The world has become a smaller place: international travel and trading have provided opportunities to meet and interact with people from other countries, cultures, environments and lifestyles. Coupled with this, we are able to experience cuisines from all over the world.
In today’s culturally-diverse economy, cross-cultural differences will impact on how we conduct ourselves and our businesses. Knowing and appreciating the differing values, etiquette and the “do’s” and the “don’ts” of different cultures can positively influence our travel experience and business success. This increased awareness will avoid misinterpretations and misunderstandings, reducing the risk of causing offence and consequent unwanted repercussions.
When visiting a foreign country, it is useful to consider the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” There is no excuse for appearing to be ill-informed or ignorant travellers. As a matter of respect for our hosts, it behoves us to make every effort to acquire appropriate knowledge of the local social and dining etiquette. Assuming that appropriate effort has been made to impress through personal grooming and image, this can be further enhanced by such knowledge. So, if you are travelling for business or pleasure, make sure you observe some basic, general dining etiquette.
GENERAL DINING ETIQUETTE
• As a general rule, we should start our meal using the dining implements which are set in front of us, from outside-in.
• The bread plate is placed on the left and glasses to the right.
• The number of utensils present in the setting will represent the number of dishes or courses to be served.
• The napkin should be placed on the lap. If you need to go to the washroom, place your napkin on your vacated chair. At the end of the meal,
simply place the napkin on the left of your plate (not neatly folded).
• If you are nearest to the bread basket, take it and proffer the bread to the person on your left. Then, take bread for yourself before passing the
basket to the person on your right.
• Take a small amount of butter from the butter dish onto your side plate. The bread should always be broken by hand and not cut using the butter
• Sip your soup silently from the side of your spoon. Do not blow your soup to cool it and scoop it in an outwards motion.
• Do not wrap your hands into fists when handling the fork or knife and never saw or stab your food.
• Cut your food into bite-size morsels and eat. Do not cut your food into numerous pieces before eating.
• Do not place used cutlery on the tablecloth.
• Do not blow your nose at the table: if you must, simply excuse yourself and retire to the washroom.
• Salt and pepper shakers should be kept together and not separated. If someone asks for one, pass them both.
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By Kitty Sani Barrett, principal consultant & trainer at ImageXchange. Kit believes that taking care of our personal image can help us look our best, long after we’ve passed 50!