I recently took part in a workshop about Western table etiquette which was organised by my school. We all know that when dining in a Western restaurant, we should put the napkin on our laps. But good table manners involve a lot more than that. According to the workshop instructor, people should be happy and comfortable when they are dining with you.
It sounds easy but it is not. Imagine keeping your back straight without touching the chair while eating. This is one of the basic rules of table manners.
You may ask, is table etiquette really important? I would definitely say yes. It’s not only about table manners; it shows your upbringing and that you are a civilised person. For example, if you make noises when you are chewing, people who are sitting around you may feel annoyed.
Also, after we start working, we may need to attend banquets or social gatherings. So proper table manners are very important. Otherwise, people may think that we are impolite, and ignore us. No one would want this to happen.
On the other hand, if you show good table etiquette, others will have a good impression about you, you will get more dinner invitations, and you can make more friends.
Everyone should learn about good table manners.
Benita Lam, Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College
Thank you for your letter, Benita. Table manners are important, mostly because people will judge you on them. Worrying about loud chewing noises might not be a thing in someone’s culture, but it is in others’.
While having good manners is important, the most important thing is not to make other people feel awkward. Keeping your back straight and not touching the chair is far better than slumping over your food. But if you rested against the back of your chair, no one would die.
Now, when I first came to Hong Kong, a friend invited me for noodles. Being brought up in a Western culture, I would rather die than slurp my food. However, I was caught out by the very hot noodles in my mouth – they were too hot to swallow. I was too polite to spit them out, although tears were streaming down my face. My friend urged me to spit them out, which I did. He then admonished me about not slurping my noodles and being foolish enough to burn my tongue.
The best advice I have ever been given on manners is “watch your host”. I wish I had done that on that day.