woman in black dress using cutlery sitting down at a dinner table

24 Things People With Good Table Manners Don’t Forget to Do

It’s been a while since many of us have had the privilege of going to a restaurant. With the Covid-19 lockdown, most of us have been stuck in our homes trying to find creative ways to make meals all the time. And, along with the unfortunate fact of not being able to go out to eat, our good table manners may have also flown out the window! So, if you are anything like me and have spent the past 24 months plonked in front of the TV and on the sofa eating burgers, read on and see how much table etiquette you remember! Without further ado, here are 24 things that people with good table manners don’t forget to do!


They don’t eat until everyone is served

This is an awful habit. And, while you may be starving and eager to eat the steak on your plate, you really should be waiting until everyone at the table has been served their food.[1]


People with good table manners use their napkin correctly

When you sit down to eat, you should unfold your napkin in one swift motion and lay it on your lap. Not sure what to do if you need to get up? Put the napkin on your seat. It’s also good table manners to put your napkin to the left side of your plate when you are finished eating, never on your plate! It’s also proper etiquette to dab your lips and not wipe them. Obviously, napkins are not there for you to blow your nose on, nor are they there to wipe your cutlery.[1]

War & Peace Table Manners GIF by BBC First Australia - Find & Share on GIPHY

They don’t eat with their hands

Obviously, if you are at a casual dinner eating chicken wings or pizza, you’d use your hands. But when dining out at a good restaurant, never use your fingers to eat a meal. You have cutlery for a reason![1]


People with good table manners understand how to place their utensils

The way you use your utensils can actually indicate a lot of information to your host or server in a restaurant. This picture demonstrates good table manners when it comes to how you place your utensils.[2]

how to use utensils at the dinner table for good table manners
© Depositphotos.com

They don’t eat off others plates, or pick with their hands

You’d think everyone would know this, but it’s rather surprising how often people pick food off others’ plates or dip their fingers into the salad bowl to grab a rouge tomato. This is NEVER okay. Even in an informal setting.[3]


People with good manners don’t put their elbows on the table

This rule has mixed reasons as to why it’s rude. You might remember your mom yelling at you as a child. Either way, it’s still an unspoken rule for having good table manners. Also, not resting your elbows on the table will ensure you don’t slouch, which brings us to our next golden rule! [4] This might also be a cultural thing, so if its kosher in your household, I wouldn’t worry about this rule too much.


They don’t lean back in their chairs

An “expert” in dining and certified personal image consultant Marian Rothschild says: “You should always sit properly and comfortably in your chair for the duration of the meal.” She also adds that it’s not okay to slouch while seated, nor is it okay to eat while standing.[3]

Dinner Table GIFs | Tenor

They don’t finish too fast

Anyone with proper table manners knows it is not polite to finish your meal too quickly. Pace yourself![3]


They know which way to pass food around a table

You’d be forgiven if you did not know this, but it’s always correct to pass food to the right. Never pass it to the left![1]


People with good table manners know when to use specific cutlery

This one is basic. The general rule is to start using the cutlery places furthest from your plate first. Then, work your way inward as you move from starters to mains and so on.[2]

Table Manners GIF | Gfycat

They don’t season their food before tasting it

It’s not polite to season your food without tasting it first because you do not know how the chef has prepared it. You are essentially assuming that they have not seasoned it properly. Also, you run the risk of over-seasoning your meal and ruining it![1]

They don’t drink when being toasted to

Who knew? Turns out, if someone has toasted you, you aren’t supposed to take a sip at the end of the toast![3]

Those with good table manners don’t put stuff on the table

Setting your belongings on the dinner table is a big no-no. Do not put your phone, your bag, or any other item on the table! Tuck them away out of sight or you’ll risk making others at the table feel unwelcome.[1]

Read: 15 Ways to Remove Bad Odors From Your Home

They never chew with their mouths open

Talking with your mouth full of food is disgusting! Don’t do it! And, close your mouth while you chew. Nobody wants to see your chewed-up meal.[3]

Charlie Chaplin demonstrates classy table manners. Beans and Bread Edition.  Animated GIF | Charlie chaplin, Chaplin, Charlie

They put their utensils down

When picking up a glass or cup, rest your cutlery on the side of your plate. It’s not polite to keep your fork or other cutlery in your hand while taking a sip. Its also rude to gesture or point with your cutlery in hand.[2]

People with proper table manners eat bread with their fingers

This one bends the rule for always using your cutlery and never your fingers! Bread is finger food and your fork should not be used when eating it. You are meant to use your hands to tear off small pieces and then butter each small piece individually. Michelle Payer says: “Never break open a dinner roll, butter each side, close it, and tear into it like a dog with a bone.”[3]

They don’t slurp their soup

Ew! The sound of slurping is just as annoying as loudly chewing. Soup can be tricky, however! If it’s too hot, blow each spoonful, gently. Allowing it to cool down will mean less slurping. Also, don’t blow into the whole bowl. Another nifty soup-eating trick? When you get to the bottom of the bowl, tilt the bowl away from you and move spoon towards the lower edge of the bowl to scoop up the last drop.[1] With that aside, slurping is a very cultural thing, in many East Asian countries slurping is perfectly normal, and in fact, it’s polite [5]. Think of slurping up some tasty ramen noodles!

This is why you should avoid ordering soup when out for a meal | Her.ie

They know how to eat meat properly

Meat is eaten differently according to where you are from! So don’t be too judgmental of your non-American friends! According to the spruce:[2]

The American way to cut meat is to place the fork in the other hand to secure the meat in place and place the knife in your coordinated hand to cut the meat. Then put down the knife and switch the fork to your regular hand to lift the bite-sized pieces to your mouth.

The British way to cut and eat meat is to not switch the fork, but to lift the meat to your mouth with the fork in the hand you don’t normally use. This saves the step of switching hands each time you need to cut the meat.

People with good table manners don’t use their phone at the table

This one is a no-brainer. Don’t text, call or do anything with your cell phone while seated at the dinner table. If you do have an emergency call to make, excuse yourself from the table to do so.[1]

Put Phone Down GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

They know to follow the host

The host of the dinner deserves respect. Did you know that should your host use the incorrect piece of cutlery to eat with, that you should follow their lead? Just don’t be that person to call them out on it and embarrass them![2]

They don’t tell the table when they need the bathroom

Yes, it is impolite to inform the table when you need to go to the restroom. Nobody wants to know about your toiletry needs, especially while eating. Just excuse yourself from the table and do your thing. Another useful tip is that if you just want to reapply lipstick, you may do so while seated! As long as you can do it without a mirror, that is.

People with good table manners don’t reach over the table

The other people at the dinner table don’t want your elbows and hair all over the food. Don’t just reach over the table to grab a bowl of whatever it is you want. It is far more polite to wait until there is a lull in the conversation before asking someone to pass you the goods.[1]

They would never pass gas at the table

This one is another no-brainer, or so you would think! Ginny Underwood is a blogger and expert at teaching children good table manners. She says: “People with good manners will never belch, burp or pass wind while at the table” as good as a renowned etiquette expert’s. “Sharing the dinner table with others is social interaction, [whether it’s] a casual family gathering or a business meeting. Good table manners show respect for the people you are dining with and person(s) providing the food, which is why good table manners should be employed at every meal.”[3]

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They wouldn’t use a dropped utensil – ever

There is no such thing as the “five-second rule” when it comes to dining and good table manners! Yes, you should reach down to pick it up. Just don’t use it again! Ew![1]

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  1. 21 Most Common Table Etiquette Mistakes Gallery.” The Daily Meal. June 8, 2018
  2. How to Use Utensils at a Formal Dinner.” The Spruce. Debby Mayne. September 17, 2020.
  3. 13 Things People With Good Table Manners Never Do“. Wise Bread. Mikey Rox. October 7, 2014
  4. Why Is It Rude to Eat with Your Elbows on the Table?” Southern Living. Meghan Overdeep. September 21, 2019
  5. “It’s nice to respect different cultures’ table manners, but I won’t stop slurping my soup noodles”. SCMP. December 3, 2018.
Jade Small
Freelance Writer
Jade is a freelance writer and content creator from South Africa with over 7 years of experience writing and creating. She's also a proud single mom to a super 13-year-old boy.