How to Be Polite at a Dinner

Being polite at dinner almost always gets you a good impression. This article will walk you through the whole process.


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    Arrive on time, as your host will want to serve the dinner hot. Arriving late will delay the meal and cause some foods to dry up or lose their flavor.
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    Present yourself cleanly and dress well. Your clothes should make you feel comfortable, but elegant. Make sure you know the atmosphere and theme; arriving in shorts when the other guests are wearing tuxedos and evening dresses does not make a good impression.
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    Bring a gift for your host or hostess, if appropriate. This depends on the event at hand.
    • If it is a formal dinner, it is completely acceptable to bring flowers (a small bouquet or even a single flower is fine). In Europe, if your host is male, the flowers are presented to his wife/significant other, regardless of whether she prepared the meal or not.
    • If you are invited to a casual dinner, it may be appropriate to ask whether you can bring a part of the meal, like a salad or dessert. This depends on how well you know the host or hostess.
    • If you are unsure and you don't know your host or hostess well, go for bringing a box of chocolates, if you like. Be sure to have it wrapped or a nice bow attached. This is to make it look nicer, but also to make sure your host or hostess doesn't feel pressured to open it and offer the chocolates to the guests immediately. You could also indicate that it is a personal "treat" by saying something like "Thank you so much for inviting me, that was very sweet. I thought I would bring you something sweet, too".
    • If you really have no clue and the mere thought of deciding this gives you sweaty palms, don't bring anything, just sincerely thank your host and hostess for inviting you and be a charming guest.
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    Eat only what you can handle. Never eat too much, not only will you feel ill, you will look impolite and greedy. However, don't eat too little, and whatever you do, don't abandon a dish. It could seem incredibly impolite if you are served food which you then don't touch. If you are served something you dislike, try to eat it anyway, to be polite. If you are served something you are allergic to, politely tell the hostess this, preferably before she puts it on your plate.
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    Wait for some signal that the meal is beginning, such as the hostess lifting her fork (this is the most common signal that guests may begin). Perhaps your host wants to say grace before eating or something similar. Definitely wait until everyone is seated and served before beginning to eat.
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    Ask politely (by name if possible--don't just announce to the entire table "pass the salt!") and smile when you need a utensil or other item. Be sure to thank the person who fetches it for you.
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    Talk, but try to keep your voice peaceful and polite. Importantly, try not to interrupt others; let them talk and show them that you are listening to them with respectful eye contact.
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    If eating soup, spoon the soup up coming away from you, then eat the soup from the spoon ( try not to slurp)
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    If you have a bread roll served to you when you sit down, wait to see if anyone else is eating it. The roll is usually to eat with dinner.
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    At a very formal dinner, you may have three sets of cutlery around your plate; The fork to the left of your plate, the spoon above your plate and the knife to the right of your plate. Work your way inwards with each dish. Normally have one set of cutlery for a starter, one set for main course and one set for pudding.
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    Smile at other guests and treat them all well - be polite, peaceful, calm and classy.
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    Practice basic table manners. Keep your elbows off the table, keep your fingers out of your plate, break small pieces of bread from a roll to butter instead of buttering your whole roll at once, chew with your lips closed, don't scrape your teeth on your fork or spoon, never talk with food in your mouth, always say please and thank you, and use your napkin (which belongs in your lap when you are not using it!)
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    Thank your host: they will have worked hard to pull it off.


  • Also clean your teeth so that if you smile your smile should look beautiful.
  • Never serve yourself first. Let someone else initiate serving the food.
  • Remember the golden rule: Never be too greedy or selfish and it is nice to be nice.
  • Don't put anything on the table, like your cell phone or any make up. If it wasn't there when you arrived, don't add it.
  • If the dinner is for a special occasion, like a birthday, bring a gift for the person as well. Often, a gift certificate will do.
  • Turn off your cell phone, but if you must leave it on don't answer it at the table. Instead, excuse yourself and then answer the call.
  • If you dislike a dish, simply call the waiter and tell them nicely that it's a great restaurant or cafe but your meal is slightly disappointing and then the waiter will understand and ask you the problem. You needn't be rude, and the cook will understand if you tell them nicely .Try not to overact or raise your voice always keep a smile on your face.
  • Bring flowers for the lady of the house, or, if you know the host well, something they might like, maybe related to cooking, i.e. rosemary oil, a colorful pasta arrangement or simply chocolates.Or a nice bottle of wine.
  • Uncomfortable silences are the bane of all dinner parties; show how charming you can be by politely filling them. Suggest new conversation topics, or compliment the dish. Everyone will feel grateful to have something new to talk about.
  • Don't eat quickly, eat at the same pace as other guest's, if you eat quickly, they will think that your greedy.
  • You should probably introduce some of your friends that came along if you brought some.


  • Some people consider it very rude if you use "Can I?" instead of "May I?" To be safe, always use 'may'.
  • Excuse yourself politely if you need to use the bathroom, or if you burp.
  • Brush up on etiquette before you get there. If your host or hostess has a different ethnic background than you do, inform yourself about their customs. For example, it is very impolite to enter the living area with shoes in Asian cultures, for example (and quite a few European countries, too). If you are unsure, ask the host or imitate what other guests are doing.
  • Avoid touchy conversation topics like religion, politics and sex.

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Categories: Dining Etiquette