Going out to dinner, or eating in front of other people, can be a minefield of potential embarrassments just waiting to catch you off-guard. It's fun, too, of course, but whether it's a first date, a business meeting, or a meal out with new friends, eating in front of other people can be stressful. You want to make a good first impression, after all. Even if you think you've got it down, you could be making common table etiquette mistakes that you need to know are embarrassing you without even realizing that you're making them.
Knowing how to conduct yourself at the dinner table is a useful skill, whether you're in the corporate world or not. People notice manners and you're never going to disappoint someone by being too well-mannered or polite. One of the worst feelings is finding out later that you made a poor first impression without even realizing that you were making common etiquette mistakes. You drank out of the wrong water glass, set your silverware back on the table between courses, or put your napkin on the table before the end of the meal and everyone else at the table noticed. This is the stuff of nightmares. Very tame nightmares, sure, but still, it's embarrassing to think that people think less of you because you have bad manners, especially if you don't even know that you have them.
Don't worry, you won't have them for long.
Have you ever sat down at a table and seen it bedecked with full place settings — including bread plates — and wondering which dishes are yours are which are those of the people sitting next to you? According to The Daily Meal, your bread goes on your lefthand side, so now you never have to be unsure about reaching for the bread again.
Mixing up which utensils are for which course at a formal dinner can be embarrassing. If you don't know exactly which fork is for shellfish and which is for salad, don't worry about it. You can also learn which utensils are for what before your event, as The Spruce noted. When in doubt, work from the outside of the place setting in toward the plate.
Nowadays, everyone is so busy that it's not uncommon to see people place phones, purses, and the like right on the table during your meal. You want to be ready to go wherever you need to go next and you don't want to miss any essential calls, texts, or emails. "Checking messages is disrespectful and sends a message that there’s somebody and something more important than your boss," Stephen Begley, president of Begley Consulting, told CBS News. Whether it's a business lunch or dinner to catch up with an old friend, you don't want your dining companion to think that they're unimportant, even just briefly. Nearly everyone is guilty of it, but it's a habit you should try to break.
So you finished your appetizer and figure you may as well just keep your silverware for your main course. That's fine, but don't place your cutlery back on the table, Family Education noted. Place it on a bread plate or elsewhere if you can, otherwise, just let the server take your silverware and ask that they bring you a new set.
Tables with elaborate place-settings can get exceedingly cluttered and it can be confusing as to which napkin is yours. According to Lifehack, your napkin is the one on the left. After everyone has been seated and the host takes their napkin, place your napkin on your lap. Once you do so, it shouldn't end up back on the table until the meal is over.
I know, I know, you may not like every single thing that someone is serving when they have you over for a meal, but it's polite to try everything, as etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts wrote in a post for HuffPost. If you have food allergies, intolerances, or an autoimmune disease, of course, you're not expected to eat that particular food, but otherwise, at least take a tiny taste.
Even if the food is exceptionally hot or cold, whatever you put on your fork or spoon is your bite. According to Etiquette Scholar, half-bites, when you only eat a portion of what's on your fork, are impolite and should be avoided. When in doubt, simply take smaller bites. Then you'll never have to worry about your own Princess Diaries palate cleanser moment.
No matter how much you want to grab that slice of bread in the bottom of the bread basket to sop up the delicious sauce on your plate, don't do it (unless, maybe, if you're at home). According to the previously-mentioned post from Etiquette Scholar, if you're going to use bread to sop up sauce, make sure you use your fork, not your hands.
Just as there can be confusion with bread plates and napkins, there can also be confusion as to which glass is yours. It's humiliating to even come close to drinking out of the wrong glass (unless neither of you have taken a sip yet), so it's important to know that your glass is on your right, as the aforementioned article from The Daily Meal noted. Now, you'll be sure to impress the next time you eat with others. You've got this.
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