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Most of us learn our table manners from the rest of our family, and depending upon how strict our upbringing was, it can result in varied knowledge of subtle dinnertime signals. Today we’re going to take a look at some traditional table manners guidelines that will show to those in the know that you know exactly how to behave during a meal. Those who don’t follow the same ‘rules’ probably won’t care a jot.

1. Don’t put a used utensil back on the table

Once a utensil has been used, it shouldn’t touch the table again. Most of us will rest the handle of the knife and fork on the table, leaning up against the plate. But the correct way to place them down while you take a drink or have a breather is to place them entirely upon your plate.

2. How to place your utensils after your meal

Once you’re finished with your food, place the knife and fork side by side diagonally on the plate (handles at four o’clock). Remember to keep the blade of the knife facing the centre of the plate – not pointing outwards.

3. When it comes to multiple utensils, work your way in

When confronted with multiple layers of cutlery, the general rule is to start at the outside and work your way in. Anything placed above the plate is intended for dessert.

4. Where to put your napkin

Your napkin or serviette should be placed onto your lap when you take your seat, or once your drink arrives, and should remain there for the duration of the meal. A couple of exceptions:

  • When leaving the table during the meal, you should place the napkin on the table to the left of your fork. While some prefer to leave it on the seat, this could end up soiling your clothes, defeating the purpose of the napkin in the first place.
  • If you are eating something messy, which could easily create a mess on your outfit (think spaghetti), it’s acceptable to tuck the napkin into your collar.

When the meal is over, place the napkin onto the table.

5. When in doubt – follow the leader

If you’re unsure what a certain utensil should be used for, or how much of a certain dish you should take, a discreet look to your host should give you an idea of what to do.

What’s a rule for the dining table you always follow, no matter what?

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