Mind your manners: 10 dining rules you should be following
Although the times have changed, the fundamentals for dining etiquette have stayed the same. When heading out to dinner with a group of friends or on a date, you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward. Here, we visit 10 important rules of new age dining etiquette to live by.
1. Dress code
I will be the first to admit that gone are the days of the need for men to wear dinner jackets to restaurants. It’s 2018 and Australians in particular are known for dressing down on most occasions. For the evening, I believe that if a woman has gone to the trouble of putting on a beautiful dress and applying makeup, men should definitely be expected to wear a button-down shirt at the very least. And this next point is for both men and women – unless you're running into the fish and chip shop for takeaway after the beach, thongs have no place at meal times.
Generally speaking, I would say that your friends will understand if you're no more than 10 minutes late. When it comes to meeting a work colleague, you should always make sure you are on time. However, when it comes to meeting your current or prospective boss, you must be 5 minutes early so you're the first to arrive.
3. The greeting
Everyone has been in a situation like this – you arrive at a restaurant and the other guests have already been seated. They stand up to greet you and you hold out your hand for a shake but it's too late and they are half way in for the kiss. You then get stuck in this awkward greeting dance of half-handshake-half-bro-hug. A general rule to follow for cheek kisses in different countries is:
- Australians and Americans – 1 kiss
- UK and Europe - 2 kisses
- French and Italian family members - 3 kisses
But whether you go in for the kiss or not depends on how well you know the audience, so it can be a grey area. Try to read the situation before deciding how to greet acquaintances or distant family.
4. Dietary communication
And so the age old saying goes, how do you know if someone is a vegan? They will tell you. There's often no bigger buzzkill for dinner time conversation than people discussing their diet at length. Should you have any dietary restrictions that the kitchen needs to know about, the best way to communicate this is quietly to the waiter standing next to you, while allowing the rest of the party to continue with their conversation.
5. Phone on the table
This is one of the biggest etiquette rules facing society today. Does your phone belong next to your entrée knife on the table? The short answer is no. Unless you're a parent of a sick child being babysat at home or you're waiting on very important news, there is absolutely no need for your phone to be on the table.
The loophole to this rule is that, should you be dining in a pair and the other excuses themselves to go to the bathroom, then it is okay to sneak a peek at the rugby score or what new hilarious memes are being circulated. Once the other half of your party returns to the table, the phone must be put away immediately.
With photos being the number one use of phone storage these days, it is no surprise the lines have become blurred as to when and where it is appropriate to take a selfie. Selfies are appropriate at the bar before being seated at the table, but not once you're seated at your table. Should it be a special celebration, it is acceptable to ask the waiter to take a snap of the group with the flash off so as not to disturb the other patrons.
In my opinion, the rules on this are the same as they were in 1948 when Millicent Fenwick composed Vogue’s Guide to Etiquette – children are to be seen and not heard. Listening and occasionally partaking in adult conversation is important for children’s growth and ability to communicate, but if they are running around, screaming, yelling and disturbing other patrons, they shouldn’t be taken out to dinner.
Rules around how much alcohol should be consumed at dinner are honestly pretty loose, but I would suggest keeping it classy. Generally speaking, the more alcohol that is consumed, the louder one gets, which isn’t considerate to the guests around you. It might be suggested to keep it to the 2-3 glass mark while at a restaurant and continue in a bar or pub after that.
9. Cutlery placement
Although this rule has been around since etiquette began, you would be surprised at the number of people out there who don't know about it. At the end of the meal, you must place your cutlery together and slightly angled to the right of your plate, not only from a place of manners but also to indicate to the waiter that you are finished.
10. Paying the bill
This is a tricky one, as gender equality and equal pay are such prevalent topics, some women feel differently about men offering or expecting to pay. I believe that perhaps the new-age adaptation of this rule would be that whoever asked the other person out and arranged the date should be taking care of the bill, at least for the first date.
If you’re eating out in a group, it is naturally acceptable to split the bill evenly, perhaps less for members of the party who have not partaken in the wine. Anyone who suggests that they “didn’t have any of the bread or salad” on more than one occasion should perhaps receive a quiet talking to or even not receive another invitation to join.