In today’s increasingly global environment, knowing what’s expected when you sit down to eat can be challenging. In Canada, our multicultural society creates even more diversity as each culture brings its own rituals to the table. This can be confusing even for those individuals who are well travelled. However, in western society there are two distinct dining styles. The American Dining Style and the Continental or European Dining Style.
First Things First
Whether you are in Europe or the US, after you are seated, place your napkin on your lap. The host leads the way. Guests should follow. There are two different napkins: a luncheon napkin and a dinner napkin. The luncheon napkin is small and is placed on your lap, opened all the way. The dinner napkin is large and is placed on the lap (over both legs) in half with the fold towards you.
European Dining… with Style
The fork is held in the left hand with the tines facing down. The knife is held in the right hand with the index finger along the back edge of the knife with the blade facing the plate. The food is cut and speared or pushed onto the back of the fork with the knife. The knife remains in the right hand while eating.
Distinctly American Dining
When cutting food, hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand, in the same way as the European method. After one piece of food is cut, the knife is placed at the top right corner of the plate, with blade facing the plate. Transfer the fork to the right hand. Food is eaten with the tines facing up. The right hand stays on your lap.
Taking a Break
If you want to take a break, but don’t want your plate taken away, signal this by placing the fork and knife at right angles on the plate, tines facing down. When dining American style hands go on the lap. Wrists, arms and elbows stay off the table. Europeans keep their hands and wrists above the table at all times.
Signal You’re Finished
When the meal is finished place your fork and knife on the plate diagonally like the 10: 20 position on a clock. The knife sits above the fork with the blade facing toward it. Napkin goes to the left of the plate… never on it.
Here in Canada, although different, neither approach is right or wrong. Whether dining socially or for business, the meal is a time to interact and relax. Knowing the nuances of each dining style can help you feel more comfortable and at ease during your dining experience. Choose the method that you like the best … and enjoy!
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