15 essential table manners that younger generations have forgotten

In a world characterized by constant change with changing tastes and styles, good manners never go out of style. Additionally, good table manners can turn a simple meal into a tasteful and elegant experience.

Here are 15 often-overlooked fundamental rules of dining etiquette that everyone should know, from handling cutlery and napkins to making conversation.

Towel etiquette

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A napkin should be placed on your lap when seated at the table and used to gently wipe your mouth if necessary. At the end of the meal, it should be neatly folded next to your plate.

Proper use of utensils

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The rule of thumb with cutlery is to work from the outside in, starting with the outermost spoon, fork, and knife, as appropriate, and working toward the plate at the as each dish is served.

Elbows off the table

Happy young multiracial group of friends dressed in casual clothes smiling while chatting during dinner
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Avoid resting your elbows on the table. It is allowed to rest your wrists lightly on the edge of the table.

Chewing with your mouth closed

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If you come away with nothing else from the item, be aware that chewing with your mouth open is against decorum – make sure your mouth is closed while chewing. Nobody needs to see this.

Wait for others

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Start eating when everyone at the table has been served to ensure the meal is enjoyed together.

Pass food politely

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Passing dishes should be done in a counter-clockwise direction – avoid reaching across the table and ideally wait until someone asks for a dish rather than passing it around without thinking.

Using the tablespoon

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When eating soup, use the side of a spoon to sip the soup leisurely. Use the edge of the spoon rather than sucking from the front.

Bread and Butter Etiquette

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Avoid buttering an entire slice of bread at once. Instead, take a small piece of bread, butter it on the plate, then eat it.


Table setting: white plate with two knives and two forks.  There is a pink napkin on the plate
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When leaving a table during a meal, politely excuse yourself and place your napkin on your seat to indicate that you will return.

Restoration pace

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Avoid finishing your meal too much before or after other diners and try to maintain the pace at which you eat with other diners.

Using a toothpick

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Avoid scraping your teeth with a toothpick or floss at the table. If necessary, do it in private.

Face the bones

Asian woman enjoying Tengkleng Kambing Rica and rice using cutlery
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When removing bones or other unwanted objects, they should be placed to the side of your plate using cutlery, not fingers.

Handling cutlery

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Used cutlery should be placed neatly and diagonally on the plate when you have finished eating. This indicates that you have finished your meal. Simply throwing cutlery onto the plate (like in this picture) indicates nothing other than poor table manners.

Start a conversation

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Keep discussions light and cheerful to ensure a pleasant dining atmosphere and avoid engaging in controversial topics.

Thank the host

Greeting cards
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Be sure to thank the host at the end of the meal for their hospitality, either in person or by sending a nice little thank you note!

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