18 American Dining Etiquette Rules Every Diner Should Know

american dining room


Ever wondered about American dining etiquette? 

Let’s explore the dos and don’ts of dining in the USA. From using utensils to polite conversation, we’ll cover everything you need to know for a pleasant meal experience. 

Let’s dive in!

1. Use Utensils from the Outside In 

Illustration of someone in the dining table using the continental dining style to eat food, fork in the left hand, knife in the right for cutting

Utilize your utensils starting from the outermost ones and work your way in towards the plate. 

This indicates the progression of the meal and shows your understanding of formal dining settings.

2. Place Napkin on Your Lap 

A person seated at a dining table with a napkin placed on their thighs, ready for use in dabbing the mouth or protecting clothing during the meal, demonstrating proper napkin etiquette.

As soon as you are seated, unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. 

Use it to dab your mouth discreetly, but avoid using it to wipe your face or blowing your nose.

Recommended article: 20 French Dining Etiquette Rules Every Diner Should Know

3. Chew with Your Mouth Closed 

While eating, make sure to chew your food with your mouth closed. This practice is considered polite and helps maintain a pleasant dining atmosphere.

4. Wait for Everyone to Be Served Before Starting 

Wait until everyone at the table has been served before you begin eating. This shows respect for your dining companions and ensures that everyone can start the meal together.

5. Pass Food to the Right 

When passing dishes or food items, pass them to the right. This is a common practice that helps avoid confusion and ensures a smooth flow during the meal.

6. Ask to Pass Items 

Instead of reaching across the table, politely ask for items to be passed to you. This shows consideration for others’ personal space and avoids potential accidents or spills.

7. Excuse Yourself Before Leaving the Table 

If you need to leave the table during the meal, excuse yourself politely. This courtesy is appreciated and helps maintain a respectful dining environment.

Recommended article:17 Japanese Dining Etiquette Rules Every Diner Should Know

8. Keep Elbows off the Table 

While dining, avoid resting your elbows on the table. Keep your posture upright and maintain a respectful demeanor throughout the meal.

9. Use “Please” and “Thank You” 

Always use polite language such as “please” when making requests and “thank you” when receiving something. 

These simple words demonstrate good manners and consideration for others.

10. Engage in Polite Conversation 

Participate in pleasant and respectful conversation during the meal. Avoid controversial topics or overly personal discussions that may make others uncomfortable.

11. Place Phone on Silent Mode 

To avoid disruptions, silence your phone or set it to vibrate during the meal. Focus on engaging with your dining companions rather than electronic devices.

12. Use Proper Posture 

illustration of someone eating at the dining table in a proper posture

Maintain good posture while dining, sitting up straight without slouching. This not only shows respect but also contributes to a more comfortable dining experience.

13. Wait for the Host or Elder to Start Eating 

Wait for the host or the eldest person at the table to start eating before you begin. This is a sign of respect and acknowledges their role in leading the meal.

Recommended article: 22 Chinese Dining Etiquette Rules Every Diner Should Know

14. Don’t Reach Across the Table 

illustration of someone reaching for food across the dining table while other people are eating their food elegantly

Avoid reaching across the table for items. Instead, politely ask for items to be passed to you or wait until they are within easy reach.

15. Use the Correct Utensil for Each Course 

Use the appropriate utensils for each course of the meal, following the outside-in rule. This demonstrates your knowledge of dining etiquette and adds elegance to the dining experience.

16. Signal You’re Finished by Placing Utensils Diagonally 

utensil placed diagonally at the dining table placed close to dirty plate signaling you have finished eating your food

When you have finished eating, place your utensils diagonally across your plate. This signals to the server that you have finished and are ready for your plate to be cleared.

17. Keep Conversations Pleasant and Light 

Maintain a positive and enjoyable atmosphere by keeping conversations pleasant and light-hearted. 

Avoid negative or controversial topics that may dampen the mood.

18. Thank the Host Before Leaving 

Express your gratitude to the host or hostess before leaving the dining table. A simple thank you and compliment on the meal are thoughtful gestures appreciated by hosts.

Wrap Up

Mastering American dining etiquette rules not only enhances the dining experience but also reflects respect and courtesy. 

Remembering simple gestures like waiting to start until everyone is served or using “please” and “thank you” can make a significant difference. 

So, next time you’re at the table, keep these rules in mind, and you’ll be dining like a boss!

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