American Table Manners

Teaching table manners may seem like really basic social skills to be taught inside the home. Yet, we do have many immigrant families in California. Some may not aware of our American customs. Middle school students need not have a sophisticated knowledge about table etiquette, but they should have an awareness that different expectations exist in various cultures.

Social skills appropriate at the table include:

1. Wash you hands before each meal.
2. Knife and spoon are placed to the right of the plate. The fork is on the left.
3. Open the napkin and place it in your lap before starting.
4. Pass food to the right.
5. Ask for food to be passed to you if it is out of reach. “Mom, please pass the butter.”

(Remember to be patient with younger family members.)

6. Do not take food if it is being passed by you at another person’s request.
7. Swallow food before talking.
8. Talk only of pleasant subjects during the meal.
9. Compliment the host on the food.
10. Take food in small pieces.
11. Take turns during the conversation.
12. Ask permission to be excused from the table.
13. Never put food you touched back onto a serving plate.
14. Never eat directly from a serving plate. You eat only from your plate.
15. The left hand remains under the table unless you use it in the process of cutting.
16. Elbows and arms are never placed on the table.
17. Individuals gage their eating so that everyone is finished with the meal at the same time.
18. Knife and fork set in a position on the plate looking like the hands of a clock at 5:30 means that you are finished.
19. When plate is removed and dinner is definitely finished, the napkin is removed from the lap, folded in half and placed back on the table near its original position.
20. Men usually help women with their chair first when sitting and last when leaving the dining table.
Return to Skills List