February 2018
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Hi there,

Okay, now you have scored that special date with that someone special, or dinner with your parents in law, or even something more serious, having a business meeting over at a restaurant.

So just how you carry yourself at the dining table translate quite a bit about you. I know, life is unfair, just because you do not know the 101 on dining etiquette doesn’t mean you fail in other parts of your life, right?

dining etiquette

But how about I ask you this question?

If you were to dine with person A who keep talking with his mouth open with food in his mouth and worst still, couldn’t keep his food “in his mouth” all the way when he talk. Or Person B, someone who can engage a great conversation with you, but will know when to pass you the pepper at the table with the soup is here.  You can try convincing me that Person A can be better, may be he can hold a great conversation, but throughout the meal, I will probably be so preoccupied with him not hitting the jackpot of flying a piece into my salmon or soup rather than what he wanted to tell me.

Down to the Basics

I won’t talk about the fine dining part (God knows how many rules there are!), let’s just pull out a few that is useful to our daily lives, and most common, so that we will know at least the basics.

I have my fair share of awful dates and also great delightful ones. The worst one that I have sat through was over at a Vietnamese restaurant, that horrifying image of my dining companion opening his mouth with Vietnamese pho in his mouth. Yapping non stop about our uni projects, and complaining everything under the sun. Sipping soda and “accidentally” let out a burb or two during the whole meal. The image still vividly haunt me until now, because seriously his pho did fly onto my grilled pork rice, and I have to make up a reason why I couldn’t finish my meal.

So dining etiquette is indeed really important. You don’t need a PHD for dining etiquette, but at least learn a few things so that people won’t look you differently, better still, impress them with your new found skill, who knows? You might really give a very good impression that good things does come your way.

This year, I attended a dining etiquette workshop and learnt something that surprised me, so I would like to share what I have learnt from this workshop.

Drink or Bread, Left or Right

Do you sometimes feel confused as to which drink or bread plate you should be taking when you were seated on a nicely setup table? All the while, I thought whatever things that placed on your right, that belongs to you, well you are half way there.

Actually your drink should always be placed on your right, while your bread plate should be placed on your left. Hard to remember? Just remember this, put your finger into 2 okay sign, which forms a letter “b” on your left & letter “d” on your right. There you go, b=bread which is on your left & d=drink which is always on your right. So next time, you won’t be pondering which side you should take. 🙂

drink & bread plate


Use the napkin to wipe your mouth discreetly, if you leave your seat, place the napkin on the the table next to the plate, or at the back of your chair. DO NOT place your napkin on the chair, er… why would you want to use the napkin again after you placed on somewhere where tonnes of people have sat on? Oh, and DO NOT tuck the napkin in your shirt like a baby bib. it is called a baby bib for a reason, it is for babies only.

No Double Dipping Please

Okay, this is usually when you need to share some dips like salsa, dips, etc, you can dip directly from the bowl of salsa, and it is perfectly fine, but never ever double dip, that is (1) Take your chips, (2) Dip into the Salsa or Dips, (3) Bite half, (4) Dip into the Salsa again! This is really unhygienic.

Forks & Knife

You probably by now know the golden rule, using the utensils inwards. So I do not need to elaborate this too much. However, not many people know is that, sometimes they will see two small fork & soup at the top of the table setting. Some might think it is for scooping up sauces, or spread, but this actually is a dessert spoon & fork. So use it when dessert is served. As for tea spoon, it is usually placed on the right side of the table setting.

knife & fork

Soup, Sip or Slurp?

Okay, this is really something very simple, but people still forget about it sometimes, sipping your bowl of piping hot soup. No matter how tasty it is, please please do refrain yourself from slurping that last bit of soup and even use a piece of bread to soak up every single dot on the bowl.

Doing it actually contrary to belief, does not necessarily means it taste good, it might actually look quite bad on you, because it make you look like you were starved for a century and now you are breaking free to have your first taste of the soup.

So “try” to just finish the soup but no licking the last drop out of a bowl. Also you are not supposed to place the spoon on the plate under the soup bowl before you finish, it can only be done after. So in between sips, it is perfectly fine to put the spoon in the bowl. Move your soup from the edge of the bowl to the center away from you, and sip from the soup, not putting the whole soup in your mouth. You get what I mean.

So when is slurping okay? Well, the only time I can think of is 1) when you are alone at home 2) when you eat ramen or soba at Japanese restaurant, the slurping actually means it taste very good.

Taste First

Taste your food before seasoning it, as it is rather disrespectful for the chef. It just means you are pretty confident the chef didn’t do their job well, so you might as well add some more stuff to the food to make it tastier.

Butter, Spread or Dips

Always transfer butter, spread or dips from the main plate to your bread plate before spreading directly on the bread, that way you do not need to strain your back to go and get more butter from the dining table.  Bread should be peeled into bite size and not cut, you do not want people to see the seesaw action while you try to dissect that piece of bread. Apply the butter on every bite size of bread if you want to show off some of your etiquette.

Oh no, this taste really horrible!!!

At times, you are stuck with a situation that you can either swallow your pride so is the disgusting tasting food in your mouth, or leave the table at once. But what you actually can do is to use your napkin which is placed on your lap, spit in out “discreetly” and put it aside. That way, people will not mistaken you going for your toilet run and you do not have to force yourself to finish that weird looking, weird tasting thing.

Small Talks

No shouting, no talk on religion & politics, you might not know who you offend along the way, these topics are way too sensitive and require very tactful way of response, so no go zone if you are not season about it.

Always good to talk about food, I may say, like knowing what kind of food the other person like, or weather or even hobbies. Engage in conversation that do not cut short or ran out of steam easily.

Last but not Least – Eat with your mouth close and elbow’s in!

You are not a chicken trying to flap its wings, and you also do not accidentally stab someone in their gut with your razor sharp elbows, so keep it to yourself. You can place your wrist on the table, or on your lap, but never elbows on the table.

And of course eat with your mouth close, no one want to see the action that goes in your mouth, I think this is pretty much a common practice in every culture.

So hopefully I have covered enough to help you get through your meal while impressing the rest with your new found skill. Just a little of table etiquette sometimes really go a long way.

Happy Dining!

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