Southern Etiquette at the Dining Room Table

Note: With our motto being “Southern Hospitality with an East Coast Flair,” it makes sense that we would know a little something about southern etiquette. Starting with this piece, we will be sharing that knowledge with all of you. That way, you can impress all your relatives and friends.

Demonstrating proper etiquette at the dining room table is a nice thing to do not just in the South but also in the East, West and North. And not demonstrating proper etiquette at the table can get you slapped upside your head. So here is some southern etiquette for the dining room. Following these ideas can turn a painful experience into a pleasant one.

Does your napkin stay on the table or your lap?

What’s the first thing you should do when you sit down at a meal? Put your napkin on your lap. In fact, not doing so immediately is a serious etiquette mistake. The napkin should be placed in your lap immediately upon sitting, even before other people get there, with the folded side pointing up toward your waist.

Get your elbows off the table.

If you want to seem more polite in an instant, make sure your elbows aren’t resting on the table when you’re eating. So, why is this considered a mistake in the first place? Meals were once considered formal events. So, the slouched posture that goes along with resting your elbows on the table was viewed as overly casual, and, as such, rude.

Don’t talk with food in your mouth.

You might be excited to join in on a conversation, but if you’re mid-bite, you’re better off waiting. Be mindful to keep your mouth closed when chewing, finish chewing, swallow and then join in the chat –and if the moment has passed, so be it.

Which silverware do I use?

If looking at the array of knives and forks in front of you at breakfast or a dinner party has you breaking out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone. While using the wrong knives and forks is an undeniable faux pas, the rule here is simple: Work your way from the outside in. Your salad fork should be to the left of your dinner fork, and the knife to be used for earlier courses should be to the right of your dinner knife, which should be directly to the right of your plate.

Please pass the salt.

As strange as it may seem, if you’re asked to pass the salt and you don’t pass the pepper as well, you’re actually committing an etiquette mistake. In etiquette terms, the salt and pepper are married. People just don’t know that they’re supposed to be passed together. Now, we’re making you aware of that.

Reaching across the table.

No matter how much you want to avoid bothering other guests, reaching across the table to grab something during a meal is always a serious etiquette blunder. If it’s far enough away that you have to stand to reach it, you shouldn’t do so and you should ask instead, and if you’re the one passing food, you should pass it to your right. So, why is reaching across a table such an etiquette mistake? Because your personal space is being invaded by the person doing the reaching. It’s also a germ thing because my hand and my arm are now invading the space in which you’re consuming food.

So, here you go. Remember these pointers, and you can be a big hit at the table during any meal – not just with us at the Laurel Oak Inn.

  • July 25, 2021 Reply

    You forgot to mention, “Remove your hat when you come to dine.” Sadly it’s all to common to see men in their ball caps at the dining table.

  • July 25, 2021 Reply
    Karen Beattie

    May need to share this with some folks!

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