The good manners to observe at the table always arouse much interest. Good behaviour at the table is always a sign of good education.
After having documented myself on different sites, here is what I found on the behaviours to follow if you are invited to an important dinner or a lunch, a wedding, etc.
Here are the basic rules:
Once seated at the table, you will notice that the towel is normally placed on the left of the plate, because it must be used with the left hand. You can also find it on the plate or even in the water glass, even if it is not recommended. Place it on your lap to prevent others from seeing a used towel. Do not tie it around your neck or hold it with your hands on your chest for fear of getting dirty. Do not use it to clean glasses or cutlery. At the end of the meal, crush it a little and place it on the right side of the plate. NEVER FOLD THE TOWEL. If you have to be away for a few minutes during the meal, consider putting the towel on the chair. The server will understand that you will come back
Cutlery should be used from the outside to the inside of the plate. There is no need to think. On a well-set table, the convexity of the fork and spoon is upward (French school) or downward (Italian and English school), in order to respect a general harmony.
During a meal, there is a code to make understand your intentions:
What is water glass and wine glass?
The water glass is the one on the left (the biggest one), the wineglass is the one on the right. You might think it’s an invitation to drink for those who are not left-handed.
Never put your elbows on the table.
Elbows should never be placed on the table. Only women are allowed, but only after the coffee. Do not keep your hands on your lap, as is allowed in England and USA. Put your wrists on the edge of the table.
Never start eating before everyone is served.
In fact, you have to wait until all the guests have received their dish. Generally, you should at least wait for the host who receives you, or at least the most influential person, to start.
From where do you serve the dish and drinks?
To avoid ridiculous ballets, remember that the dishes are served on the left, while the drinks on the right of the guests.
From where are the dishes removed?
When you have finished eating, remember that the plate will be removed to the right.
Never refuse a proposed dish for the first time.
Take a small portion if necessary. If you have allergies or if you are vegetarian, tell it in advance if you can.
Should we wish “good appetite”?
You must never wish for “good appetite”. But if you wish, you must respond with a smile or a “thank you”. It would not be polite not to answer.
At the end of the meal, how often can you use the cheese?
In France, often at the end of the meal, it is proposed either cheese or a dessert. The cheese can only be taken once and, at most, two different types. Since this is usually a dish that is not prepared by the cook, I advise you not to exaggerate. You could send an unpleasant message.
We must not forget that there are rules of behaviour that you must always respect to maintain a certain dignity.
- Never hold the knife with your hand, but only with the end of the handle.
- Never place your index finger near the teeth of the fork or knife blade.
- Hold the fork with your right hand while you eat. If you use the knife, hold it with your right hand and fork with your left hand.
- Never carry the knife in your mouth or lick the blade.
- Never use the knife to eat salad, omelette, bread, pasta, desserts or fish. Use it as little as possible.
- Fold the salad with the knife and fork. This custom is very old. In the past, silverware was made of silver, and vinegar could damage it. So it was customary to fold the leaves if they had not been previously cut.
- Use a piece of bread to push the food, never the knife (only the English label allows it).
- Keep your elbows as close as possible to your body, while cutting the meat, you could annoy the neighbours.
- Never point at someone with cutlery by hand.
- Do not salt dishes. It would be like an indirect message for the cook.
- Only eat biscuits, raisins, cherries with your hands.
- Use cutlery to cut fruits.
- Bring the cutlery to your mouth without approaching the body of the table.
- Always make small portions and chew your mouth shut without making any noise.
- Do not talk with your mouth full.
- Do not scratch the plate with the fork.
- Use the spoon only for soups and creams and avoid putting it completely in your mouth.
- Clean the end of the mouth with the towel by holding it with both hands. Be careful not to leave any lipstick traces.
- Grasp the glass with your thumb, forefinger and middle finger at the foot to keep your hands away from the wine. The heat of the hands can affect the temperature of the wine.
- Sip wine without tilting your head back and avoid staining the glass with lipstick.
- Wait for others to serve you. Only intervene if you notice that all wine glasses are empty. Women cannot serve wine.
- Eat the bread in small pieces without cutting it with the knife. Once started, it should always be placed in the small plate or the original towel. No piece should be left on the table around the plate.
A good posture is always important. Talk to everyone, even if you are bored and gesticulate the bare minimum.
Glasses, telephones, medications and handbags or wallets should not be on the table.
Remember, however, that if someone at the table does not naturally respect these good manners, he should not be excluded, but you must try to involve him in the conversation.