Allow the more senior members of your party to enter rooms ahead of you. Do not presume to seat yourself. The seating arrangement is usually predetermined.
Dining etiquette for paying the bill. The one who invites usually pays the bill. Other circumstances may determine the payee (such as rank).
Dining etiquette for tipping. In Spanish restaurants, a gratuity is usually added to the bill. If it is not included, leave a minimum tip of 15 percent.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
If you find any typographical errors, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies, or if you just have something to add, please email us.