Table Manners and Dining Etiquette


Tip…..The word “left” has four letters, so does the word fork.  The word “right” has five letters, so do the words knife & spoon.

This is a great way to remember that the fork is on your left and the knife & spoon are on your right.

Table Manners

Napkin – place in your lap, folded in half. The fold goes toward the body, use the inside to blot the mouth.

Passing food – if food is placed on table in bowls, you pass from left to right.

Wait until everyone is served before you begin eating.

Use good posture at the table. Feet flat on floor, chair up to the table, back straight, head up.

Arms and elbows do not belong on the table. The hand you are not eating with goes in your lap.

Elbows tucked in to the side of your body

  • You do not cut all of your meat at once. You cut one bite at a time
  • Bread – you do not cut bread/rolls. Tear a bite off and butter it
  • The fork should come to your mouth – DO NOT lean or bend to meet the fork.
  • Bite small sized amounts! Chew with mouth closed
  • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
  • Soup – the bowl of the spoon should be dipped away from you.
  • Conversation – pleasant, generally not politics or religion.
  • When you have finished eating, your napkin is placed on table to left of plate.
  • Wait until everyone is done to leave the table.

How to use napkins: 

  • In a restaurant:
  • As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case.The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!
  • If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair.
  • At a private dinner party:
  • The meal begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small luncheon napkin or in half, lengthwise, if it is a large dinner napkin. Do not shake it open.The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal.The host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. Once the meal is over, you too should place your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate. (Do not refold your napkin, but don’t wad it up, either.)When to start eating: 

In a restaurant: 

  • Wait until all are served at your table before beginning to eat.

At a private dinner party:

  • When your host or hostess picks up their fork to eat, then you may eat. Do not start before this unless the host or hostess insists that you start eating.



  • Do NOT talk with food in your mouth! This is very rude and distasteful to watch! Wait until you have swallowed the food in your mouth.
  • Don’t blow on your food to cool it off. If it is too hot to eat, take the hint and wait until it cools.
  • Always scoop food, using the proper utensil, away from you.
  • Cut only enough food for the next mouthful (cut no more than two bites of food at a time). Eat in small bites and slowly.
  • Do eat a little of everything on your plate. If you do not like the food and feel unable to give a compliment, just keep silent.
  • Do not “play with” your food or utensils. Never wave or point silverware. Do not hold food on the fork or spoon while talking, nor wave your silverware in the air or point with it.
  • Try to pace your eating so that you don’t finish before others are halfway through. If you are a slow eater, try to speed up a bit on this occasion so you don’t hold everyone up. Never continue to eat long after others have stopped.
  • If the food served is not to your liking, it is polite to at least attempt to eat a small amount of it. It is never acceptable to ask a person why they have not eaten all the food. Don’t make an issue if you don’t like something or can’t eat it – keep silence.
  • Even if you have dietary restrictions, it is inappropriate to request food other than that which is being served by the host at a private function. If you have serious dietary restrictions or allergies, let your host know in advance of the dinner.
  • Loud eating noises such as slurping and burping are very impolite. The number one sin of dinner table etiquette!
  • Do not blow your nose at the dinner table. Excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room. If you cough, cover your mouth with your napkin to stop the spread of germs and muffle the noise. If your cough becomes unmanageable, excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room.
  • Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent or vibrate mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse. It is impolite to answer a phone during dinner. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside of the restaurant.
  • Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
  • Say “Excuse me,” or “I’ll be right back,” before leaving the table. Do not say that you are going to the restroom.
  • Do not push your dishes away from you or stack them for the waiter when you are finished. Leave plates and glasses where they are.

Indian Table Manners

 Eating in an Indian society can be a good experience if you know some of its popular table manners, which might appear strange but have their own significance. Like any other country, India also has some do’s and don’t that one should follow while eating in a social group and one insignificant mistake can make you feel embarrassed or label you as unmannerly and discourteous. To avert any such situation, scroll down and find ABC of the eating manners in India.


Table Manners & Etiquettes in India

  • Traditionally, Indian food is served on a rug on the floor and people are supposed to sit in a circle. In case you are using a table, let the eldest person sit first. The host is supposed to sit in a direction from where he can see everyone around him.
  • When everyone is seated, wait for the food to be served. You should not chatter unnecessarily with the people around you.
  • Indian tradition does not emphasize on the use of cutlery which are considered to be a part of western culture, such as fork and knife. Indian food such as curries and gravies are enjoyed best when eaten with hands.
  • Wash hands properly before starting as much of the food is eaten with hands, even if you are using basic cutleries such as spoon and fork.
  • Wait for the eldest to start first. Even if you are starving don’t attack the food or east hastily. It is considered disrespectful and a bad manner.
  • You are not expected to use your left hand while eating. Even breads and chapattis are broken into pieces using the right hand alone. But you are supposed to transfer food from the common plate using your clean left hand.
  • In north India it is not acceptable to stain your hands with gravies or curries, only fingertips it used to pick and gather food.
  • Don’t flood your plate with food. You don’t have to taste each and every dish served. Finish your whole food before asking for more. Wasting food is considered disrespect to the host and the food.
  • Once you have finished your food, don’t leave the table until the host asks you to. If you have to leave the table, ask for the permission from the people before leaving.
  • Don’t wash your hands in your plate or on the bay leaf and you are not expected to close the bay leaf- if you are in south India. Use a finger bowl (lemon and water) to wash your greasy hands.
  • You are expected to say polite terms like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ as a courtesy towards your host.

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