Gentleman’s guide to Dinner Etiquette

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“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out” George Bernard Shaw

I think it’s safe to assume that not everyman automatically knows and practices proper dining etiquette. This becomes evident in restaurants as many young men follow no rule in particular for behaving at the dinner table.

The reality is that many young people in Nigeria have not received any sort of proper training for dinner etiquette and therefore can not give what they do not have.

A few will rely on behaviors they observe in foreign movies, while a good many will learn as much as they can from seeing their parents or relatives eat at the table.

Do we then excuse the lack of manners at formal events?

Or do we develop our own set of dinner etiquettes based on our cultural inclinations and values?

Imagine a scene in the Yoruba culture where a young adult shares an afternoon meal with an elder and is not allowed to share in the meat until the elder has had his fill!

Worse still, the young adult can not leave the table or meal until the elder is also done!

Imagine if we had to follow the cultural etiquettes from over two hundred ethnic tribes in the country. It would be a quagmire for sure!

In the end, there was indeed a generation that shared those values and lived by them. But not this one!

Times have changed, so has some of the values instilled in the British dining etiquettes, although a good many still remains till date.

While a lot of men would love to be called a gentleman, they have absolutely no clue how to be one. If a man is desirous of being attracted to a discerning lady in his manner and behavior, the best place to start is at the dinner table in a proper restaurant on a proper date!

Everyone notices and appreciates a well-mannered guy!

Got it?

This post is intended to give you quick hints and guide to the best practices on dining etiquette. They are probably stuff you have learned before or seen or even heard about somehow and so offer no surprises. You however must put them to practice intentionally until they become habits that can be sustained.

Dining etiquette and table manners aren’t just for special occasions.  They should be utilized whenever you eat, no matter where you are or who you’re with.  Practice makes perfect, and in time, table manners will become second nature to you like so many other habits.

It doesn’t matter what age you are, rounding out your image with good manners will only enhance your persona, and reflect the alpha male you truly are.

So here we go;

Dress to impress

This is perhaps the most important thing on the list and above all, it’s essential that you make an effort. It’s no longer a requirement for a man to wear a suit to dinner, but if you are attending a fine-dining establishment then a blazer or sports coat is essential. If all else fails, just remember that it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

The Napkin and your laps

Within the first few minutes of sitting at the table, place your napkin on your lap.  The napkin should never be tucked into your shirt like a bib, or into your pants to protect your lap.  I know it’s practical, but it isn’t suitable.  Opening the napkin halfway is sufficient, yet opening it completely is acceptable, also.  Use it to wipe your mouth whenever you feel the need.  When leaving the table for any reason, fold the napkin so any soiled areas are hidden, and place it on the table to the left of your plate

Get the Chair for Her

Pull the chair out for any woman who will be sitting next to you, if she is unaccompanied by a man.  If you’re already seated when she approaches the table, stand up and help her with her chair.  If you’re not already sitting down, assist with her chair first then be seated.  If you’re seated and a woman (other than the hostess) enters the room at any time, stand up to show politeness.  No need to stand for other men.

Keep your personal items and Phone away

Your mobile phone, your keys, wallet and loose change should all remain firmly out of site. Turn your cell phone OFF.  Avoid talking and texting while at the table.  We all know how offensive it can be when we’re having a conversation with someone who chooses to answer their phone or read a text.  The message is you’re not as important as the person calling.  It’s just bad manners.  If you can’t resist, plan ahead and leave your phone in the car.

Ask for advice

If you’re not a foodie expert or part-time sommelier then don’t pretend to be. Be sure to ask for the waiter’s opinion, as they should know their menu inside out.

Wait for others

Always wait for others to be seated before you start eating.  If there are at least three people seated and the hostess gives the okay to begin eating while the food is hot, go right ahead.  If there is a group of only four people at the dinner, wait for everyone to be seated before digging in. 

Notice the Silverware

Silverware can be so confusing, but the rule of thumb is to start eating with the outside utensil that’s farthest from the plate.  The type of dinner affair will determine how many utensils are at your place setting.  The silverware is usually set in the order of the courses served: for instance, if there are two forks side by side, and salad is the first course, pick up the fork farthest from the plate, which will be the salad fork (it’s shorter).  If soup is served, use the soup spoon, which is the largest spoon.  If all else fails, check and see which utensils the other folks are using and follow their lead.  No need to panic or be intimidated.

Pass food to the right

Always pass food to the right.  It will keep order to the flow of things, and will ensure the food is passed to everyone.  Food is bound to be missed if it’s going in different directions.  When passing the salt, always pass the pepper along with it.  Did I mention never reach across the table?  Ask for things to be passed to you, and don’t forget to say please and thank you.

Excuse yourself

Say excuse me whenever you leave the table during the meal.

Desert at the table

If you’re at a formal affair that has a fork and spoon sitting on the table at the top of your plate, they’re dessert utensils, so wait until the dessert is served to use them.  This is not typically done, but I’ve seen it at some very formal dinners.  Normally, the dessert silverware is served with the dessert.

Chew with your mouth closed

Seriously, keep your mouth closed when chewing, and wait until you swallow to speak.  These are possibly the two most important rules.

Watch your portion

Take an average size portion of food.  Taking large portions of food is rude, especially if it means others may lose out on getting some.  If you want more and there’s plenty to go around, help yourself to a second helping.  Taking seconds is very complimentary to the cook

You should not lean over

Don’t lean over your plate and shovel food into your mouth.  Act civilized, no matter how hungry you are, by sitting up straight and bringing the food to your mouth.  And no need to rush.

Don’t cut the a chunk (e get why!)

When cutting meat, cut one bite size piece at a time and eat it.  Don’t cut up an entire steak, chicken breast or any other serving of meat all at once.  Not only will your meat get cold and dry, you’ll look like you’re five years old.

Never Interrupt someone else

It doesn’t matter who you are with, a true gentleman would never interrupt someone at the dinner table. Instead, let them finish their point and then proceed with your own.

No elbows on the table please

Who doesn’t want to prop their elbows on the table?  It’s so comfortable, but is a definite faux pas while eating.  However, if you’re sitting around the table talking and having coffee after dinner, you have the go-ahead to plop those babies up there.  If you’re ever in doubt, don’t do it.

Never blow your nose or fart at the table. (Gross)

Oh, no!  You didn’t just blow your nose at the table and gross everyone out, did you?  A quick wipe of a runny nose is allowed, but please excuse yourself and take care of business in the restroom if you’ve got to blow.  That includes blowing out the other end, too.  Nothing’s worse than trying to eat when in the midst of raunchy gas.  The only thing worse than that is everyone knowing it was you!

Never slurp on your drinks

Learn to take proper sips from the cup without making those annoying slurpy sound that could turn everyone at the table off. Keep your lips together and do not sip on hot drinks.

Never drink from the bowl

When eating that pepper soup, tilting the bowl to get the last spoonful is acceptable.  Never pick the bowl up and drink from it.

Never ever do this

Never put used silverware on the table.  That’s just nasty!  But, not knowing what to do with it can be a dilemma.  If you’re still eating and just take a break, place the knife and fork on your plate with the tip of the knife and prongs of the fork (facing up) pointing towards the top of your plate.  If the plate is a clock, position them towards 12 o’clock.  If you’re finished eating a course whose dish and utensil will be taken away, let’s use soup as an example, place the spoon in the bowl.  The same goes for the salad fork and plate.  If there is only one fork for the entire meal and you need to save it after finishing your salad or appetizer, place the fork on the dinner plate.  When finished eating the meal, set your knife and fork on the plate in the same position as mentioned above, but angle them, so that the handles are at the 4 on a clock.  It not only signals you’re finished, but stabilizes the utensils on the plate.  This all sounds a little overwhelming, but with practice, you’ll get it down in no time.

Be thankful

Always remember to thank your hostess, and your waitress or waiter if in a restaurant.  Politeness goes far when showing your appreciation to those responsible for your dining pleasure.  Say please and thank you when asking for anything – a glass of water; a second helping; the check – anytime you’re being assisted.

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Let the cook know

Compliment the cook!  It doesn’t matter if the food turned you green, let the chef or hostess know how much you enjoyed the meal; both when you’re eating and again when you’re leaving.

Don’t leave without being polite

Be sure to say good-bye to your hosts.  If they’re busy speaking with someone else and you can’t wait until they’re finished, ask another guest to tell them you said good-bye.  If this happens, call the following day, apologize for not saying good-bye and thank them for having you.

This list isn’t all there is to know about manners at a fine dining, but it will serve as a good start to take note of.

I hope this helped.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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3 thoughts on “Gentleman’s guide to Dinner Etiquette”

  1. Adedamola Ilori

    Learned s oo. much from this write up, now I can approach a table of delicacies with confidence.
    Thanks omo Akin

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