Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen

Mitch
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Imagine sitting at a finely set table, silverware gleaming, glasses clinking subtly in the ambient chatter. Is that a bead of sweat trickling down your forehead? Don’t fret – we’ve all committed a slip-up or two.

This isn’t your grandmother’s etiquette class; no doilies or white gloves here! I’m here to spill the beans on the 20 most common dining etiquette faux pas made by Americans that would make a French maître d’ gasp in horror. Ready to chew the fat (metaphorically, of course)? Bon appétit!

Putting Elbows on the Table

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Ah, the age-old question of elbows – to put them on the table or not? Now, I’ve seen this mistake being committed countless times. Well, let me set the record straight.

According to American writer and traditional etiquette expert Emily Post, “Elbows on the table are okay only when no eating is going on (such as between courses, or when everyone has finished eating).” So, next time you sit down to a meal, remember to keep those elbows off the table – it’s respect for the dining experience.

Forgetting the Magic Words: “Please” and “Thank You.”

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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This might seem elementary, akin to Dining Etiquette 101, but it’s astounding how often these polite phrases are M.I.A. at the table. Before latching onto that last bread roll like a life raft, consider a polite “Could you please pass the bread?”

And remember, every act of hospitality, whether passing the salt or pouring the wine, deserves a warm “thank you.” It’s the simplest way to avoid sinking your social ship.

Rsvp-Ing ‘Yes’ to a Catered Event, Then Committing an Abrupt No-Show

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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When you commit to an event, the hosts plan with you in mind: seating arrangements, meals, and even the delicate balance of the guest list all hinge on your presence.

In the words of dining etiquette expert Julia Post, “An RSVP is a promise, not a maybe. When you don’t show up, it’s not just impolite—it’s a breach of trust.” So next time you say ‘yes,’ ensure your schedule is as committed to that ‘yes’ as you are.

Wrong Knife Placement When Switching to a Fork

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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I’ve seen many a diner commit the cardinal sin of incorrect knife placement when frolicking with their fork! Jokes aside, the knife should rest at the top right of your plate, blade facing inward when not in use.

This isn’t just a random rule – it’s a silent signal to your fellow diners and waitstaff that you’re taking a pause. It’s not just good manners—it’s knife etiquette 101!

Talking With a Full Mouth

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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To quote American chef Julia Child, “People who love to eat are always the best people.” However, nobody loves a chatterbox with a mouth full of food.

It’s not just a question of aesthetics—although watching a semi-chewed piece of steak doing the samba as you pontificate about politics can undoubtedly put a damper on the appetite. So, as a rule of thumb: chew, swallow, then chat. Your dinner companions will thank you.

Leaving Dirty Silverware on the Table Instead of the Plate

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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It’s a sight that might not seem like a big deal, but it’s a serious breach of dining etiquette. Etiquette expert Emily Post once said, “A dining table is not a resting place for soiled utensils.”

After finishing a course, your knife and fork should be placed diagonally across your plate, with the fork tines down and the knife blade facing inward. This signals to your server that you’re done eating and that they can clear your place setting.

Buttering Bread Incorrectly

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Let’s set the scene; the waiter brings you a basket of fresh, warm bread right from the oven. You grab a slice, slather it with butter from crust to crust, and take a big bite, right? Wrong!

The correct way is to tear off a bite-sized piece, butter it individually, then enjoy. Tear, butter, eat, and repeat. A smidge more labor-intensive but infinitely more elegant.

Wolfing Down Your Meal

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Yes, we get it – your palate is on cloud nine, overrun with flavors, but the dinner table isn’t an episode of Man vs. Food. In our on-the-go culture, inhaling your food in record time is tempting, but doing so isn’t just a breach of dining etiquette; it’s also detrimental to your digestion.

Slow down, savor each bite, enjoy the company, and remember: that steak isn’t going anywhere—unless you’re having dinner in a self-driving car, in which case, all bets are off!

Holding Utensils Incorrectly

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Missteps, while not fatal, can create an unsightly spectacle. Holding your fork like it’s a shovel ready to dig a trench through your mashed potatoes or clutching your knife as though it’s a weapon in a medieval battle isn’t just uncivilized; it’s bad form.

Julie Frantz, owner and instructor of Everyday Etiquette and Etiquette Consultant to the Saint Paul Hotel (Mn), succinctly says, “Remember, you’re enjoying a meal, not spearfishing in the wild. Your utensils are tools of elegance, not weapons of mass destruction.”

Chewing With Your Mouth Open

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Ah, the audacious symphony of mastication! It’s surprising how many people underestimate the impact of noisy chewing on the dining experience. It’s distracting, unpleasant, and, quite frankly, robs the meal of its delectable charm.

So, let’s dial down the decibels, shall we? Not only is subtlety in chewing a sign of good manners, but it also adds some je ne sais quoi to the whole dining experience. Don’t be the person remembered for their dining soundtrack.

Reaching for Food and Shared Items on the Table

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Ah, the dance of the dinner table—the reach, the stretch, the hopeful extension towards that last piece of garlic bread. We’ve all been there, but here’s the thing: reaching across the table for food or shared items is a no-no, a veritable etiquette crime scene.

Remember, folks, when the butter dish or the salt shaker is just out of reach, simply ask the person closest to the item to pass it to you. After all, good manners are about making everyone around the table feel comfortable.

Burping Without Covering Your Mouth

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Burping without covering your mouth is an all-too-common etiquette misstep that we’ve all witnessed, and believe me, the horror never ceases. Now, nothing says ‘I’m oblivious to your feelings’ quite like a resounding belch in an unsuspecting person’s face. It’s like an unwanted acoustic gift that keeps on giving.

The solution is simple: cover your mouth and excuse yourself when you feel a burp coming. This small gesture makes all the difference in maintaining the dining atmosphere and, more importantly, your relationships.

Slouching

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Ah, slouching, an all-too-familiar posture that many of us unconsciously fall into, especially after a long meal. Slouching not only exhibits a lackadaisical attitude but also sends signals of disinterest and disrespect to your dining companions.

It’s equivalent to saying, “I’d rather be napping than be here with you.” So straighten up, pull those shoulders back, and engage in the conversation. Remember, at the table, your posture speaks before you do.

Talking Over People

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman once said, “Listening is as important in a conversation as speaking.” Imagine you’re in the middle of a fascinating anecdote about your latest adventure, and suddenly, someone bulldozes over your story with their own. Rude, right?

Respect the flow, slow down, and realize that your fellow diners’ opinions are equally worthy of airtime as your own. Let’s not play conversation Jenga, shall we?

Eating Before Everyone Is Seated

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Oh, the eager eaters! Yes, we’ve all seen it, and some of us might even be guilty of this dining faux pas. Diving in before everyone has even had the chance to settle down. It’s not a race, folks! This common mistake stems from either voracious hunger or just plain ignorance.

But remember, patience is a virtue, especially at the dining table. Taking a minute to ensure everyone is seated and served makes the meal more enjoyable and the conversation oh so much better!

Scooping Soup Wrongly

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Here’s a “souper” common faux pas, pun intended! One of the most common blunders I’ve seen is where the soup is scooped toward the individual – an absolute no-no in fine dining.

The correct method passed down from generations of etiquette experts is to scoop the soup away from you, starting at the point nearest to you. It’s like saying, “Go on, little soup. Explore the world!” A small change, but it makes a big difference.

Using the Wrong Utensils for Different Courses

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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As William Shakespeare once quipped, “There’s a method in the madness,” and nowhere is this more apt than the great American dining dilemma – the bewildering array of utensils.

Picture this: a shivering shrimp cocktail, valiantly trying to cling onto a dinner fork or a steak, trembling under the pressure of a butter knife. Always start from the outside and work your way in, and you’ll navigate the utensil maze like a pro!

Not Putting Phone on Silent

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Beeping, ringing, and buzzing — the symphony of our modern life. We’ve all been there, the moment when an electronic interloper decides to make its presence felt during a quiet dinner. “It’s an honest mistake,” you might say. But my friend, no one is interested in the latest TikTok trend during their crème brulée. Trust me.

So, before you sit down for your meal, gently tuck your digital companion away and put it on silent. It’s a small act, but one that creates an environment of respect and consideration for those around you.

Biting Into Bread

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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Another breach I’ve observed involves biting directly into a whole piece of bread or roll. Gasp! It’s like biting into a societal no-no sandwich. Instead, etiquette dictates that one should break the bread into bite-sized pieces and then consume one piece at a time.

This not only minimizes crumbs but also maintains a level of decorum fitting for the dining table. So next time you’re at dinner, remember: small pieces are the yeast you can do!

Freshening Up at the Table

Teaching Dining Etiquette to Americans: Here Are the 20 Most Common Mistakes I’ve Seen
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There is an unwritten rule that less is more when freshening up at the table. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to let that spinach sit in your teeth all evening. It’s simple – excuse yourself and head to the bathroom if you need to freshen up.

Touching up lipstick, flossing, or even checking your teeth should be saved for a private moment. Remember, the dining table isn’t your personal vanity. Keep it classy, America.

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  • Mitch

    A computer science enthusiast with a keen interest in technology and games, Mitchelle (Mitch) contributes a cutting-edge perspective to the Frenz Hub writing team, integrating her academic knowledge with her personal passions

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