What is Dining Etiquette?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Dining etiquette is an area of etiquette which pertains to dining, whether at home or out in a restaurant. Etiquette in general is a series of suggestions and rules for behavior which are designed to ensure that people behave consistently and within the norms of politeness. Many people receive some etiquette education as they grow up from family members and teachers, and it is also possible to take classes which provide instruction in etiquette. In some communities, it is traditional to take classes, often in preparation for a debut into society.

The rules of dining etiquette vary considerably around the world, with different nations having different norms when it comes to acceptable behavior at the table. In some cultures, for example, food is eaten with the hands, and a complex set of rules dictates how to behave at the table to avoid upsetting or offending people. Other nations may use chopsticks or silverware, each of which is accompanied by an assortment of etiquette rules which can vary by nation and utensil.


Dining etiquette addresses a wide variety of issues which can come up at the table. One is personal hygiene, an issue in a setting where people are eating because people could potentially pass diseases on to each other. Another is accepted rules of behavior when it comes to things like conversation, greeting people at the table, interacting with servers, and conversing with other diners. Other rules cover how and when to use utensils and tools, from finger bowls to forks.

The setting of a meal can have an impact on the dining etiquette which is appropriate. Meals at home tend to be more casual, for example, while meals in restaurants are more formal. When people are entertaining as opposed to eating with family and close friends, the rules of etiquette also change. Likewise, there are etiquette rules for dinner guests, whether they are visiting a friend for dinner or attending an event hosted by a head of state.

Fortunately for confused diners, there are a number of dining etiquette guidebooks. Many bookstores and libraries have a section for books on manners and etiquette which includes books providing instructions about the rules of behavior. Staff can also point patrons to specific areas of interest; for example, someone who plans to travel in Japan might want to pick up a book on Japanese etiquette, including dining etiquette, to prepare for the trip.

Observing the rules of etiquette demonstrates that someone is respectful of other people, and, when traveling, that someone respects a foreign culture. Many people find the way smoothed when they follow even basic etiquette rules, as people are more inclined to be helpful when they feel respected.


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Post 3

@Feryll - If you want to be successful then you need to learn the rules. Regardless of whether we are talking about dining etiquette, business etiquette, sports etiquette or some other type of etiquette, the more you know the better chance you give yourself of succeeding.

Something as simple as a firm handshake can go a long way in business and in life in general. I'm sure knowing which fork to use can mean a lot in certain circles.

Post 2

I'm sure most of us have seen those TV shows and movies where the unsophisticated person from the country goes to a formal dinner at the country club or at a fancy restaurant. I have always thought these portrayals were a bit over the top for the most part. However, I felt a bit like that country bumpkin recently when I was at a dinner and I had three forks in front of me and I wasn't sure which one was used for what.

So, I guess there are times when a little bit of dining etiquette knowledge could come in handy. Then again, this is the only instance I can think of where I felt a bit out of place, and I just took my cues from the other diners, so maybe dining etiquette classes are overrated for the average person.

Post 1

I have toyed with the idea of getting my kids in some formal dining etiquette classes. Of course they want no part of this. Basically, I want my kids to know the general rules of sitting at a table and eating a nice meal, and I hope they have learned these rules at home, but still I think knowing all there is to know in the area of formal dining would also be good for them.

I guess formal dining skills and ballroom dancing are not on the top of the list of necessities for young people, but I wish my kids would humor me and learn both. Who knows, these skills may come in handy one day.

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