Though table manners may differ around the world, in America there are certain things that should never happen at the dinner table. Everyone knows you shouldn’t set your elbows on the table or smack your lips while chewing, but what about some of the more subtle etiquette rules?
Unfortunately, in an increasingly casual world, these six etiquette mistakes are all too common. Find out if you’re guilty of one of these rude acts. If you are, we’re here to help you clean up your act.
Checking Your Phone
These days, it seems like nobody can get through a single meal without glancing at his or her cell phone. Yes, it can be hard not to be glued to that screen when you have access to endless social media — and a camera right at your fingertips. But, seriously, keep your phone stowed away.
The lone exception to having phones at the table is if you’re expecting an important call. If this is the case, keep the phone on vibrate and in your pocket. If you receive the call, step away from the table to take it.
Eating Before Everyone Has Been Served
It can be hard to resist the allure of fresh, hot food, but it’s insanely rude to eat something before everyone at your table has either been served or helped themselves to a plate. Oftentimes, there’s a bit of an etiquette stand-off in these instances, with the unserved diners insisting that others help themselves before the food gets cold, but it’s truly proper to stand firm in not eating.
Setting Your Napkin on Your Lap Too Soon, or Not at All
For something that gets thrown in the garbage or the washing machine, napkins sure are a pain. Many people just leave their napkins on the table, in their rightful place on the left side of their plate. But, most semi-proper people already know to place the napkin in their lap. However, even placing the napkin in your lap has its own nuances. It’s rude to sit the napkin on your lap the moment you sit down. It signifies that you’re hungry and need to eat now.
Talking With Utensils in Your Hand
No dinner would be complete without some conversation, but it’s not as easy as speaking whenever you want with whatever happens to be in your mouth or your hand. Most people know that talking with your mouth full of food (or God forbid, chewing with your mouth open) is a big no-no, but few know that proper etiquette dictates that you set your utensils down when you’re speaking. If you think about it, dangling your fork in your hand or pointing your spoon at someone’s face is pretty unusual. So, if you have something to say, swallow your food and set that utensil down, resting on your plate.
Using Utensils as a Sword or Shovel
There’s proper etiquette for everything, even the manner in which you cut your food and put it on your fork or spoon. First of all, only cut one bite at a time. Then, though it may be hard to resist composing the perfect, fully rounded bite of mashed potatoes, peas, and chicken, you don’t want to be shoveling food onto your fork or into your mouth. You also never want to stab your food. Gently poke your bites with your fork. You shouldn’t necessarily touch the plate with the fork’s prongs.
Correcting Another Person’s Etiquette
Yes, you may be all about etiquette (you are reading an article about proper table manners, after all). But even if you notice another diner at your table engaging in all of the above behavior — or worse — the worst etiquette rule of all is to call someone else out in the middle of a meal. If someone’s behavior is totally abhorrent, kindly tell them about their mistakes after the meal is over. Even then, you should really only point these things out to people you’re incredibly close with.