As foreshadowed, an article on table manners. How do we learn about Australian table manners, if only the basics are taught at home? Or, given our cultural background, we may have learnt entirely different table manners.
In my case, I had a steep learning curve at 12 when, given I was raised in the country, I was sent to a residential hostel associated with a government high school. Twenty girls, terrifying especially as I had been a loner at home, so had trouble fitting in.
There, watched over by a prefect, along with table manners, I was taught to sing Grace. I did this out of tune. If ever I write about courtesy and good manners associated with singing, I expect it will be necessary to say, if you can’t sing in tune, sing sotto voce?
Back to table manners and getting the basics correct.
Talking and Eating
Often we meet for a meal to catch up with colleagues, clients, prospects, suppliers, etc. So lots of talking. The rule is, keep your mouth closed when eating. If you want to speak, wait until you have chewed and swallowed the mouthful. If someone asks you a question whilst you have food in your mouth, put your hand up near your mouth and indicate you will speak when you have finished the mouthful.
Knives and forks
I was taught to avoid waving them around like sparklers. If not cutting, the knife should be placed diagonally on the plate. Once you have finished eating, place the knife and fork beside each other, resting flat on the plate, handles towards you and tips facing away from you, pointing to 12 o’clock.
If are pausing mid meal for some time, place the knife and fork separately on the plate, with the knife handle pointing to 4 o’clock, the fork handle to 8 o’clock and the tips of both together pointing to 12. There is a correct way to hold knives and forks, look around you to see what others are doing, select a person who seems to you to be well mannered, copy them. Hopefully you will have selected an appropriate model.
Wait before you start to eat
Normally it is not appropriate to be the first to start eating. Wait. Be careful, in some situations people will wait because the host or a guest is going to make a toast or say Grace. Awful if you have already started.
Years ago on an aeroplane in first class (a long story) I waited for the person sitting beside me to get his meal and start to eat. After a while I asked if he was eating, he said “no”. I was cross because I felt he should have noticed I was waiting for him to get his meal, then he could have told me he was not going to have dinner. Even worse, he was a partner in a firm where I had worked, I recognised the format of the Inter Firm Memo he was reading. That reminds me, don’t read other passengers documents if they are sitting beside you on a plane. Difficult sometimes.
There is much more to be said on table manners, extra items will be covered in my next ebulletin article.
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