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Table manners for the modern-day diner

Table manners for the modern-day diner

Etiquette, evolved


Image: iStockphotos
Image: CBS
Image: Rex Features

With the festive season just around the corner, we must remember to keep it classy at the table. While we’re mostly well versed with traditional etiquette, here are five unspoken rules that we need today.

Don't eat... until everyone has taken photos of the food.

Just kidding. You were probably quite happy to read this header, but this is a big nope. Please let us eat when our food comes to the table. We're probably hungry and we could do without the awkward silence while everyone shuffles around the table so that you can get your perfect Instagram-worthy shot. If you're at a dinner where the food has already been prepared beforehand, by all means, snap away before we're seated at the table. Some chefs may be proud of their beautiful gastronomic creations, but also, think of it this way: you're kind of not letting the rest of us eat our hot, fresh grub.

Just put the phones away while you're at it

Head to any restaurant - with tables filled with families, friends or colleagues dining together - and you'll notice one common feat: everyone's mostly looking down at their phones, whether they're eating or not. Traditionally, dining etiquette used to be held rather highly because mealtimes were considered the catalyst for important social interactions (to put it simply, you are stuck with a group of people until the meal is over, therefore you are forced to interact face-to-face). Today, a cheap escape is offered via mobile devices. It's pretty rude: imagine if you were trying to have a conversation over lunch, but your peers aren't bothered to pay attention because they're busy interacting with other people via WhatsApp. What's more, when they meet these other people in real life, chances are, that's the time they'd be WhatsApping you instead.

Anything that generates smoke, or now, "vapour"

Ah, the controversial one. "But it's not smoke. It's water vapour!" say all the new-age "vapers." Newsflash: it's not fun to have any kind of smoke blown into your face or around you while you're trying to have a meal... unless that's your quirky kind of fancy. Whether it's smoking or vaping, this is one habit that should stay away from the dining table, even more so when there are non-smokers present. The unfortunate part is, most of them are probably reluctant to tell you that they don't like breathing in your second-hand smoke, simply because they're trying to keep things pleasant and avoid an awkward agreement that you should step outside or away to smoke during a meal. Or you could look at it this way: remember the epic haze that engulfed the country some months back? Even the smokers didn't like it. That's how we mostly feel about smoke near our food - unless, of course, it's barbecue smoke and there's lamb chop heading our way.

When your hands are in the air

Sometimes, people really don't care. Gesturing during a meal and passing food around should be muted, because a dining table would be full of sharp and fragile objects, liquids and other edible material that you wouldn't want to spill or drop. Gesturing with cutlery - especially knives - has been known to be rather rude in most dining cultures. And we agree - we don't want to see morsels of your dish dangling off your fork as you hold it in your hand and fling your arms here and there. Also, if you're passing food around, always move in one direction where traditionally, you should pass it to the person on your right, so that you don't find yourself in a tangle of arms, serving spoons and heavy dishes that might topple over.

Don't talk down to your wait staff

This can't be emphasised enough. The last thing you want to do while having a nice, festive meal is to piss off the people who are handling the food you consume. Anyone who has worked in the service line would probably agree with this, and yes, those horror stories about scorned wait staff tampering with food are probably true. Sure, demeaning that waiter could make you look like a powerful big shot in front of your dining mates or in front of the entire restaurant, but what's the worst that could happen if you were generally polite to them? You could actually present yourself to your dining peers as... gasp! ...a decent human being? 

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