Latest "Dining Etiquette" Posts

10 Tips for Chinese Dining Etiquette

April 11, 2013

Chinese Dining Etiquette TipsToday’s blog is a guest post provided by Phoebe Yu

So you’ve mastered the ancient art of chopsticks-fu, and can order your way out of a dimsum cart.  But Chinese dining is more than delicious food and fragrant dishes.  Eating together is a highly social activity, which is why dishes are always shared and individual portions don’t exist.  The round table and round plates and bowls as well, symbolize harmony and union.

Therefore, it’s good to keep a few things in mind when eating out at a Chinese restaurant, to preserve the social harmony of the dining table.

Here are some dos and don’ts of Chinese dining:

  1. Do be polite and always think of others before yourself.  This is probably the most important rule of thumb that you can stick to, and it is probably the root of all the other rules of Chinese dining etiquette.
  2. The head of the table sits farthest away from the door or the crowds (in a crowded restaurant).
  3. Do serve others first before yourself.  Once the dishes start arriving, don’t put the food in your plate first, but start by serving the others in your table.  In typical Chinese dining fashion, the eldest is normally served first.  Same goes when pouring the tea.
  4. Don’t hoard.  You typically take small portions from the communal dishes so that everyone else has a chance to try the food.
  5. Don’t turn the Lazy Susan while someone else is taking food from the communal dishes, but wait for them to finish.  And the Lazy Susan always goes clockwise.
  6. Don’t use your chopsticks to poke and inspect the food in the communal dishes.  Instead, just take the piece or the portion you want and transfer it straight to your bowl.
  7. Don’t leave your chopsticks standing vertically on your rice bowl, but use the chopstick rest on your table.
  8. Don’t take the last piece.  Instead, offer it to others.
  9. Do cover your mouth with your hand or napkin when using a toothpick, so that other people don’t see the food stuck in your teeth. However, in North America it is considered impolite to use toothpicks at the table to remove lodged food particles.  Instead, excuse yourself and use the restroom.
  10. Finally, always fight for the bill and offer to pay.  However, the Chinese have a perfected system in place when it comes to bill payment.  So although one person pays this time, the other will get the bill for the next time.  And they usually remember who paid the last time, so the bill payment is fairly rotated among friends.

It’s important to note though, that you won’t be expected to learn all the rules or subtle nuances of Chinese dining etiquette.  As long as you stick to these general tips, your next Chinese dining experience should come as a breeze!

About the author: Phoebe Yu is a Vancouver-based writer. To learn more, visit her at:


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Posted by Margaret in Dining Etiquette and tagged

A Guide to Tipping Etiquette Around the World

November 16, 2012

tipping etiquette around the worldWhen it comes to tipping, even the most seasoned travelers can be unsure. What you believe to be a generous tip can be perceived as an insult in certain countries. And in still others, offering a gratuity can be construed as rude.

Knowing when to tip and how much to tip can be a bit of a struggle if you’re unprepared. Before you embark on your holiday excursion abroad, take a few moments to review these “around the globe” tips on tipping.

According to Conde Nast Traveler, never leave a tip on a credit card. Your server may or may not necessarily receive it.

In France, the locals usually tip up to 10 percent when dining out—in addition to standard service charges noted on their bill. Visitors, however, are not expected to tip unless the service is excellent.

In most parts of the U.K., service charges are included. If not, then a 10 to 15 percent tip is appreciated. If you are “regular” in the pub, it’s not unusual to say to your bartender “Take one for yourself,” when you are paying for your drinks (ie. Pour one for yourself and add it to my bill.). In the past, the bartender would probably have replied, “Don’t mind if I do,” and joined you in a beer. Today, he would likely have a coke or take the cash and put it in a beer mug next to the cash register!

In Switzerland, most places include a 15 percent service charge on the bill. No additional tip is expected, but in fancier restaurants, or if you receive excellent service, leaving an additional small tip is acceptable.

When dining in Germany, adding a 10-15 percent tip to a food or bar bill is customary.

In Italy, leaving a tip as close to 10 percent is acceptable, but no more.

At restaurants in Turkey, a 10 percent cash tip is appreciated.

In Australia, it’s customary to leave a 10 to 15 percent tip for good service.

In the Middle East, those who provide services tend to reach out for a tip more often, but its customary to tip in small amounts.

In Dubai, you’ll find a 10 percent service charge tacked onto your bill at hotels, restaurants and bars. Typically the tip is divided among the staff.

In Egypt, expect to pay an additional 5 to 10 percent on top of the 5 to 10 percent charge that is already built into the bill. Dollars are often the preferred currency.

At restaurants in Israel, the tip is typically included in the bill, but it’s customary to add a few shekels to the total bill. At your hotel, tip the concierge a shekel or two if the service is excellent; and expect to pay six shekels per bag for porters and four shekels per day for housekeepers.

When dining out in Argentina, it’s customary to round up and add a 10 percent tip. Dollars are recommended and it’s a good idea to keep a lot of change in your wallet as restaurants and shops are not keen on breaking bills.

In Brazil, no additional tips are expected in restaurants, as it’s included in the 10 percent fee.

If you’re dining out in Mexico, be sure to have cash on hand as it’s the preferred method for tipping. Ten to 15 percent is customary. Dollars are accepted, but pesos are preferred.

In South Korea, the only tip expected of tourists is for your hotel porter. Tip the usual $1 per bag.

Travelers to Japan and China are not expected to tip at all—except for in Hong Kong where a 10 percent tip is acceptable. Leaving a tip can be construed as offensive in these countries as it implies that the employee is undervalued by their employer.

Knowing the etiquette for tipping when traveling abroad will save you time, money and maybe even a little embarrassment!

Sources: Conde Nast Traveler;

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The Dos and Don’ts of Dining Etiquette in Business

March 8, 2012

Dining Etiquette Dos and Don'tsIf you have a business dinner coming up and you want to impress your boss or a potential client, you can avoid dining blunders–and ensure business success at the table–by following these dining etiquette tips.



The Dos

  1. Do eat something before you go to dine with a client or someone higher in rank in your organization so that you won’t appear too hungry.
  2. Do avoid talking with your mouth fill. Take small bites, and you’ll find it’s easier to answer questions or join in table talk.
  3. Do wait until you have swallowed the food in your mouth before you take a sip of your beverage.
  4. Do remember that with place settings, spoons and knives are on the right and forks are on the left. Solids (food) are always on your left and liquids (beverages) are on your right. An easy way to remember which plate or water glass is yours is to think B.M.W – From left to right it’s bread, meal, water (B.M.W.)
  5. Do leave your plate where it is when you have finished eating–with the knife and fork in the 10:20 I am finished position. Place the tips of the utensils at 10 o’clock and the handles at 4 o’clock.
  6. Do look into, not over, the cup or glass when drinking.
  7. Do butter bread on the plate, never in midair.
  8. Do remember your posture at the table. Sit up straight, and keep your arms (including elbows) off the table.
  9. Do leave dropped silver on the floor. Quietly signal the wait staff to bring another piece.
  10. Do remove an object such as a bone or gristle from your mouth with your thumb and index finger and place it on the rim of your plate.

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t, in serving, overload your plate.
  2. Don’t, in eating, overload the fork.
  3. Don’t mop your face with your napkin.
  4. Don’t saw the meat in a back and forth motion. Stroke it toward you.
  5. Don’t touch your face or head at the table.
  6. Don’t reach across the table or across another person to get something. If it’s out of reach, ask the closest person to pass it to you.
  7. Don’t pick your teeth at the table, either with a toothpick or with your fingers. If something gets caught in your teeth, excuse yourself and take care of the problem in the privacy of the restroom.
  8. Don’t push your plate away from you when you’ve finished eating.
  9. Don’t gesture with your knife, fork, or spoon in your hand. If you’re not using the utensil, put it down.
  10. Don’t eat your neighbor’s bread or salad. A right-handed person reaches to the left across the dinner plate to eat salad. The bread and butter plate is placed slightly above the salad plate. (Remember, solids [foods] on the left.)

Etiquette knowledge has always been a valuable business tool. Being able to handle yourself well at the dinner table is at least as important as your skills in a boardroom.

 “They don’t teach etiquette anymore, but if you ever have to choose between Incredibly Advanced Accounting for Over Achievers and Re- medial Knife and Fork, head for the silverware.” Harvey MacKay


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Posted by Margaret in Dining Etiquette

Toasting Etiquette Tips

March 5, 2012

Toasting etiquette tips you should knowDo you wish that you were one of those people who could deliver a clever toast at the drop of a hat? Do you resist the urge to stand and offer a toast because you aren’t sure of the proper etiquette and protocol?

Composing and delivering a toast that is eloquent, poignant, heartfelt or even witty can be a challenge. The ability to deliver a toast is an art. Mastering the ability can turn the simplest occasion into a memorable event.

There are many kinds of toasts but to keep it simple we’re going to focus on the three traditional toasts. They are:

  1. The welcome toast: Delivered by the host at the beginning of an event.
  2. The event toast: Delivered by the host or MC acknowledging the guest of honor, event, or occasion. This toast is generally given at dessert of immediately after.
  3. The thank you toast: Delivered by the guest of honor demonstrating appreciation to the host.

If you want to lift your glass, but are fearful of committing a faux pas, follow these few pointers:

  1. When giving a toast at a large table, always stand.
  2. Never tap the side of your glass with a utensil to get attention.
  3. The host is the one to start the process. If there is a guest of honor, after the host has made the toast about the occasion, the guest of honor may rise and respond with a toast to thank the host.
  4. Follow the four 4B’s for delivering a successful toast: be prepared, begin, be brief, and be seated.
  5. Don’t touch your glass while you are being toasted. This is the equivalent of congratulating yourself.
  6. Do not turn your glass downward if you’re a non-drinker. It is perfectly acceptable to toast with water or any other non-alcoholic beverage.
  7. And last, but not least: Sip, don’t guzzle.

There are so many occasions where a toast is appropriate and engaging. If you know you’re attending a special occasion, it helps to be prepared. Write down what you intend to say. Keep it short and practice delivering the toast out loud until you feel comfortable and confident giving it.

A well-delivered toast is a gracious gesture that can make a simple moment special.

“No toast except his own should last longer than 60 seconds.”
– Mark Twain

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Posted by Margaret in Dining Etiquette

Table for One: Tips for Women Dining Alone

September 12, 2011

Woman dining aloneI was married for 23 years and when I was first separated I felt very uncomfortable about dining alone. Just asking for a “table for one” –never mind sitting alone at the table—was enough to put me into a tizzy. I imagined everyone was looking at me . . . and feeling sorry for me because I was eating ALONE! Even if they weren’t looking, there was this feeling that they were.

In those days I opted to eat alone at home instead, but as I needed to travel more, I had just two choices: eat in a restaurant or go hungry! At times I would have been better off to go hungry. Sometimes I just felt so out of place.


May I Serve You?
I’ve discovered that restaurants typically take two approaches to single women, if it’s not business as usual. Either women alone are seated at a poor table, or they are treated extremely well.

In many restaurants, if you’re a woman dining alone and you ask for the table by the window–you’re certain to be told that it’s reserved. On those occasions when you discover one of those restaurants that DO treat solo diners well, you’ll find that they go out of their way to make you feel more comfortable–even bringing you the latest newspaper to read!  (Now THIS is a place I’m telling my women friends about because that’s what we do – share information!)

Do’s and Do’s of Dining Alone

Here are a few do’s for dining alone to help ease any discomfort:

  • Do call and make a reservation (even for one!). Request a table with a view of the room (not hidden away in a corner by the kitchen!)
  • Do bring along your iPad (I do!) or Kindle. It’s a great time to read or write.
  • Do dress up. Even though you’re not accompanied by a date, you can still show it off! It feels good to look good!
  • From time to time it’s OK to look at other diners …. And even smile!
  • Do leave your cell phone in the car or turned off in your handbag. Enjoy your own company.  And let others around you enjoy their conversations without listening to you chatting on the phone. They say if you can’t have a romantic dinner by yourself than you can’t have one with someone else either!
  • Eat slowly. Take your time and enjoy the evening. How often do you get uninterrupted reflection time?

The last piece of advice is this: “Remember the tip – and make it a good one.”

People that work in restaurants claim that men are better tippers. My friend Heather thinks women are just more practical. We can’t be swayed by a great set of legs! I think women are really just better at gauging how well wait staff are doing. If we tip well, we are fans, and we will tell everyone we know—probably for years and years!

Are you a woman who dines out alone? Do you have any tips you can share that will help others feel more comfortable? Share in the comments below!

Bon appétit!

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Posted by Margaret in Dining Etiquette and tagged , ,

Wine Etiquette

September 2, 2011

Wine tasting etiquetteWhat is the difference between wine tasting and wine drinking?

Wine tasting is conducted with the objective of discovering more about a particular wine, its wine maker, the area where the grapes were grown, and so on.

Wine drinking is what we do when we drink wine to enhance the foods we eat.

Whether you’re attending a wine tasting event or celebrating with friends over a meal at home, it’s important to know the basics of wine etiquette.

  • Don’t wear scents or perfumes when attending a wine tasting. Perfumes can compromise what you can smell and learn about a wine.
  • Ladies, remove lipstick (with a tissue, not a linen napkin) before tasting wine. The lipstick itself can affect the taste of the wine, plus removing it prevents having to scrub the edge of delicate wine glasses to clean them.
  • Hold wine glasses by the stem, not the bowl. This allows you to view and swirl the wine properly. Additionally, the heat from your hands changes the temperature of the wine.
  • If you’re tasting a range of wines, begin with light bodied wines and progress to full bodied wines.
  • It is improper to voice your opinion about a wine while others are in the process of tasting. Best to walk away from other tasters before discussing the qualities of the wine you liked or disliked.
  • If you are tasting wine in a restaurant, ask the wait staff to simply pour it.
  • Use glasses of an adequate size to properly access the wines nuances.
  • Serve wine at the temperatures recommended by industry standards for that particular type of wine.
  • Many restaurants will allow you to taste a wine before you order it if you are buying by the glass. (The bottle is usually already open.)
  • If your guests have consumed too much wine, don’t let them drive their cars.
  • If you’re bringing wine as a gift for a dinner party, don’t expect to drink it that evening. The hostess has probably already selected wines that are good pairings with the food. Instead, present the wine as a gift for the hosts to share on another occasion.


“Wine is bottled poetry.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

photo credit: nessguide 

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How to Taste Wine Like a Pro

February 1, 2011

Wine tasting event

If you’ve ever snickered at people who swirl their wine incessantly, you won’t any longer.

Wine tasting is not the same as drinking it. To experience the true flavour of a wine–like a pro– slow down and pay attention to your senses of sight, smell, touch, as well as taste.

Remember – There are no right or wrong descriptions of how a wine tastes or smells. Everyone’s palate is unique.


  1. Swirl the glass and then hold it at a 45-degree angle above a white table cloth or white paper to determine its color.
  2. Place your nose over the top of wine glass after swirling and inhale deeply to determine the nose of the wine. Take your time; there’s no need to rush.
  3. Tip up the glass. Take a small mouthful of wine, breathing in through your mouth at the same time. Rotate the wine around your palate. Swallow. Stop. Wait at least 30 seconds. Take your time, then verbalize what you just experienced.
  4. Keep pace with the other tasters in your group. When they’re looking at the color, for example, also be looking at the color. When they’re exploring the nose and the aroma, also explore the nose and the aroma. When they’re tasting, taste. You get the idea.
  5. Do not criticize, ridicule, judge, or reject how someone else interprets wine. Wine tasting is subjective; there are no “rights” or “wrongs.”
  6. If you must have another beverage with you, bring only water. No sodas, coffee, tea, juice, and so on.
  7. Always take notes of what you discover on the nose and taste, and what other people discover as well. Compare notes and learn from each other.
  8. Have fun!

Don’t be surprised to hear some very odd, but genuine, taste and aroma descriptors. They include things like: horsey, mossy, flabby, stewed, yeasty, candied, barnyard, baked, jammy, and zippy. Check out a full list of wine descriptors here.


photo credit: Dave Morrison

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Posted by Margaret Page in Dining Etiquette and tagged , ,