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Good table etiquette that most people don't know about

It is considered by the etiquette mavens perfectly good manners to eat asparagus with your fingers (as long as it's not covered in drippy sauces, of course), but I often get surprised glances from other diners. Same when I go out for sushi and pick up the nigiri with my fingers.

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  1. In fact, the proper etiquette for eating nigiri sushi is to eat it with chopsticks. But I agree about the asparagus.

    Another thing many people apparently do not know is to wipe one's mouth with the napkin before drinking from a glass.

    3 Replies
    1. re: browniebaker

      I agree with the others that eating sushi with your hands is acceptable.

      1. re: JMF

        Picking up nigiry with your fingers is perfectly acceptable in Japan, and I've seen Japanese friends do it time and time again. However, nigiri in Japan tends to also be much smaller, and it's easy to pick one up and put the whole thing in your mouth.

        What mildly grosses me out is when people dunk the whole piece of nigiry in their soy sauce, rice side down. But hey, it's their food, they can do whatever they want to it.

      2. re: browniebaker

        And when wiping one's mouth with a napkin, only at the corners is necessary.

      3. I beg to differ on the nigiri sushi issue. Google sushi etiquette and you will find that plenty of people with years of experience say it is fine to eat it with your hands. Sashimi must be eaten with chopsticks, however. I first learned this in a book about sushi that included an extensive sushi bar etiquette section.

        It seems that it is more important to eat a piece of nigiri in one bite to be polite; I always find this quite difficult. If you must take two bites, it is impolite to return the uneaten half down on your plate. I was relieved to learn that I could ask the sushi chef to cut the nigiri into two pieces.

        8 Replies
        1. re: vanillagrrl

          It's a problem for me to eat most sushi in one bite. I didn't think to ask the sushi chef to cut it in half--good idea (though if it's busy...). There's still the problem of the rolls. I can't put a whole piece and try to chew with a bulging mouth.

          1. re: vanillagrrl

            While it may be all right to eat with the hands at a sushi bar, the most proper form, i.e. at formal dinners, is to eat sushi with chopsticks. The distinction is akin to the distinction between eating chicken out of hand and eating it with knife and fork; context is the key. As I eat sushi at dinners at friends' houses and at formal occasions, I haven't much experience with bar etiquette. But I never view bar manners as the most proper form.

            1. re: browniebaker

              To clarify, my understanding is that the issue isn't so much "bar manners" as Japanese manners. In the Japanese culture, it is considered not only acceptable, but more appropriate to eat nigiri sushi with the hands. Many people feel that you should eat nigiri the "proper" Japanese way even when in an American setting. Others want to do things the American way, and that's totally fine too, in my opinion. But your comparison to eating chicken with the hands is inaccurate, because traditional Japanese would eat nigiri with their hands even in a formal setting, whereas there is no formal setting in which you could eat chicken with the hands, to my knowledge. Anyway, these are fine distinctions. I think "good table etiquette that most people don't know about" is kind of an odd concept, because if people don't know about it what good is the etiquette anyway? I think we should just all do whatever makes us feel comfortable.

              1. re: browniebaker

                I'm not sure what you mean by a formal dinner or a formal occasion.
                I've been served sushi, which we ate with fingers, during cocktails at the Japanese Embassy but not at the dinner table.
                It is considered a faux pas for a hostess to serve foods such as fried chicken, ribs or corn on the cob, which require very informal eating with the hands, at formal dinners. So a hostess wouldn't serve sushi. Especially as it requires condiments.
                Americans have come to consider sushi as much more "elegant" than the Japanese do. Even though the best can be very expensive, it is still not a food for a formal meal.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Times have changed, and sushi is in fact served at formal occasions. As I said, context is key. It is not always correct to eat sushi out of hand. I say this not as an American (although I was brought up in the U.S. and am American in citizenship), but as a person with a Japanese heritage.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    Eating sushi with your hands is the "correct" way to eat it. That is why they give you the wet towel to wash your hands when you sit down. That is why Yasuda's has the tiny wet towel in the bowl for us to wipe our fingers...

                    And eating non-saucy Asparagus with your hands is much much easier and more fun. :-)

                    1. re: asm305

                      In Japan those little damp terry towels are offered everywhere, even where no finger-food is about to be, or has been, offered, indeed even where no food is being offered! I would not base manners on the presence of terry towels. Eating nigiri sushi with the hands is not the best form in some situations.

                      1. re: browniebaker

                        That is true...they do offer them everywhere I wasn't saying that it was the only reason they give the towels but in the years I lived in Japan, it was never a bad thing to eat nigiri with your hands.

              2. Not only is it acceptable to eat asparagus with the fingers, it is the proper correct way to eat it. Whole asparagus spears should never ever be eaten with a knife and fork.

                3 Replies
                1. re: hrhboo

                  Are you saying it's BAD manners to eat asparagus with a knife and fork? It's almost always coated with butter or oil of some sort--there's usually a (sometomes forgotten) reason for these "rules", I wonder where this came from.

                  1. re: BangorDin

                    I think it's correct to eat the asparagus with fingers if one then dips it in a sauce on the side, but to use a knife and fork if it already has sauce/something else on it.

                  2. re: hrhboo

                    Must be a "when in Rome" thing. When I was is Suisse during asparagas season, no one ate asparagus w/their fingers; they were eaten w/fork & knife.

                  3. I will gladly violate any etiquette book or maven who tells me to eat asparagus with my fingers, with or without sauce. I think that's not good manners and will add the "The Jfood Guide to Etiquette in the 21st Century". It is so easy to cut with a knife and spear a bitesize morsel with the fork and is soooo much better.

                    On sushi, I agree that fingers or chop-sticks work and the single bite is preferred etiquette-wise. Have been to sushi bars in Tokyo and some do not even give you chopsticks if you order sushi but give you sticks if the order is sashimi.

                    1. For the definative answer, may I suggest that you purchase, borrow or rent the most excellent "Dubretts Etiquette and Modern Manners updated by the wonderful John Morgan a few years back. He used to write for the UK Times on etiquette (he sadly passed away a few years ago)It is the finest resource on how to eat, dress, behave etc. It even has a section on being entertained by the Queen! You may not agree with what it sais but I guarrantee you will find it an amusing read.

                      1. That's nice and all, but I'm not going to eat asparagus with my fingers when I'm out with other people. I'm willing to wager that 99% of the people there will think I have bad manners if I pick up my asparagus using my fingers, no matter what's somewhere written in a book.

                        I eat nigiri with chopsticks, but that's just habit. Picking up nigiri with your fingers is completely acceptable.

                        1. maybe all you etiquette experts can settle this one...
                          My father says it is not proper to cut your potatoes (steamed or boiled) with a knife and fork but rather you just use your fork. Seems to me it is just a matter of preference but you never know...
                          also I always pick up the boneand nibble it when i'm at home or out and being a cook feel it would be an insult to the cook to let all that deliciousness go to waste but am I being rude? Do I care?

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: bolivianita

                            That I've not heard of. My DH says that you should only cut fish with a fork, never a knife.

                              1. re: troutpoint

                                I don't know, though one theory I've heard is that they were invented by the Victorian non-aristocracy as yet another utensil with which to display their wealth/differentiate themselves from the middle class. Though I have no first hand knowledge of this, I've been told that the English aristocracy think of fish knives as declasse.

                                Oh - and DH is neither Victorian non-aristocracy nor English aristocracy.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  The French always provide fish knives and forks so this may be another little French-British tiff.
                                  The British silversmith Mappin & Webb, "by appointment to HRH whoever the monarch has been" since sometime in the 1800s, has "fish eaters," as they call fish knives and forks, in every one of their silver patterns. They're so snotty that they don't even list their patterns, prices or available pieces online. We had to go to the store in London to fill in some missing pieces for an heirloom set.
                                  Most etiquette historians do say that fish knives and forks were considered very middle class however. Should we tell the Queen?

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    There are (or were when last I heard, which was when Austin Powers was running around swingin' London) a few old-school English families who eat fish with two forks. But those are a dying breed. Remember "Gosford Park", thaf film by the late Robert Altman that takes place in a posh mansion in 1933? There's a scene when the junior servant runs to the butleer and says, there's a mistake in the setting, that place has a fork on the right side, and the butler replies, no, that place is for Lord Whatever, he prefers not to use a fish knife. (I've read that years ago the metal used in knives left a bad taste in the fish.)

                                2. re: troutpoint

                                  OK - I asked DH over dinner (no fish knives - sashimi) - he said the purpose of the fish knife is to help place the piece of fish on the fork after you have cut the piece of fish with the fork.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    So why are they shaped the same as the large fish "servers"? From what I understand(the large ones) they have the large pointed/flat blade with openings to allow liquid to escape when filleting a whole fish at the table. (Not something that's done very often nowadays) I have one and the only time it is ever used is to cut wedding cakes...They are impressive to look at.
                                    I am just curious....

                                    1. re: troutpoint

                                      Well, the fish knives that you eat with don't have openings, and you use the slanted blade to put the fish on the fork. There is also something called, I think, a sauce spoon, which is sometimes placed where the fish knife would be, if the fish is served with a lot of sauce - it helps put the sauce on the fish, as well as the fish on the fork! Enjoy your fish server - doing double duty is always a good thing!

                                      1. re: troutpoint

                                        The individual fish knife is useful when you're served fish with bones which doesn't happen much in the US anymore. Helps with the surgery...
                                        Formal meals used to include a separate fish course before the meat course so this would have been much more common. Very occasionally seen today in formal international or diplomatic circles sometime.

                                        Fish knives and forks are always used together so you wouldn't replace the knife with a sauce spoon, even if the knife were to be unused.
                                        Sauce spoons usually are used with meats which are more heavily sauced than fish. It's used for scooping and pouring, but not for putting food on the fork. I have some with an heirloom set that I use for fun with informal dinners because I think they're totally prissy otherwise. The only time I've ever seen them at a formal meal, no one used them even the hostess.

                                  2. re: MMRuth

                                    What is a DH? Dear Husband? Dead Husband? Designated Hitter? Disgusting Houseguest? Deplorable Hittite?

                                3. How about holding a fork in your left hand as if it were a cello while cutting a piece of meat.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: brentk

                                    Oh ugh. Don't get me started on how people hold their utensils. I grew up in Arkansas. And horror of all horrors, my husband is one of the worst about holding his fork like a blasted shovel when he's eating. It's disgusting.

                                    1. re: brentk

                                      concave side out, too. i remember my mom made fun of a friend i had over for eating her chicken like that. this girl had some airs about her too. forever after i've looked for people cutting their meat that way, and rarely find it. however i consider it pretty bad manners.

                                      1. re: fara

                                        my husband does it too, yet his mother has lovely cutlery habits. Don't know where he picked it up, in the Navy, perhaps? "like a cello" --good description.

                                    2. I was lucky enough to have lunch with John Morgan (Dubrettes Etiquette) before he passed and his take on manners was simply this: Do whatever makes you and the rest of the people around the table comfortable. If you are having a tough time with a bone in guinea fowl and you run the risk of skidding it across the table into the lap of your host, then feel free to pick it up with your hands. If you want to use your fork to cut the fish then knock youself out, I guarrantee you all those around the table are more interested in you than your cutlery.

                                      17 Replies
                                      1. re: Moz

                                        Ah! This is my dad's theory, too. It's nice and practical, as the whole point of manners is to avoid making people uncomfortable. Use your common sense. That said, a couple not-everybody-knows-this bits of manners in my family are 1 - butter on plate, break bread into a bite or two, butter that bit, eat, repeat 2 - If somebody asks for the salt OR pepper, pass them both so they don't get separated.

                                        1. re: juster

                                          also it is considered bad etiquette and bad luck to pass the salt seperately, like handing someone a knife point first or setting the knife next to the plate with the sharp side facing one's neighbor, it implies that you wish them ill.

                                        2. re: Moz

                                          That's the most sensible thing I've ever heard about etiquette in my life. I, personally, HATE the idea of etiquette for etiquettes' sake...makes me crazy. It feels very much like a way to feel superior. However, table manners for the sake of making everyone feel comfortable sounds like a perfect plan to me!

                                          1. re: krissywats

                                            Actually, etiquette is a social equalizer. The idea is for everyone to follow the same protocol so that nobody is superior or inferior to anyone else. It also eliminates confusion. If some people put their roll on the bread plate to their right and others put it on the plate to their left, someone is going is not going to get a roll without having to point out a faux pas, and that's a faux pas in and of itself.

                                            I always find it sad when people declare that etiquette is for snobs, etc, because it's anything but. Someone who truly cares about etiquette and its applications would never dream of making anyone else feel inferior.

                                            1. re: marcia

                                              lol, well please don't feel sad! This argument has been beaten to death on this board many times. Let me explain my point of view so perhaps you can not feel sad for me any longer.

                                              If etiquette is defined as above: making yourself and others feel comfortable...if it's about common sense and the realization that some 'old school' etiquette may no longer apply...if it's flexible and understands that one's standards may need to change depending on the environment and culture...if it's about simply being kind to each other - then I'm all for it.

                                              BUT if etiquette is created only by the elite...if it holds on to rules that are there simply for the sake of rules...if it judges others based upon the breaking of those arbitrary rules...I cannot get behind it.

                                              I see the wisdom in your roll role play - however I must be honest in saying I would have absolutely no idea which plate to use for my roll, if both plates were equadistant from me.

                                              However, if I ended up without a roll, the world would not end and I would say nothing and not think about it more than a minute or two. If I could 'read' the person next to me and sense they'd be amenable to a friendly note that they have my roll, then I'd do it. I just honestly don't have enough care in the world for what is and what isn't a 'faux pas' when it comes to a dinner roll. That doesn't mean I'm rude, I'm not. But it does mean that in the greater scheme of things, I'm going to keep such situations in perspective.

                                              1. re: krissywats

                                                Except it might not be you who doesn't get a roll, but someone else who really wanted one.

                                                Truth be told, I don't remember off hand which side the bread plate is, but I do know there's a custom, a rule, if you will, and so I would scan the table to see where everyone else put theirs in order to avoid a mix-up.

                                                But I agree with you that etiquette is flexible, whereas manners are not, and that is the basic difference between the two. Etiquette changes with the times, as we no longer have "calling cards" but rather voice mail and email, and etiquette is forced to change with the times, for better or worse.

                                                1. re: marcia

                                                  easy way to remember the bread side that I use when teaching children to set the table.
                                                  Holding your hands with palms a few inches apart, make a circle with each thumb and forefinger. The left hand should luok like a lower case B for bread, the right like a lower case d for drinks. The bread goes on the left, the glasses on the right.

                                                  1. re: marcia

                                                    I used to get this confused as well --- along with the coffee cup. The way I remember is that it's food on the left and drinks on the right. (I mean, you're not going to forget that your drinking glass is on the right - so that's how to remember the same about the coffee cup.)

                                                    1. re: cackalackie

                                                      Coffee cup placement is one of the things in a real state of flux.
                                                      A proper lunch or dinner table should not be set with a coffee bup and saucer. Certainly never a mug. They should be brought out after the dessert dishes are cleared, although increasingly coffee is being served with dessert, as in restaurants. In very formal service, coffee is served away from the table.
                                                      In seated banquets now, all the dishes are placed on the table before the meal and confusion seems to reign. Staff seems to place items where they fit and no one knows what to grab since everything has deviated from what they expect.
                                                      I usually wait until the people on either side of me choose. If I end up without a coffee cup, I can politely get the "orphan" at the table passed to me with little difficulty. Or the waiter will get me one.

                                                    2. re: marcia

                                                      Very well said. Of course etiquette isn't about being judgmental. It's about making sure that everyone gets his roll, so to speak. In casual situations with friends, it's not a big deal. But in more formal situations, it can really help prevent awkwardness.

                                                  2. re: marcia

                                                    If it is true that etiquette is a socail equalizer and that someone who cares about etiquette would never dream of making anyone else feel inferior, then the rules of etiquette should encode the LOWEST and most barbaric forms of practice since not everyone knows or has the opportunity to learn the "rules" of etiquette. In fact, however, the rules of etiquette do exactly the opposite: they encode practices that explicitly distinguish between the small minority who "know better" and the great unwashed masses who don't.

                                                    1. re: mclaugh

                                                      You've just proven my point, sort of. Those who truly care about etiquette and follow it would never dream of pointing out the faux pas of others. While I believe it's apocryphal, the example of the queen drinking from the finger bowl (because her guest did) is an example of making one's guests feel comfortable.

                                                      Sure, one can use etiquette to feel superior, but those who do clearly don't understand the rules of etiquette either. Those who indulge in that snotty behavior are just as crass, and maybe moreso, as those who drink from the finger bowl.

                                                      1. re: marcia

                                                        You clearly have not done any serious research into the origins of the so-called "rules" of table etiquette and the purpose for which the "rules" were standardized, because if you had, you wouldn't be making such indefensible assertions about what "those who truly care about etiquette" would or would never dream of doing.

                                                        1. re: mclaugh

                                                          It IS, however, a tenet of good manners (whether you want to call that etiquette is a question outside the scope of this comment) not to point out bad manners on the part of others, especially in public.

                                                          1. re: mclaugh

                                                            What Ubergeek said.

                                                            I have no idea as to what you think are indefensible assertions on my part. Perhaps you misinterpreted my comment "those who truly care about etiquette" to mean those who are more concerned with protocol and rules than their guests or fellow diners. Perhaps it would help if I said those who truly understand etiquette and would never chastise, or even notice, if someone passed just the salt, thereby separating it from its partner, pepper.

                                                            OTOH, if someone asks for the salt and they are given both the salt and the pepper, it's rude to mock them for following the "rules." Yes, that happens.

                                                        2. re: mclaugh

                                                          The problem is that the LCDs conflict, too. Many folks who poo-poo etiquette have no trouble taking umbrage or feeling slighted at that table due to interactions with others. Removing etiquette does not seem to make that fade; if anything, if the past generation can be taken as an example, the needs appear to multiply as an unintended consequence. As noted below, many (not all) etiquette rules have pretty practical origins that may have been forgotten but have not necessarily disappeared as we might like to think. Reinventing rules is often a waste of time and effort and anxiety.

                                                    2. re: Moz

                                                      ...and if they are more interested in your cutlery, then you are definitely breaking bread with the wrong people!

                                                    3. My mom used to harp on me about touching my fork to my teeth. Also about smacking lips as I ate.

                                                      Now I eat with people who do both things and it drives me CRAZY!

                                                      14 Replies
                                                      1. re: therealbigtasty

                                                        Oh, that reminds me of Chinese etiquette. No licking or sucking the chopsticks clean, and they shouldn't really touch your lips or teeth. That's why it's okay to eat family style,--theoretically the chopsticks only touch food. What happens in practice is another story. And no hunching over to shovel food into your mouth. Chinese bowls are designed to be picked up and brought about neck level while you're eating.

                                                        1. re: Pei

                                                          i thought that when eating Chinese family style, you serve yourself from the family platter or bowl with the "tops" of the chopsticks, then flip sticks to eat? is that totally wrong?

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            That's Japanese etiquette.

                                                            Chinese style is when you use the same eating side to serve yourself and to plate your food from the family platter.

                                                              1. re: OCAnn

                                                                It is indeed Chinese manners to flip the chopsticks over to serve oneself from a common platter, but one does this only when with outsiders, not with one's own family. With one's own family, flipping the chopsticks over would be too precious and almost rude, as if to say we're not family.

                                                                1. re: browniebaker

                                                                  I stand corrected: it is Japanese and Chinese etiquette to use the blunt end to serve from the family platter. It is Korean etiquette that considers the blunt end unhygenic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chopsticks

                                                                2. re: OCAnn

                                                                  I've never heard of this being Japanese etiquette.

                                                                  When I was in Hong Kong, the chopstick was often flipped when picking up food for someone else (food for someone else should not be picked up using the end of the chopstick that you used).

                                                                  1. re: eatfood

                                                                    It *is* Japanese etiquette, and now you've heard! =)

                                                                    1. re: OCAnn

                                                                      Yes, it definitely is but I never really saw it in practice when I lived in Japan for 5 years. :-) And Koreans have no issues with germs...hahaha...

                                                                    2. re: eatfood

                                                                      I just came back from Hong Kong, where the correct thing these days (assuming you're not close friends with your fellow diners) is neither to serve yourself with the eating ends nor the blunt ends of your chopsticks, but to use the provided common chopsticks, which are almost always a different colour.

                                                                      If you don't have them, the correct thing to do is STILL not to put your own eating chopsticks in the communal food, but to call over a server and say, "mm-goy, lai yat gaw soeng faai-ji". ("Please, bring a pair of chopsticks.")

                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                        I agree. This has been extremely common since the SARS scare back in 2003.

                                                                        However, I'm not sure that Chinese phrase is proper. While I understand it, it's not a proper sentence (I speak Cantonese).

                                                                  2. re: soupkitten

                                                                    Depends on the context. If you're with family or close friends it probably doesn't matter, but when you're with strangers a little more discretion is required. However, I never understood the rationale of the reverse chopsticks... better to just have communal chopsticks for each dish.

                                                                    First of all, if the dish is saucy, then you're getting sauce on the side of the chopsticks you're using, and secondly, your hands are rubbing all over that side of the chopsticks, you might as well just pick the food up with your fingers.

                                                                    1. re: Blueicus

                                                                      i am actually much less confused now. Thanks to all who answered the sub-thread

                                                                3. re: therealbigtasty

                                                                  My dad used to harp on me about that with spoons, and now that I think about it, it really makes me mad. A little kid's mouth is obviously small, so it's kind of difficult to not clink your teeth when you're eating cereal or something. Grrr.

                                                                4. Once a fork/knife/spoon is used, it's improper for it to touch the table again. The resting position of flatware is fork (tines down) pointing to 2 o'clock w/the knife under the fork tines pointing to 10 o'clock.

                                                                  It's appropriate to take things out of your mouth with the utensil which was used to put it in. Similarly, if you pop a cherry in your mouth with your hand, it's fine to remove the seed with your hand.

                                                                  1. huh.

                                                                    according to my spanish mother it is improper to eat with one hand in your lap (it should be rested on the table) and to EVER hold the knife in your left hand.

                                                                    go figure.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: stuckinschool

                                                                      What about this one??? NO ELBOWS ON THE TABLE!

                                                                      I'm still stuck on this one as well as the previously written rules.

                                                                      1. re: therealbigtasty

                                                                        From my understanding, no elbows on the table while food is on the table, so no elbows while eating. Once the food is cleared off the table, elbows are accetable. I could be wrong though.

                                                                      2. re: stuckinschool

                                                                        That's part of a European/American eating style difference. See: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/332264

                                                                      3. I believe it's still poor etiquette to lick one's fingers, but boy, is it ever appearing everywhere lately!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Wiley

                                                                          I'm squeamish about finger-licking in general, but what REALLY gets me is when it isn't followed immediately by the use of a napkin. Do it if you have to, but don't then just sit there with your spit-shined digits to the wind, or even worse, leaving a nice saliva-grease mix on glasses and cutlery.

                                                                        2. Im not sure how you would eat good BBQ without licking your fingers.........

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Moz

                                                                            Neither am I...a waste of good sauce if you wipe them in your nappie...

                                                                          2. In my Mom's family the lefties were seated on one side of the table and the righties on the other to avoid smashing each other's funnybones--LOL it shows that etiquette MUST change with circumstances & be practical as well!

                                                                            one thing that I do from training that I don't see anyone else doing in restaraunts is spooning one's soup AWAY from oneself

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                              But only thin soups! Thin soups, spoon away; thick soups, spoon toward, right?

                                                                              1. re: juster

                                                                                Thin or thick, you spoon away in occidental cultures. Spoon towards is for oriental cultures.

                                                                                1. re: juster

                                                                                  always away. logical reason. soup is probably the messiest thing at the table. if your hand wavers you'll spill back into the bowl rather than in your lap.
                                                                                  most etiquette rules actually have a sensible origin; if you learn why they started, it makes them easier to remember.

                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                    And if you just can't remember, "out to sea, into harbour" helps! :)

                                                                              2. I used to think that spooning away from oneself was silly and affected, until I tried it. It's actually a good idea because any drips go into the bowl and not onto your shirt. Now I get funny looks from other people who think I'm silly and affected.

                                                                                1. What about never using your left hand to eat when in many African countries or restaurants (i.e. Ethiopia or Eritrea).

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: huruta

                                                                                    that makes sense to me now after carrying handsoap in my back pocket in South India for a month. Also not handing another person anything with the left hand, including money. Took me a year to readjust back to doing things with the left hand being okay.

                                                                                    1. re: huruta

                                                                                      Not just in Africa, in most parts of the world, including—until relatively recently—Western Europe and North America as well. Reason is that in most societies, the left hand is used for personal hygiene, i.e., to wipe your *, blow your nose, etc. No running water, not TP ... are you SURE you want to stick that in your mouth with your left hand?

                                                                                    2. I was just teaching this to my 6yo and 10yo two days ago. The kids find it unnatural, but it is a practical rule!

                                                                                      1. I find most table "rules" to be annoying. In my Korean family, the rule is to eat and enjoy. We slurp noodles & soup. We pick up shared sides with the regular end of the chopsticks. Who cares if it isn't pretty or proper?! To me if you are that hung up on the manners then you can't possibly be paying that much attention to your food. I don't even notice when my grandfather put fish bones on the table because I'm too busy devouring all the tasty food.

                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: asm305

                                                                                          It's all about context. Your family dining habits don't apply when you're dining with others.

                                                                                          Clearly you wouldn't be slurping soup and placing fish bones on the table cloth at a nice French restaurant.

                                                                                          1. re: asm305

                                                                                            It is possible to eat & enjoy while exhibiting proper table manners.

                                                                                            1. re: asm305

                                                                                              Our rule when our friends ask about Chinese etiquette is "Get it into your mouth." Like you, we don't mind slurping or shared chopsticks. But there's a difference between familial/casual and gross. No one wants to eat with the guy who swishes his half-eaten dumpling in the soy sauce and leaves bits of scallion and pork swimming in the now oily soy sauce (true story).

                                                                                              1. re: Pei

                                                                                                I agree with you guys to an extent...of course, context plays a big roll in how I personally decide to conduct myself while eating. And it is completely possible to enjoy my food with table manners. What bothers me is when people flip out about table manners or just can't seem to get over the fact that in some cultures it doesn't really matter. I've seen people fume over noodle slurping and I just say, mind your own business.

                                                                                                As for the double-dipping...it's completely acceptable in Korea. :-) Gross maybe...but oh well.

                                                                                                1. re: asm305

                                                                                                  Agreed. Maybe I'm really Korean. (and if you knew I was a big, red-head that looks like she should could possibly be wearing a dirndl and carrying beer, you'd find that funny)

                                                                                                  We've become SUCH a santized society. People are so freakin' germ phobic, it's obnoxious. If people were actually educated as to how the body works and how much we fight off every day, and how amazing our immune systems are....we'd probably all eat like we're Korean.

                                                                                                  I mean, I'm not gonna run out and lick a subway pole....healthy balance is what i'm looking for here.

                                                                                                  1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                    Some of us have to live a sanitized lifestyle; not so much for preference, but for medical/health reasons. I don't think I'm being obnoxious b/c I don't share utensils with the sick or the elderly.

                                                                                                    1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                      Perhaps you missed the line about 'healthy balance'. And obviously if anyone has health issues, that's another matter entirely. An extreme case doesn't sway the argument.

                                                                                                      1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                        you are korean! hahahha. i agree with you completely...too sanitized! but at the same time people pick and choose their sanitary issues... some people flip out about germs in food but don't wash their hands when they go to the bathroom...or at least don't do much more than hold their hands under the water for 3 seconds. hahhaha

                                                                                                        1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                          No I didn't miss it.

                                                                                                          Why even judge the "sanitized society" as "freakin' germ phobic" or "obnoxious". Obviously, they have reasons for being so.

                                                                                                          1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                            *Now* that you've shared your experience, I understand what you mean. Thank you.

                                                                                              2. Ooh, ooh, I know!

                                                                                                How about, "Treat your server like a person, and not like an indentured servant!"

                                                                                                This means:

                                                                                                * acknowledge their existence when they approach ("Hello!")
                                                                                                * preface requests with "please"
                                                                                                * say "thank you" when given something, even the bill
                                                                                                * look at them when talking to them, don't mumble into your menu
                                                                                                * if they introduce themselves, remember their name for the 60-90 minutes it will take you to eat, it will make their day to hear "Chris, could you come over when you have a chance, please?" instead of "WAITER!" or the so-pretentious-in-America "GARÇON!"
                                                                                                * don't gesture imperiously and DON'T SNAP YOUR FINGERS AT HER!
                                                                                                * for God's sake, DON'T WHISTLE FOR THE SERVER, he's not a dog!
                                                                                                * place anger where it belongs -- botched orders aren't always the server's fault
                                                                                                * confront the server about service problems FIRST
                                                                                                * realise that they probably know what's good, and ask them for advice
                                                                                                * don't put someone on hold on the phone to order - if it's so important you have to talk through dinner, you don't have time to eat in a restaurant, go get a hot dog instead
                                                                                                * when dining in an ethnic restaurant, don't make rude comments in English, they can understand you just fine
                                                                                                * when dining anywhere, don't make rude comments in any language
                                                                                                * 15% tip at least, $2 minimum - if it's a nice enough place for you to have service, it's a nice enough place for you to leave two lousy dollars
                                                                                                * don't calculate the tip to the penny, give me a break, you can afford the extra 4c or 24c or 99c.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                  I can't imagine the people that don't follow these basic niceties on a daily basis. I only disagree with two (for me): I hated being called by my name as a server and would never do it to someone else.
                                                                                                  I'll always tip 15% at least (for not great service) UNLESS there are extenuating circumstances that warrant that person getting 10%.

                                                                                                  1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                    Well, I have to assume that if they give their name, it's for a reason -- but yes, gracious service doesn't need a name attached.

                                                                                                    It's unbelievable what people will do when they think they're anonymous.

                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                      also unbelievable that some servers think their name, a constant smile, and talking to customers like they're children (squatting next to the table) will make up for bad service.

                                                                                                      1. re: fara

                                                                                                        I actually like it better when servers who are giving me bad service tell me their names, because it makes my complaint to management so much more concise.