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Top 10 Rules for Fine Dining

Jamie Frater . . . Comments

Have you ever been out for dinner and been confused by the number of knives and forks? Don’t know what to do with that napkin? This is a list of the top 10 tips to help you get by if you are invited to a fine dining experience. The rules may vary from place to place but this should serve as a good guide.

1. Knives and Forks

Queen Mary 2 Queens Grill Place Setting

This is one of the most common problems for people that are used to flatware (knives and forks) being brought to the table with each course. On a properly set table you usually see a series of forks on the left side of your plate, and a series of spoons and knives on your right (the table is always set for right handed people). The very simple rule is to always work from the outside in; the cutlery farthest away from your plate is for the first course. If you are still unsure what to do, wait and follow your hostess or host.

Always take small portions of food at a time and put your cutlery down between each mouthful. When you put your cutlery down, place it on the plate (never back on the table and do not rest it half on and half off the plate); cross the tips of the two pieces (if there are two) or angle it if there is just one. This tells the server that you are not finished. When you are finished, place your knife and fork together in the centre of the plate vertically. The tines of the fork should point up and the blade of the knife should point to the centre towards the fork.

You should always hold both your knife and fork – you should not cut your food up at the start and then use your fork only (this is an American tradition and is generally fine in America, but not in Europe). The tines of your fork should always point down toward the plate – for difficult foods like peas, you should use your knife to squash them onto the tip of the fork. The fork is not a scoop, do not use it like one.

Do not pick up any cutlery that you drop to the floor. It will be replaced by the server.

Take your dining expertise up another luxurious notch with The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining at!

2. Soup and Pudding


Soup spoons generally come in two shapes – one is shaped like a round bowl, and the other is shaped like an egg. When eating soup the soup bowl must stay on the table. It is never acceptable to drink your soup from the bowl. To eat your soup, push your spoon away from you starting at the centre of the bowl to the farthest edge. Bring the spoon to your mouth and drink the soup from the edge – do not put the whole spoon in to your mouth. Do not slurp.

Pudding is not to be confused with dessert – they are two entirely separate courses though one can take the place of the other. Pudding is a sweet course, whereas dessert is usually fruit or cheese. To eat pudding you are usually given both a fork and a spoon. The pudding spoon is held in the same way as your knife, with the bowl of the spoon facing inwards, and (for right handed people) is held in the right hand. The pudding fork is used as a pusher only. You do not put a pudding fork in to your mouth. Using the fork, push a small portion of your pudding on to the angled spoon. As you lift the spoon to your mouth, tilt it a little so the bowl is now facing upwards. When you have finished eating, the same rules apply here for placing your cutlery back on the plate.

Occasionally the pudding fork and spoon will be found directly above your plate, rather than in the cutlery at the side.

3. Napkins


A napkin is used for one thing only – dabbing the mouth. Never wipe your mouth with a napkin, you should always dab. Your napkin should be unfolded and placed on your knees. It is never acceptable to tuck your napkin in to the front of your shirt or dress. In ancient times this was normal, nowadays it is the height of vulgarity.

If, for some urgent reason, you must leave the table before you have finished, you should place your napkin on your seat (after you have asked your hostess to excuse you). This tells the server that you plan to return. When you are ready to sit down again, simply replace the napkin upon your knee.

If your napkin drops to the floor, it is acceptable for you to pick it up unless the house has a butler or servants near the table. In those cases they will remove the fallen napkin and replace it with a fresh one. Never place anything in your napkin (especially not food).

When you have finished eating, the napkin should be placed tidily (but not refolded) to the left side of your plate (but not on your plate).

4. Glasses and Wine

Wine Glasses1

Normally you will have two or more glasses at the table. Your glasses are on the right upper side of your plate. You can have up to four glasses. They are usually arranged in a diagonal or roughly square pattern. The top left glass is for red wine. It will usually have a fairly large bowl. Directly below that you will find the white wine glass, that will be smaller. At the top right you will find a champagne glass or perhaps a smaller glass for dessert wines or port. on the bottom right is your water glass.

If someone offers a toast to you, you remain seated while the others may stand. Never raise a glass to yourself. You should never touch glasses with other guests when toasting – it is enough to raise the glass in their direction. Keep eye contact when toasting. If you wish to raise a toast, never tap the side of your glass with a utensil, it is the height of rudeness and you could damage very expensive glassware. It is sufficient to clear your throat.

Do not gulp your wine. It is impolite to become drunk in front of the other guests or your hosts. Sip quietly and occasionally. The purpose of the wine at dinner is to complement your food, not to help you along to way to drunkenness. If your server is refilling your glass, you should never place your hand over or near the glass to indicate when you have enough. You should simply tell the server that you have sufficient or tell him prior to pouring that you do not wish to have any more. Never hold the glass for the server to pour your wine.

5. Body and seating


There will usually be a seating plan near the door of the dining room, or place cards on the table. If neither exist, wait to be seated by your hostess. There are strict rules as to whom sits where at the table and it would be extremely embarrassing if you had to be asked to move, both for you and your hostess. Remember, the hostess governs the table, not the host. The host will sit at the head of the table (this is normally the seat farthest away from doors or commotion. To his right sits the wife of the guest of honour and to his left sits the wife of the next gentleman in order of importance. The hostess will have the guest of honour on her right, and the second most important gentleman on her left. The remainder of the seating plan can often be arbitrary but will always alternate based on gender.

When you are seated at the table your feet should be firmly planted on the floor in front of you. Do not cross your legs, do not lean back on your chair, and do not shake your feet. Your elbows should be at your side at all times. Sit upright and do not lean over your plate when you are eating; bring your food to your mouth.

In England, the correct behaviour is to keep your hands on your lap when you are not using them. In France the rule is to keep your hands above the table at all times. You may place them on the edge of the table but you must never put your elbows on the table.

6. Food in General


You must not start eating until everyone has been served. If there are a large number of guests, the hostess may indicate that you may begin before everyone is served. If this is the case, you should begin. If you take a mouthful which contains something you cannot swallow, you should excuse yourself and remove it in privacy. Absolutely do not do so at the table table and never place it in your napkin or on your plate for all to see.

If you are eating something that has stones or pips in it, you may use your forefinger and thumb to remove them from your mouth. Place them on the side of your plate. You must never use a toothpick at the table, nor should you blow your nose. If you have something stuck in your teeth that you must remove, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom to remove it. It is also acceptable to remove bones with your fingers.

Do not salt your meal before you have tasted it; it is an insult to your hostess. If you do need salt, use the tip of a clean knife (if a salt spoon is not provided in the salt dish) to transfer some salt to the side of your plate which you can use for dipping.

Small pre-dinner snacks must always touch your plate before being put in the mouth. Do not take it from the serving tray and put it straight in your mouth.

7. Bread


If you are having bread with your meal there will usually be a small side plate on the left hand side (or above your left left hand cutlery) of your place setting; if so, use it. If not, it is perfectly acceptable to place your bread directly on the table to the left of your plate. You should not put the bread on your plate directly.

Bread should never be cut. When you wish to eat it, tear a bite sized piece off with your fingers. Don’t worry about crumbs if there are no side plates – the servers will sweep each setting between courses if needs be. Normally there should never be butter served at a dinner table, but these days it is seen from time to time. If there is butter, use your butter knife (found either on the bread plate or to the extreme right of your setting) and transfer sufficient butter for your bread in one go. Place it on the side of your side plate. If there is no side plate your hostess should ensure that you have your own individual butter dish. You should butter each piece of bread as you eat it, rather than buttering it all up front.

If you don’t want to don a bow tie and wingtips for the evening, slip into something more comfortable instead and reach for the Guide to Healthy Fast Food Eating at!

8. Conversation

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Unless you know every guest at the table very well, you should not discuss politics, religion, or sex at the table. You should also avoid any controversial subjects that may fall outside of the scope of those three topics. Dinner is meant to be enjoyed, not to be a forum for debate.

You should give equal time to the person sitting on your left and your right. It can be difficult to talk easily with strangers but it is absolutely imperative that you do so that everyone can join in on the conversation. This is such a strict rule that I know of a lady of high standing who was seated next to her greatest enemy. In order to comply with the rule, she simply recited the alphabet to him the whole time. Having said that, I would not recommend this behaviour at all as it implies another kind of rudeness.

Do not yell to the ends of the table. You should speak in low tones but you do not have to act like you are in Church or a Public Library – dinner is meant to be enjoyed and the conversation is a fundamental part of that. If you are not very confident with speaking to others, a good rule of thumb is to ask the person questions about themselves (never personal questions). Everyone loves to speak about himself and this will also make you appear to be a good listener.

9. Difficult Foods


Some foods can be difficult to eat. This is how you should do so:

Artichokes: using your fingers break of one leaf at a time. Holding the spiny end, dip the base in your dish of melted butter or sauce and suck out the fleshy interior with your teeth. Place the remains on your place. Once you reach the soft centre called the heart, use a knife and fork to eat it as you would a steak.

Asparagus: Pick up each stem with your left hand and dip the tip in the butter or sauce. Eat it one bite at a time, never put the whole stalk in your mouth. If you are left with a hard base, you may discard it on your plate. The thick white variety sometimes seen in Europe should always be eaten with a knife and fork, never with your fingers.

Cheese: Small round cheese must always be cut in small pie-shaped wedges. Larger cheeses that have already been cut into a large should be cut from the pointy end first (this is called the nose).

Escargots: These snails are usually served with a special gripping tool and a small fork. Grip the snail shell with the gripper and use the fork to turn the meat out.

Fruit: If a dessert course is served, you will probably have a dessert fork and knife. You should use these on larger pieces of fruit.

10. General Dont’s


Don’t make a fuss. If you don’t like something, leave it.
Don’t blow on hot food to cool it down. Wait for it to cool itself.
Don’t smoke at the table unless invited to by the hostess.
Don’t photograph the table, it looks desperate.
Don’t move your plate after your meal has been served.
Don’t treat the servers badly. It makes you look common.
Don’t eat chicken or chops with your fingers.
Don’t point with your cutlery.
Don’t hold your fork while you drink your wine.
Don’t overstay your welcome

Finally, be sure to say thank you to your host before leaving and send a letter of thanks the next day (if you are lucky you will be invited back).

Bon appetite!

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Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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  • dalandzadgad

    nicely explained, but wow, that’s too much effort. i’m going to stick to my barbaric method of consumption.

  • Monteze

    Who would have thought that putting food into your mouth, chewing, and swallowing could be made so complicated. I agree with dalandzadgad. …. good info though

  • You get used to it eventually and forget all about it. I just wanted to write a post that wasn’t bizarre before the next bizarre videos :)

  • Kelsi

    “If, for some urgent reason, you must leave the table before you have finished, you should place your napkin on your seat (after you have asked your hostess to excuse you).”

    I have actually been taught that (at a formal tea anyway, but I would assume it is the same.) to put the napkin on the chair is inconsiderate as if there is any food etc on your napkin it could stain the upholstery on the chair, thus necessitating the entire set of chairs to be sent to be cleaned since cleaning one would make it a different shade than the others. Instead, the napkin should be placed on the table, just next to the plate I think.

    • ASHLEY

      I agree! If you are not finished, why would you use a napkin that has come in contact with a chair? Disgusting!

  • Kelsi: the napkin is only placed back on the table when the meal is finished. If it is stained with food it would be far worse to make the people at the table look at it than it would be to put it discretely on your chair out of eyeshot. Also, if you have so much mess on your napkin that it will stain the upholstery, what about the expensive tablecloth? And whatsmore, if it is stained that badly, you need to moderate your eating habits as it should only be needed to lightly dab the mouth, not perform a cleanup job.

    • Martin

      very well said totally agree with you. as an owner of fine dinning restaurant

      • Rhyne Centre

        Staining a temporary tablecloth with a napkin is far more polite to me than staining upholstery. I love special events! I’ve worked with Oprah’s roses and ribbons people.

  • Fruckert

    this is why i only go to burger joints to eat

  • Hal

    I’m a big fan of this post. I’m a waiter at a fine dining restaurant and wish that my customers would read this.

    If you’re going to go out to a fine dining place you should know the etiquette it makes my job so much harder when people don’t know how to let me know when they have finished a course, need more wine, have had enough wine, etc…

    Because I’m in a restaurant it’s not so important where the napkin goes when one leaves the table, but when I see a customer put it on the seat I usually get the impression that this isn’t their first diner out.

  • Hal: great to hear someone from the fine dining industry! I have seen some pretty rude behaviour towards waiters and servers and it is very embarrassing. If only parents still taught this stuff to their children as they did in the old days!

  • Fruckert: just because you are in a hamburger joint doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be polite! I won’t demand that you use cutlery though :)

  • kaptanbo

    Great article, as Hal was saying i wish people taught their kids this stuff – i know i will to mine.

    jfrater – you are spot on with everything here – i’m continually amazed living in Manhattan how many Americans are oblivious to this sort of thing.

    Also gents – you wouldn’t believe how many young women notice things like this if you take them out for a nice meal. For example when sampling wine – if the somilier is good enough to whiff your bottle after opening it, you need not taste it – he knows what vinegar smells like.

  • kaptanabo: you raise a very good point here – wine tasting! I could do a whole other list on dos and don’ts for that too. I thought that New Yorkers would be fairly au fait with this stuff so your comment comes as quite a surprise.

  • kaptanbo

    i know, you would have thought so – and many are to be fair. Perhaps it’s the tourists, i’m not sure… I do know however its been far too many times that i’ve impressed the ladies with what i would think to be common knowledge if you’re going to eat somewhere nice.


  • kaptanbo: I have not been to NY yet but I am really looking forward to going some time soon. Do you have any recommendations for a great restaurant? The best food and service I have had was in San Francisco at a great restaurant called Jardinere. It was outstanding in every way.

  • Lew

    Your comment “the table is always set for right handed people” implies there’s any other option, which from an etiquette point of view there obviously isn’t. Eating left handed is another for the Don’ts list.

    Maybe it’s an Australian thing, but butter, far from being “seen from time to time” is always served with bread here.

    As for teaching your children… there wouldn’t be much need if people had any clue themselves. Just make sure your children have real dining experiences, and lead by example. Nothing on this list is news to me, and I wasn’t taught any of it as such.

    For me personally the most important thing on this list is placing your knife and fork correctly at the end of a meal. Nothing makes someone look more ignorant and uncouth than getting that wrong. It’s the one most likely to trip up serving staff, so I suppose it’s the one that can most easily prevent a meal going smoothly. Worst still is these days I get waiters asking me if I’ve finished… when people no longer understand etiquette it loses all meaning.

  • Lew – etiquette does not discriminate against nature. The table is set for right handed people but it is perfectly fine for you to switch the knife and fork in your hand if you are left handed. Gone (thankfully) are the days of beating children for being left handed!

  • You forgot to mention about talking while you eat. Bad.

  • Amanda: that is true – though it is one I presumed most people would know. Thanks for mentioning it here though.

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  • Jodharry

    Beautiful post. You’d be surprised how much of this should essentially be considered a question of both common sense and good manners, rather than a “specialised” fine dining etiquette.

    But alas, it isn’t, and hence the informative post.

    One question I do have, however: when is it considered appropriate for the fine dining attendant / server to refill a wine glass without need of the patron asking?

  • Jodharry: thanks :) I would say that a patron should never need to ask for a wine glass to be filled – the server should automatically do so when the glass is empty. One of my best dining experiences was at a restaurant in San Francisco in which my glass was never empty. It works to their advantage too as I ended up buying a second bottle of the very expensive wine because I got through the first so quickly! I would recommend the place to everyone – it is called Jardiniere, and their website is here.

  • Tom

    This is hilarious. Someone has made up arbitrary rules that everyone must follow or be considered rude… how silly.

    I’d much rather people be educated about not letting their children roam the restaurant than be worried about someone using the wrong spoon. Self important people with too much time on their hands come up with these rules.

  • Tom: the rules have come about over many years of practice – like all rules of etiquette they have a place – they help society to run smoothly. Unfortunately others might think your rule of not letting children run about is also silly. You have your own arbitrary rules that you expect others to follow – there is no difference :)

  • This list is the prime reason why I will never eat at a fine dining resteraunt. It is not that I would not follow the etiquette or that I think it is silly. But I eat because I'm hungry and sometimes the fact that I am a mammal the only thing i think about is; food to mouth, swallow and repeat. If I want conversation I would think there are better places for it.

    • Aaron

      Fine dining is about more than just eating or even just enjoying the food. It is an experience that belongs to all of the senses. You can’t get that from simply chewing and swallowing

  • We have a famous old lady married to a (deceased) Count, who teaches etiquette by TV. She said the same as #14 Lew, table is set for right handed people, don’t change it !!

  • julicans

    I have allergies to some foods and I have always wondered how to deal with this. I would tell the hostess of course, but what if something is in the food that I can’t eat??? Do I pick it out? Do I place the food on the side of the plate? Do I just not eat the dish?

  • n3ph

    Very well written indeed!Apart from the interesting reading, the most amazing thing for me are these comments regarding the article.One can, without any doubt, pick out the americans from the list.Here, let me try a few: dalandzadgad, Monteze, Fruckert, Juggz, Tom, etc.The last one also shows serious psychological issues on top of all other not less serious.Tom, you made me very happy by not being closely related to me….

    • Aaron

      Politeness in dining ought to be a reflection of politeness in one’s daily life. I find it singularly rude to automatically equate Americans with bad manners. While it is true that there are many Americans with no sense of etiquette, if you took the time to look you would find many of them well-mannered and cultured. I imagine that every nation has there fair share of impolite people. I hope that you are not one of them

  • julicans: if you can safely do so, simply eat around the food you are allergic to. It is best not to draw attention to the fact. And always make sure you alert the hostess in advance.

    n3ph: thanks :)

  • Chelsea

    Hm, interesting.

    Also interesting is the assumption that the guest of honor is a) male and b) married… :)

  • Mystern

    After reading this list I realize that my father could run a finishing school. I was required to learn everything on this list by the age of six. The only thing my father taught differently was that in an American restaurant, one should both cut and eat with the right hand (assuming one is right-handed). This creates much unnecessary switching of the fork and knife considering it is impolite to cut you food beforehand. My mother, having grown up in Denmark, taught me to eat with the left hand and cut with the right hand. I later learned that the only reason for the difference dates back to colonial times, and is specifically for Americans to separate themselves from England.
    As a last note about restaurants in different locations, Salt Lake City is pitifully lacking in fine dining. There are a few places, but one worth mentioning is the restaurant in the Grand America Hotel. One of the first questions my server asked me is if I had ever eaten there before. After I told him I had not, he went ahead and explained most of the rules in this article. Needless to say, I was supremely impressed.

  • Mystern: you are very lucky to have been taught these things – I was taught them as well but did research myself later because I have always found them interesting.

  • Charles Grene

    All those rules are great, but most waiters do not follow them. I wish I could count the number of times I have left the knife and fork properly on an otherwise empty plate and then had the waiter come to the table and ask me “are you finished with this?”

  • Kelsey

    It makes me uncomfortable when people stack their plates when finished. I was always taught not to do this, though some of my friends, being waiters themselves, believe it is a big help to whomever buses the table.

    • rakatak

      if u know what to do as a waiter..u dont need stacking….if you are a lazy waiter its a help of course..or better if u are a selftought waiter

  • fishing4monkeys

    Why do you think so many people prefer fast food? They can’t freaking remember how to eat or drink! haha
    Subway is better anyway :D

  • Drogo

    I think I made a mistake when I yelled,”FOODFIGHT!” when I was a guest at the country club.

  • SuaveBugger

    So I think the most important thing is to dine in the spirit of these rules – if your waiting staff don’t know them, then simply come as close to it as you can.

    All of these dining rules have come about for a valid reason – so it’s worth at least paying lip service to all of them.

    This list really ties in nicely to the first date rules… I always err on the side of overboard where it comes to chivalry on the first date, including dining correctly.

  • SuaveBugger: well said! Hear hear!

  • loide

    happy to view your suggest

  • This list is amazing–I was taught these only when I turned 13, by my dad. My dad also loves wine so he taught me the customs of wine tasting and drinking. Good to have a refresher course. Even if it seems like too much–well, I view them as a type of social ritual. they’re fun (:
    to Charles in 30: yeah, actually most waiters are not really aware of these rules. Fewer and fewer people follow this type of etiquette nowadays, unless you are in one of the really ‘higher-end’ type of restaurants.

  • smalls

    HELP! i recently interviewed at a fine dining restaurant and bombed on the test but they are giving me a second interview. the bulk of my experience is bartending in extreme volume live music venues and light management. i do not have much fine dining experience, and i am especially lacking in wine knowledge. however, my mamasan taught me well so i do have manners. any tips on becoming a fine dining server/bartender? i.e. (or e.g.?) ‘leave left and retrieve right’ thanks (smile)

  • rushfan

    **You must never use a toothpick at the table, nor should you blow your nose.**

    My inlaws think it is perfectly normal to blow your nose during dinner. It was so gross eating with them. I never understood what they were thinking. It’s not even a matter of etiquette, it’s just nasty.

  • Gabbie :)

    Thanks for such a useful list. I just got a job for a waitress recruitment agency and was trained in silver service. The training lasted 3 hours, but it wasn’t half as easy to understand and remember as this list.
    Thanks again!

    • rakatak

      3 hours…lol……takes u 3 years in europe to become a trained waiter,,i know half what u know is never used but its needed to open your own joint

  • SEva

    If I am serving food do I pass the food to thier left? Meaning my right thier left? I always confuse mysef.

  • SEva: serve food from the left. Serve drinks from the right. Remove food/plates from the right. The easy way to remember is “remove – right” – they both start with R. And wine glasses are on the right of the person you are serving – which is a good reminder to always pour from the right side. Oh – and in this context left is the left of the person you are serving. You would not be in front of the person so you should be standing at their left (which is also your left) anyway :)

  • rushfan: I just noticed your comment – worse than blowing your nose at the table is doing it in a cloth napkin!!! I have seen it done- not pretty.

  • duckie sto. domingo

    it’s a great list! very educational. just when i thought hoteliers like me learned everything we knew about fine dining was correct, here comes a list that reminds you of how it should be done. i’ve been checking out this website for two hours now and this is the first list that i’ve read from start to finish.

  • Americangirl

    I do believe manners should be taught at home but it would be terrific if schools had etiquette classess as well.

  • JBank

    A wonderful list of rules.

    Is it acceptable to play music whilst people are eating?

  • smvilla

    Great recap on proper table set-ups. I do have a question in regards to the intermezzo: when serving a sorbet in between courses, is it wrong to spruce up the sorbet with a small garnish?

  • singapore airlines

    Ha Ha, in the Airlines, we just wrap up all the cutlery in the napkin and put it on the right side of the passengers.

    As we have an international mix of diners in First Class cutlery signals are not that important, just remove the chinaware and replace with new ones when the passenger is done eating.

    And putting a dirty napkin in the seat is the last thing you want to.

    As for wines, all wine glasses should only come in one shape and size for twirling around and sniffing the bouquet.

    Trust the stupid French to come up with Ridiculous shapes and sizes of Goblets.

    Eating should be done the Oriental way, just lay all the courses on the table for the diner to pick and choose as he wishes which to eat first or mix and match.

    This certainly cuts the costs of man hours standing by the diner to wait for him to Nibble for hours on a piece of meat.


    This way you do away with all the FUSS and you Digest your food BETTER anyway…….


  • singapore airlines


  • Renee

    I really enjoyed this list! I’m passing it along to all my friends. I think it’s important to know the proper way to conduct yourself, especially at a formal dinner or professional occasion. #1 is good info, I always wondered how and when to place your utensils on the plate. Thanks!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • punkgirl3212

    why do we need to study this? what does it signify and does it counts?

  • Nate Livingstone

    Awesome post, there’s a lot I wasn’t practicing when dining at expensive/fine restaurants. I think my only criticism would be pictures. it would have been beneficial I’d have thought to display pictures of how the cutlery should be held.
    But this is really educational, and I’ll be sure to point a few people in this direction.
    Good job!

  • timmy the dying boy

    What about candy bars? Do I use a knife or a dessert spoon with my fork? Or does it depend on the kind of bar?

  • Dan

    Hey you just saved my life really thanx because what you did
    if you can mail me more details i’ll be really glad thanx agian

  • Madie

    Hey, I’m in Europe, and I was always taught it was the height of bad manners to steal the gooey point of the cheese. Is it different in America? Here Cheeses cut in to wedges are always cut along the long side of the wedge.

    Great site! I love coming on here and reading the facts. :)

  • porkido

    After all that, it’s ‘bon appetit’…

  • Gloria

    This is a commmen for the author from the #5 comment above. I dined at the Rainbow Room in New York City several years ago. My son was about 13. He got up to use the rest room and placed his napkin on his chair. The Maitre d/Headwaiter came over to my son’s seat and picked up the napkin and placed it next to his plate and smiled at me. Now, while I think this is highly insulting because I believe an establishment should never correct a customer, he DID correct my son’s placement of where the napkin should be left. So what would YOU say to that waiter if he moved YOUR napkin from your chair to next to your plate?

  • Shienhardt Wig Co. Exec VP

    I will be sure to print this out and neatly fold it into my dinner jacket pocket and read it during dinner the next time I am invited to the White House.

  • EyesWideShut

    Unfortunately, i don't eat meat and don't drink alcohol. I was very embarrassed when i was invited to an event and i ate only the bread & dessert. The host apologized a zillion times and i was all red-faced.

    • your mother

      wow your dumb

      • misaistheboofy


        • tits_mgee

          love it

  • Khay

    For a first timer like’s very helpful

  • Mike

    I knew most of these, but I’m going to disagree with the “no salting after tasting” one… is that one really that accepted?

  • .

    i think these rules are snobby and pretentious, its just so idiots can feel better about themselves. and i am not american but do come from a well to do family and we have all decided never to eat at these places ever again after our first experience. it was a total farce, it was like being in a theatre, when the primary purpose is to eat food, and have a good time, it was absolutely ridiculous, im all good manners at the dinner table, but this absurdly stupid, anyone who regularly does this has too much time on their hands, there are more important in life than which spoon to eat dessert with, or which glass to drink water with, im suprised they don’t have rules on when you can breathe lol, againtoo much time nothing better to do.

  • victor

    riduculous comes to mind, we are not in undemocratic royal courts of 17th century europe, just a bunch of non-entities aspiring to royal status, such pretension, this is 2009 people get yourself a life.
    put food in mouth,chew, swallow,
    by george i think you can now it food

  • Yumi

    Actually, only in Western etiquette is it inappropriate to drink your soup from the bowl.

  • Soni

    @victor: These aren’t as old as you may think a lot of this stuff was taught in schools well into the 50’s. You may think people are losers for recognizing good manners, but you would be judged far worse at say a wedding (which is definitely a place where you would expect this behavior even in 2009) when you felt it was sufficient to get the food into your mouth without a major malfunction.

    I worked in fast food for almost five years and I know alot of people have trouble with even that…

  • anon

    this list needs to be renamed “Top 10 Rules for Fine Dining in a WESTERN ENVIRONMENT”.

  • apotheosis

    If absolutely necessary to break wind at table, please use the “one-cheek sneak” method. If your hostess is seated to the left, please aim right, and vice versa. If the guests surrounding you express delight or awe, you may claim your wind proudly; else keep silent, or blame it on the maid.

    It’s just good breeding, don’t you see.

    *adjusts monocle*

  • angelcross

    thanx a lot for this info….although such an elaborate rules just for eating sounds too complicated and to be fair a little nuisance but i feel that in a formal setting these manners might actually be very helpful and ( even appreciated by host i guess).

    although i would still prefer my regular simple ways but i hope some day knowing these little details might save me from committing and embarrassing mistake. thanx….

  • lazarus

    These “rules” seem to extend far back to the time when most people had slaves serving their meals….I mean, really!! To have to put your knife and fork down on your plate in an appropriate fashion? Gimme a break. Seems to me some people have too much time on their hand…

  • Wizard

    perfect for the common person, these instructions are essential for fancy restaraunts and going to dinner parties at places like you bosses house or with any sort of sophisticated VIP, thankyou for fortifing my understanding of table manners. as i have already been taught, I find people who play with their food, people who scull their wine (shocking), people who cut their bread and knife the butter without taking it and placing some on the plate and people who eat with their mouth open most offending and especially (which you haven’t mentioned but should)not asking to pass the platter of food or jug and just reaching and grabbing it over your meal.

  • Wizard

    it’s sad to see that most of the comments posted here are negative, this person who wrote this it actually trying to help you guys thats all, (going to the whingers) imagine this, what if you are invited (unlikely) to a fancy restauraunt or white tie dinner (I hope most of you know what this means) and not knowing what to do when it comes to common table ediqutte, and complaining about this is typical of the feral, bogan or commoner to perpetuate. most of us have every right to be pretentious of some of the people who wrote these comments here because it mirrors the behavior of what the people who cannot even say please or thankyou, aka the bogan.

  • Lorcan

    These rules should be considered de rigour- it’s true you need to pay equal attention to each person to your immediate right & left- even if you detest each other.

    I once ended up in dining in a private suite at the races, having to make polite conversation to a politician I detested. So in French (to be more discreet about it) at the beginning I quietly told him I would be polite so long as he did not argue my views on politics, for the sake of everyone else (who were of the opposition anyway)- otherwise I would be unable to hide my comtempt. He ignored what I considered to be a polite request, argued with me about my own father’s stance on the Lisbon treaty to the disgust of everyone else- at which point I lost it and asked him whether he thought since we were discussing the subject, his decision to choose not to support protecting the average wage by voting Yes, was a direct result of his earning so much money it made no difference to him? He coughed, said nothing and ignored me for the rest of the meal.

    At the end, to his irritationa and humiliation, the host raised his glass and winked at me. There’s a lot to be said for breaking the rules of ettiquete- and it’s never worth it. Learn them- you never know when you’ll need them.

  • Nezzy

    Having been part of several boring diplomatic dinners, I must say this list is a very good example of manners. It becomes second-nature after a while, it isn’t any sort of problem to learn. Quick and easy. However, I must say this: although you should never talk about politics, religion or sex, do not be afraid to spice up the conversation a little and keep everybody from snoring into their plates!

  • Sandy

    I feel more pretentious just for reading this. Why do people really go through such ridiculous formalities to put food in their mouths?

    Yet, knowing these is more than just looking fancy. For example, among the type of people that dine this way, very subtle breaches of these rules can be a way to make a point without making a fuss or a lot of noise or attracting a lot of attention – if a server is inappropriately slow due to laziness or lack of attention, breaching a minor “this is rude to the server” rule can be an effective way of saying that it’s noticed and not appreciated, without causing a scene or having to vocalize displeasure.

  • Sanjuro

    Etiquette is like a religious ritual.

  • porkido

    My table is mine (especially if I’m dropping a fortune), and, other than highly-offensive cultural affronts (passing food chopstix-to-chopstix, eating with the left hand in the wrong country, etc.), I’ll eat as I please…often with my fingers. The number of Michelin stars is irrelevant.

    I will not tell the chef how to cook, and I won’t be told how to eat.

  • porkido

    @Sandy(74): I think a lot of the pomp reflects the mood a resto is trying to establish and sell…they see it as part of the experience, part of the brand…Sanjuro is quite right: the ritualistic aspects tend to make the diner feel reverent, in awe…and less shocked when they get the bill…

  • Aus

    I’m not trying to be a naysayer, and I understand the use of these practices as “ritual” or simply social status signals. I also understand the need to enjoy something otherworldly and expensive once in a while. However, I disagree with nearly the whole fiasco of fine dining.
    Some 30,000 people a day die for lack of simple sustenance.
    In my mind, it seems far more rude to drop $500 (conservative estimate) on a single meal (enough money to feed a large village, or to sustain one impoverished child through to adulthood) than it is to place one’s napkin on one’s plate.

    Perhaps worth mentioning here is that my job is to prepare meals for residents of a “five-star” retirement home, where they pay four to ten grand a month in rent alone.

  • jajajaja

    Seriously, why go through all of that for a simple meal. Eating Should be nothing but a neccesary part of life and not a way to show people what lengths you would go to as a desperate attempt to look sophisticated.

  • bbobbyh

    Most of what you write is pretty well known. I have been in the service industry for some time and was always taught that you place your fork upside down on your plate (with your knife) when you are finished. If it is right side up then you are still eating. I usually do not ask a person if they are finished with there plate, however, I may ask if I may remove their plate. I am sure that this is not exactly right, however, several times when the flatware was on the plate and I had seen that they seemed to be done, I was told by the person that they were not finished with that.

    I guess I would have to agree that all of this is the proper way, just not practiced in most everyday settings anymore.

    But thanks for the information.

  • Megara

    Table manners,(as well as any other behaviour we have), denote “class”. You may live in a palace and have fancy dinners every day, or live in a hut, and have hamburgers and hot dogs, but table manners should never be forgotten. They should be taught to children from the first minute they are able to hold a spoon. This is something you will never regret teaching them!
    It is very rewarding when someone tells you how well your children behaved and how well-mannered they are! Wait till you have children!!

  • Liz

    I’m surprised this wasn’t mentioned… but ONLY hold your wine/champagne glasses by the stem, never the actual cup. Doing so leaves fingerprints and is incredibly rude, yet almost everyone I’ve seen who drinks wine holds it incorrectly.

  • mohammad

    hello my dear I was so glad while I was sitting with my friend reading all your information that you wrote about dining it wa very good , please do me a favor and write to me about waiters how they have to behave and how they have to serve and also how to tie the napkins I will be very pleased
    Sincerly yours .
    Mohammad restaurant manager……..

  • Anonymous

    I was actually getting irritated reading this, and I am glad that these “rules” aren’t widely followed by the general public anymore. Everything stated on here is just nonsense, and to say this crap “helps society run smoothly” is just idiotic. These “rules” are completely unnecessary, and were clearly made by the snobby wealthy people who think they are better than the middle and lower class. I find it ironic that the list mentions that dinner is meant to be enjoyed, when obsessing over useless things like these does nothing but take the joy out of it. There really are no good reasons for any of these rules. Pretty much nobody that I know follows any of them, and yet they all get through their meals with no problems for them or anybody else around them, so what exactly are they good for? They certainly don’t make anything better, nor are they efficient. They really just add unneeded effort. For some people here to say that people should be taught this bull at a young age is basically like saying we should worry about teaching our children pointless nonsense instead of worrying about more important things. It’s one thing to say that kids shouldn’t run around the restaurant causing a commotion, because that type of behavior can logically be considered rude, as it can disturb or interrupt other people trying to eat or talk to their friends/family. Scooping your peas with a fork, however, isn’t doing any kind of harm to you or anybody around you. I’ll continue to eat food how it is meant to be eaten; simply. I hope more people are on the same boat as me so these senseless rules can just die off.

    • abc

      These rules are meant for fine dining, not everyday eating. And it's not really that hard, one read through of this and I feel I could be a sufficient house guest. I guess people get really lazy these days. And before you say I'm a snob, or a bigot, I'll just have you know I'm not an eighty year old trying to impose the fashion of yester-year, I'm an OPEN MINDED 18 year old who can see the values in other people's cultures and beliefs.

  • oedura

    F-ck all of this ridiculous BS.

  • Chase

    wow i feel like king ralf after reading this haha!

  • BobFrank

    Can somebody explain this one?
    “Don’t photograph the table, it looks desperate.”

    How does it look desperate? Desperate for what?

    • abc

      It makes you look desperate in the way that you'd find the necessity to document the evening, perhaps you don't attend many fine dinners, maybe that's why you look desperate

  • Decline

    After reading comments #84, #85, #79 and all the rest like them, I fear for the future of humanity. If one cannot understand the need to maintain some form of decorum when the situation calls for it, we’re all doomed.

    Enjoy your KFC, belchers. I hope your children live up to the high standards I’m sure you’ll set for them.

    Lord help us all.

  • Bayluv

    When in Rome…The one thing we should all take to point is respecting your host. If you are with your close friends and family then who cares, but if your in some five star restaurant where these norms are probably applicable, then you should at least attempt to respect the culture of the fine dining atmosphere, and the other diners who do find these norms somehow valueble. It doesn’t hurt to know these silly rules, most of them seem to be common sense anyways, and some dont. Knowledge is never bad, and knowing this stuff can come into some use, mainly if your rich. Since the beginning of humanity there have been plenty of silly norms. Many people think this is one of them however, this is who we are and these ettiquette guidlines are just one small aspect of the culture of humans and our journey through time.

  • anonymous

    People actually agreeing with this shit should watch Penn&teller's bullshit on manners

  • asdfg

    Or shall I say a more moderate approach would be right?
    Neither ‘food is food, chew and swallow’ nor ‘don’t-place-a-grain-of-rice against the etiquette.’ You can always ask your children not to run around and restrict them, that’s universally undeniable.
    Well, i’m sure these rules are in place only to make life more civilized? so it’s alright till a certain extent, where you don’t chew in a manner that disgusts other.
    However if you hold the fork in the wrong hand, it won’t annoy or harm anyone practically. Let’s make ourselves comfortable and our lives easier. I fine-dine regularly and i’m well-aware of these rules, which admittedly I do mostly follow keeping with the setting of the place, but that’s just only as i’m comfortable with i shall say, now. I never make/made an effort.However, my point is I don’t look down upon anyone with annoyance if they fail to follow any of these rules(other than the basic).
    It’s more about class and standards, usually dividing people. A person could be more than how he holds his knife which could only be because he just doesn’t know.
    It brings respect in picture and significantly compromises on it.

  • elke

    I was raised in a fairly traditional home setting, but etiquette such as this was never imposed unless it was a completely formal occasion. Alas, that was a good 15 or so years ago, and as I am only 19 I'm sorely disappointed I wasn't raised with this sort of formality.

  • kim

    I was taught serve on the left clear from the right – this is what I teach. But many restaurants serve and clear on the right or they serve platters Russian style on left but plated American style they serve on the right. Please clear this for me to understand. Thank you.

  • roberto

    hello,i work in restaurant 4 stars my cuestion is the servers can used a big tray to run the food or we have to do that by hand wich one is consired fine dining thankyou.

    • RAK

      a tray looks cheap to me…..should all be served and carried by hand

  • Boris

    An excellent post with some regional differences ofcourse. Still I must agree with a poster above me, being a bloody socialist and all. While these high end rules do make society run smoother and while I do find it offensive when common blokes break them completely I do find it far more offensive to pay for dinners and parties in the value of putting a person through adulthood.

    Or feeding a whole villages like that one said before me.
    Why can't we be polite and courteous to each other while enjoying something that doesn't cost the productive force of a nation 10 men and women to just stare at us and stand, waiting for someone to drop a fork?

  • Simsim

    As far as I was taught chicken is allowed to be eaten with the hands the queen of england even invites her guest to eat the chicken with their hands.

  • james

    While some of this is enlightening, it is so crazy, even in your directions, how incredibly arrogant it all sounds. Seriously, "common folk", desperate for taking pictures. Even if this is for noobies who want to try fine dining— don't make the rest of the world seem so barbaric. Some of this stuff is quite horrible, here let's listen to this person I hate babble about himself(with nothing interesting to discuss, since the rules state it must not be personable). Who goes out to eat with people you can't relate to?
    It just seems so fake and fabricated, I think it is more barbaric than the rest of the "common" folk. I would rather listen to two people be humans than be robots with static and boring conversations.
    I am a waiter at two restaurants both casual one a bit more up-scale, I would be much more offended if the guests treated me like furniture than an actual person. From what your post says, I assume patrons talk very little(maybe thankful remarks with their ungenuine gratitude) to their servers nor care to even look at them at these establishments. What a horribly boring and unrewarded job it must be to serve at these places (and I am not talking money, because I am sure you're getting paid waaaay too much.)
    I am not 100% against this post and yes I know this is for FINE dining only. But the remarks about the other 80% of the world are quite offensive and hightened the arrogance behind your teachings.

  • Parry

    Why bother to follow such antiquated customs when the common man seems to be forgetting them?

    Such snobby social gatherings, where these customs are still followed, are best avoided. They're full of fake, pretentious people. God has given us two hands. Why should I eat my food with a fork if I am comfortable using my hands? In some parts of the world, it is impolite *not* to use your hands!

    How someone can enjoy themselves in gatherings where they have to follow so much "etiquette" is beyond me. Nothing is better than an xbox with buddies and a large pizza and coke (and remember, use your hands)!

  • danne

    SOOO boring only thing funny here is the dont photograph your food, cant believe I read it all

    • juney4

      ditto im all for manners , there is such thing as over the top could you imagine someone taking a photograph of your food. i cant believe i read it all as well i was very intrigued.

  • Sir Greekguy

    My God this was depressing!!!!
    I come from a family thats been in the restaurant business for 44 years now. 218 of them in Germany and the rest here in Greece. I will never understand how those rules are still beeing followed, especially coming from a culture where dining is a social gathering with peolple you want to have around you and not people you should have around you or be seen with.
    This to me is depresing as like many other rules of etiquete opresses the guest/person. Something as enjoyable as food shouldn’t have 127 rules attached to it.
    But in a time where class is no longer defined by possesions and accumulated wealth (as it is not impossible for a “commoner” to become filthy rich –long live the internet:)) it is important for those that need to stand out for any reason to stick to or invent arbitrary rules for themselves and the social cyrcles they would like to be part of.

    That’s my two eurocents, the opinion of a commoner….


    P.S. i think it should be more important for the anglo-saxons amongst us to teach their kids a second language than fine dining etiquete, so we don’t get yapis every summer yelling “why don’t cha learn betta english?”

    • The rules of etiquette don’t oppress – they enabled social gatherings to be enjoyed by all. Etiquette says don’t pick your nose at the table – should we throw that out because it is oppressive? You just want to throw out the rules you don’t like while keeping those you do. You can’t have your cake and eat it too! :) Oh – and this list has nothing to do with class; being poor is no excuse for bad manners. And in times past class wasn’t defined by possessions either – it was defined by family lineage. Many upper class families are poor – and many lower class families are incredible rich.

  • cynicalgenius

    Anyone that remembers all these rules and their application at the ‘right’ moment should get a medal of some sort.

  • Balaji

    Nice informations i gathered frm tis thank u for tat.
    U should give more tips about
    serving wine & serving food

  • FreddieMercury

    we say “Bon Appetit” but the anglo saxsons pronounce the “t” at the end which is wrong :D

  • irratam


  • fluorma


  • Sweania


  • meakich


    • Abhishek

      In South Indian eating manners, one sits with folded legs on a mat and eats only with his right hand using only fingers. When one is done eating he must fold the banana leaf which serves as a one time usable and 100 eatable by Elephant’s plate.

      The 5-11 courses diners and with all these rules are for and created by European Royalty, and in colonial period they spreaded it in their colony’s indigenious royals. Even a Maharaja when hosting a ritual hindu dinner never everusesforks and knives.

  • EV

    Several of these rules are ridiculous. Society changes over time and rules of etiquette do as well. Besides the unnecessary and elaborate nature of these rules they are discriminatory. I am left-handed and not only is it silly to expect me to adhere to placement which is intended for right-handed people it also makes the already elaborate rules even harder to follow. Also as proof of the rules being outdated, why is it assumed that the host will have a wife? I am male and I have a husband. How are we supposed to know who sits at the head of the table? Is it the one with more traits which are stereotypically attributed to males? And as for the many shapes of glasses and types of flatware, why does it matter? A glass is a glass and a fork is a fork. Instead of being offended by those who do not strictly adhere to every one of these rules we should be offended by those who would be offended by someone using the wrong fork.

  • TheBlackFrost

    I’m sorry, but whoever wrote this must have some serious issues.
    Unless you are dining with royalty, if you’re paying for your meal, you should eat however you damn well please. And please, if you are a man, if you eat pizza or wings or other manly food with a fork. You are defying the bro code and you must be eliminated

  • MunchGuide

    I’ve been working in the restaurant industry for quite some time and I couldn’t agree more. I actually love going in a fancy restaurant and enjoy many courses such as appetizers, entrees and desserts. But that’s just me. Great article.

  • austin sams

    im 14, and i am extremely offended when a kid my age cant figure out how to sit in a chair properly or even say thank you once the a waiter or waitress. its just rude. my parents always take me to all the fine places they eat because they know i wont be so immature and disrespectful. i cant remember the last time i haven’t at least tried to say thank you to to the waiter for simple things. and most of this is just common sense. my parents are always dinging out with prestigious and extremely rich people and are never afraid of taking me with them. i would never embarrass them in front of other people like that.

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  • michael

    Great article….foudnd it surfing looking for school related items in hospitality. tell me what you think about writing restaurant reviews….…..your thoughts would be nice!

  • hemanth

    great list but i pwould prefer a pizza

  • Jyre

    i hate etikute or however u spell it

  • Jyre (J-paw)

    who wud wanna see a stachue of a naked dude u pple hav no taste in art thats disgusting

  • jannel

    these are some good rules i like it

  • Monica

    My mother’s friend invited me to a dining at a fancy resteraunt. I was reading this list in the car and when we ate, the friend kept smiling and nodding at me. I would like you for letting me give a nice impression.

  • Dee Jay

    Your content for this web site is absolutely very good,but I am having issues registering on your RSS feed, I’ll now check out each day this site. Thanks.

  • barry

    i have a question regarding “difficult foods.” i think there are too many. my question specifically is about seafoods. how do you properly debone the fish on the table. and second, how do you eat a whole crab? it’s messy.

  • CP

    I suppose no one ever told you not to say “Bon appetite”.

  • decypher01

    JFrater, I appreciate that you are taking time to write this article. All my life I have never tried to eat out with a fine dining restaurant, until the time I was invited by my boss. My first experience was terrible, I was so afraid to commit some stupid mistakes. What I did was just copy what they are doing and eating. This article will surely be added on my bookmark list :)

    I apologize for my bad english.

  • G.R. restaurants

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  • Name

    “…you should not cut your food up at the start and then use your fork only (this is an American tradition and is generally fine in America, but not in Europe)”.

    This is not an American tradition. This practice is considered rude or, at the very least, lazy in the United States.

  • Name

    How do I politely refuse alcohol?

  • din standards

    You really make it appear really easy with your presentation however I to find this matter to be really one thing which I believe I might never understand. It kind of feels too complex and very broad for me. I’m having a look ahead in your subsequent post, I’ll attempt to get the dangle of it!

  • Universal Revival

    There goes my dinner with the queen..

  • Kyle

    It’s nice to read a guide like this for interest’s sake and hopefully if I ever have a fine dining experience I can remember all (or at least most) of this. However, reading some of these comments about how kids should be taught how to eat properly makes me sick. It just comes off as pure snobbery when I’m told my child should know how to eat without unintentionally insulting someone by placing his/her elbows on the table. I would rather teach my kids some more useful and important things.

  • Bennie Bellfleur

    Great post. I was checking continuously this weblog and I am inspired! Very helpful information particularly the final part :) I handle such information a lot. I was looking for this particular info for a very long time. Thanks and good luck.

  • Pat Bradley

    This is a terrific post–especially in this day and age… But is the napkin on the chair (upon having to momentarily leave the table) an ‘updated’ rule? My (50 anniversary) edition of Emily Post says to leave the napkin loosely folded on the right side of the plate.

  • This well-written article seems geared more toward European than American manners. I learned most of this from just being immersed in polite surroundings and tried to instill good manners in my child. I remember the first time I took my son to a white-glove restaurant; the waiter brought him a fish knife, a utensil he’d never seen before. He was intrigued by the pomp and circumstance of it all and wanted to learn more!

    Although this article seems thorough, it failed to mention pushing your chair in when you excuse yourself from the table. When I was single, any gent who failed to do that wasn’t granted another date. These rules show good breeding.

  • Mary

    When going out to dinner where should you put your clutch purse?

  • Cfolsom1

    This seems a little unnecessary. Think about it, in the grand scheme of things our only instincts are eat, drink, sleep, and mate (mostly the last one). I always say: “if a cave man wouldn’t do it, neither would I”. Which I guess takes me back to my Dominos pizza, beer, and watching “American” football. Dang it! Now I’ve gotta lick the sauce stain off my boxers!

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