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 provecho!"
Dining etiquette for utensils. Colombians do not switch knives and forks while eating. The knife remains in the right hand, and the fork remains in the left. When you are finished, place your silverware parallel and horizontally across the plate.
Dining etiquette for the place setting. The fork and spoon above your plate are for dessert. 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 or beer (after-dinner drink glasses come out after dinner).
Dining etiquette for eating bread. Bread is sometimes served without butter; in that case, there usually will not be a butter knife, nor will there be a bread dish: your 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 are expected to be visible above the table: this means you do not keep them in your lap; instead, rest your wrists on top of the table (never your elbows). At the table, 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 so that it 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 at each end of the table.
Dining etiquette in restaurants. In informal restaurants, you will rarely be required to share a table. Waitstaff may be summoned by making eye contact. Dining etiquette for discussing business. Take your cue from your Colombian associates: if they bring up business, then it's okay to discuss it.
Dining etiquette in the home. It is considered bad form to leave the dinner party, or the table, at any time. Allow more senior members of your party to enter rooms ahead of you: men should move aside to allow women to enter the room ahead of them.
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 who pays (such as rank).
Dining etiquette for tipping. 10 percent tip is usually sufficient in restaurants.
- 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.