Category Archives: Dining Etiquette

Use Your Manners at the Canada Day Barbeque

Canada Day and the USA 4th of July is the perfect occasion to get outside and gather with family, friends and business colleagues at a picnic in the park or a summer barbeque.

However no matter how good the food tastes, bad manners can leave a bad taste in the mouth of your host and those of the other guests. Yes, how you behave can leave a lasting impression. One that may not only be the deciding factor on whether the barbeque becomes an annual event… or not, but also one that may determine your position on the next barbeque guest list.

Last year I wrote a post called ‘What Not to Do at The Company Picnic’.  By using the good manners in this post at every outdoor event, you can ensure you will act your best and be more likely to rise to the top of the guest list for the next picnic, barbecue or summer celebration.

Meet the In-Laws: How to Enhance Your Success

Happy Easter!

Let’s face it – meeting the in-laws for the first time can be a daunting experience. Whether you are hoping to be welcomed into the family, or your role is to welcome someone into the family, the first gathering can feel like going for a job interview. The knowledge that you will be judged, evaluated, and compared to or potentially competed with by everyone that came before you can leave even the most confident person feeling nervous about that first meeting.Even though I think most would agree that a couple’s happiness should be the most important consideration in a relationship, those of us who have gone through the process of meeting the in-laws or future in-laws would also agree that, as a couple, knowing you have won the family’s acceptance and respect can be essential for the future success of any relationship. Uncertainty of how the in-laws will respond over time, and possibly impact your relationship with your partner or family member can leave anyone feeling insecure.

Having been through this three times – first with parents-in-law; second with a parent of mine entering into a relationship; and most recently with adult children, his and mine; I can say I have seen all sides. I can also honestly say that experience has not made me an expert on winning over family members. However, eliminating additional barriers can increase your odds for success. When meeting your new or future family – prepare ahead of time, be on your best behaviour and dress appropriately.

The success of the gathering weighs heavily on the partner or spouse bringing the families together. If that’s you, take the lead. Help reduce unnerving surprises by providing a heads-up about what to expect. Prepare both sides by disclosing likes, dislikes and personality quirks before the gathering.

• Even though you may be a new family member or want to feel that way, making yourself at home in the home of your host can be perceived as offensive unless invited to do so. Some hosts want their guests to act at home right away and others find guests’ feet on the coffee table, helping ones-self to the fridge, or casually lighting up a cigarette in the house, among other things, enraging. Learn your host’s expectations ahead of time. Then follow their lead.

• If you are one of the in-laws, never bring up the past relationships of your affiliated family member. i.e. “Oh, by the way I saw _____, last week. She said to say, hello. She is such a nice girl.” Fondly bringing up old relationships can bring up new wounds in new relationships. Don’t say or do anything that might hurt or embarrass your new or future family member.

• Don’t leave your child or parent’s date sitting in the living room alone, while you and other family members are in the kitchen. Include your guest by treating everyone equally and with respect. Don’t let your guest feel like an outsider.

• Brush up on your dining skills. Some families dine formally and others are very casual. However, knowing how to navigate the table and what not to do will help you feel more confident and leave a good impression in any situation.

• Find out ahead of time what is considered appropriate dress. Some families dress up for family gatherings and others don’t. Either way leave faded jeans and t-shirts at home. Slacks and a collared shirt, blouse or a lightweight sweater would likely be a better option for casual dress. It will show respect to the host and it will show that you care.

The road to family acknowledgment, acceptance and support can be a long and bumpy one to travel. However, knowing ahead of time what will be appreciated and what will be considered appalling may help ease the tension and make the journey a little smoother.

©Kimberly Law, AICI CIP 2014

 

Napkin Etiquette By Kimberly Law AICI CIP

Here in Canada, especially on the West Coast, we tend to be very relaxed in our approach to life. We prefer to be comfortable over being perceived as formal. However, since you are likely to see a napkin at your place setting this Thanksgiving, Hanukah, or Christmas, here are a few how-to’s:

When setting the table, the napkin may be placed in many locations of the place setting. Often you will see the napkin in the center of the place setting or dinner plate. However it is still considered traditional to place the napkin to the left of the forks, on the bread plate, or in the glass above the main-course knife (usually the water goblet or wine glass). It should always be accessible, and never placed under the utensils. Traditionally, the napkin is never grouped the utensils on the right side of the place setting.

The purpose of the napkin is to blot your mouth and wipe your fingers… not blow your nose, or spit food into. If you need to blow your nose use a tissue discretely at the table or go to the restroom. If you put something inedible into your mouth remove it discretely and place it on the side of your plate.

No – the napkin is not a bib. Although many cultures use napkins in many different ways, in North American culture, the only time a napkin is tucked under your chin is if you have received a plastic bib to eat crab in a restaurant or are eating spaghetti and your host has lead the way. In North America and most European cultures a dinner napkin is folded in half and placed on the lap of both legs with the fold facing towards you.

After you are seated the napkin goes on your lap. In a business setting the host leads the way and the guests follow. The traditional way in a social setting would be to wait for the female host to take the lead. If you’re like me, often when I am entertaining I am in the kitchen bringing out serving dishes instead of being served by staff. If this is the case, it would be polite to lead the way by inviting the guests to start. This would be an invitation for the guests to place their napkin on their lap.

Never crumple a cloth napkin onto your plate. When finished your meal the napkin is placed on the table to the left of your place setting. This is one indication that you are finished and your dishes can be removed. If you normally eat fast, slow down and pace yourself with the host and the rest of guests. If you are a slow eater, try to speed up to keep up the pace with the diners. Wait for the host to finish before leaving your napkin on the table.

Whether dining at the dining table or the coffee table, napkin etiquette remains the same. Napkin etiquette is for holiday dining and everyday dining… enjoy!

Kimberly Law, AICI CIP

Formal Dining for Informal People

Formal Dining for Informal People      

Whether we like it or not, how we handle ourselves at the dining table can impact our business and social relationships. ‘Formal Dining for Informal People’, is a great reference tool to help you appear more confident and feel more at ease when dining casually or formally. This holiday season dine with confidence!

Want to learn more about Dining Etiquette? Buy the eBook ‘Formal Dining for Informal People’  today for only $10.00

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How to Use a Finger Bowl by Kimberly Law, AICI CIP, Certified Etiquette Expert

Although disposable finger towels are practical and often used in informal environments to cleanse the hands after eating messy food, in a formal environment you may be presented with a finger bowl as part of a dessert service or alone, even if your hands appear clean.

In a traditional European dining environment the custom is for the fingerbowl is used after the dessert is eaten. If it has been presented to you as part of the dessert service, with both hands move the finger bowl and the doily together with both hands and place them in front of you after you have finished your dessert and your dessert plate has been removed. Dip the fingers of one hand into the water, and then dry them before dipping the fingers of the other hand into the water. After you are finished, place your napkin in loose folds to the left of your place setting.

For more on this topic buy eBook ‘Formal Dining for Informal People’

You may also be interested in:

Cutlery Etiquette How to Make a Great Impression

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What is a Dessert Service? By Kimberly Law, AICI CIP, Certified Etiquette Expert

In Canada dessert is generally served and brought in from the kitchen, or served at the table by the host. However at a very formal meal, served traditionally you may be presented with a dessert service.

A dessert service consists of a dessert plate. On the plate, there will be a finger bowl placed on a doily in the centre of the plate, with a dessert fork to the left and a dessert spoon placed to the right of the finger bowl.

The guest sets the fork on the table to the left of the plate and the spoon to the right of the plate. Then picks up the doily and the fingerbowl, and places them on the table at the upper left of the dessert plate.  The server then places the dessert on the plate.

When dessert has been served onto your plate, the spoon is held in the right hand. The fork is held in the left hand. Cut the dessert using the spoon. The dessert is pushed onto the spoon with the fork and eaten with the spoon. This is the traditional way in England and many other European Countries. However, in some European regions, the spoon is used for cutting and pushing the dessert onto the fork. The dessert is then eaten from the fork. Because there are many customs for the use of these dining utensils, it is best to familiarize yourself with regional customs before you arrive.

When in doubt, always follow the lead of your host.

For more on this topic buy the eBook ‘Formal Dining for Informal People

You may also be interested in:

Dining Traditions vs. Casual Lifestyle

How to Be the Perfect Dinner Party Guest!

6 Top Dining Don’ts

Kimberly sig pic

What Not to Do at the Company Picnic

A while back I wrote an article called ‘What Not to Wear to the Company Picnic’. I received lots of great feedback on the article. However it is not just how you look at the company picnic that is important. How you behave at the company picnic counts just as much. Since picnic and barbeque season has finally arrived, here are a few tips:

  • RSVP in a timely fashion and in the specified timeframe – Just because it is a casual gathering it doesn’t mean ‘just show up’.
  • Confirm who is invited – Family and friend aren’t always on the guest list.
  • Don’t barge in – Wait your turn in the food line-up
  • Serving utensils are there for a reason – Use the serving utensils not your fingers
  • No double dipping – veggies and dip; chips and dip; Veggies & dip-dip?? NEVER
  • Leave some for the rest – take one burger not two. Go back for seconds only after everyone has been served.
  • Play the game but play fair – this is no place for competitiveness
  • Clean up after yourself – Don’t leave litter for others to clean up after you.
  • Help the host – Hosting a picnic is a lot of work. Make it more enjoyable for your host by offering to help.

These are just a few tips to make your summer corporate activities more enjoyable for all. Click here for Additional Etiquette Tips on – How to be the Perfect Guest.

Dining Traditions vs. Casual Lifestyle

Although dining etiquette and many dining traditions may not seem crucial while eating in front of the TV, our table conduct is still considered important during social, business and formal occasions. Whether we like it or not, how we conduct ourselves at the dining table can and will likely influence others’ perception of us, impacting our business and social relationships. It is considered a sign of respect and can build or break down rapport… So why take chances? For more on dining get your copy of Formal Dining for Informal People.

How to Be the Perfect Dinner Party Guest!

As an image and etiquette consultant, I am often asked to do corporate and group workshops, on the topics of dining etiquette and table manners.

A long time ago etiquette and table manners were established as a way of keeping the peace and domesticating our behaviour.  Over time, these rituals were handed down from generation to generation eventually becoming tradition.

However, as the guest, the most important way to conduct yourself at the dining table is not always the way it is described in the etiquette books. And in most cases, manners and politeness will always override the rules. When in doubt, ‘show respect to your host’ and ‘follow their lead’.  With this in mind, you will be the perfect dinner party guest.

6 Top Dining Don’ts

The Christmas Holiday season is also the festive season that will likely lead to opportunities for dining with others. That is unless in years past you made a bad impression… Here are some don’ts to consider.

  • Don’t chew with your mouth open
  • Don’t pick your teeth at the table. If something gets stuck in your teeth, excuse yourself and go to the restroom.
  • Don’t talk with food in your mouth.
  • Don’t reach across the table or across another person to get something. Ask the closest diner to pass it.
  • Don’t put your elbows on the table until the meal is finished and all the plates and cutlery are removed.
  • Don’t leave your hat on your head, while at the dining table.

For more on this topic see: What Not to Do at the Dining Table. Or to add a little formality to your dining experience see: eBook Formal Dining for Informal People.

9 Steps to Break Bread with Ease and Grace

If you have ever been unsure of which bread plate is yours; or whether you are supposed to butter the whole slice of bread. You are not alone. As an etiquette expert many of my clients and friends ask about the etiquette of eating bread and rolls. Here are the steps to take next time you are faced with the challenge of breaking bread.

  1. Your bread plate is the one to the left of your place setting.
  2. Don’t reach; Ask the person closest to the bread basket to pass it to you.
  3. Take the bread or roll and place it on your bread plate.
  4. Ask the person closest to the butter to pass it to you.
  5. Using the butter serving utensil (if there is one) or your butter knife (if there is not serving utensil) place some butter on your bread plate.
  6. Rip off a small piece of bread / roll, the appropriate size for one or two bites.
  7. Butter that piece of bread / roll holding it on the plate while spreading the butter.
  8. Eat it with your mouth closed and enjoy!
  9. Repeat…

Use this etiquette for Holiday Dining and Everyday Dining…Happy Holidays!

Learn more dining etiquette skills with Kimberly Law’s lecture based on-line course ‘Everyday Dining Etiquette’.