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
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!
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