Why practice etiquette? Two reasons: one impeccable manners are not only to allow you to easily move through many settings (job interview can now involve (your boss, professional associations, etc.) taking you and the department out---I was once part of a work team and upon my insistence for meeting achievement goals was that the VP would take us to a nice lunch at Morton's Steakhouse here in NYC. Scarily enough, men and women older than me would corner me beforehand and ask questions about what to do and not do. Watch the most experienced person at the table and mirror them and never ever have alcoholic beverages with your co-workers. Someone, sometimes your drunken boss, is watching how you operate in the world.); nothing is a bigger turn off on a date than your company eating with their mouth full, treating the maitre'd, the host, the waiters, the servers badly, not knowing what glass to use, what fork, etc.. And secondly, your level of manners is not to only make you fit in, it's to make others feel comfortable. I corrected a student that class is not acting a certain way, it's having such impeccable manners that if someone makes an error, you don't treat them any differently. You notice it, but you don't castigate them.
One of the delights of life is going out to dinner by yourself, on a date, with family, with friends. What isn't pleasant is going out with someone who doesn't understand how to operate at a dinner table. I try to take each one of my students, particularly the males, to a fine dining experience on their birthdays so that I can gently but firmly see and correct any gaps they might have in proper table etiquette. Here's an image of what a full, 4 to 8 course, dinner setting would look like on a handy dandy practice sheet.
- After dinner drinks (alcoholic or coffee/tea)
There might be the addition of a seafood course and a specific salad course or a soup course or even a consomme (a vegetable or meat broth introduced between courses to clean the palette.) One of the things my students often ask is why the portions are so small. They're so small because there will be more in quantity from so many courses and in fine dining it's about quality of food and presentation, not quantity.
How did I learn? My grandmother came from a very proper patrician family and my parents preferred to dine out rather than cook so I went out to restaurants a lot as a child. And as an only child, the option normally didn't include Chuck E. Cheese. In order to participate in these great places and have fantastic meals I had to absorb and perform good manners by a young age. Sometimes the rules seemed cumbersome and a lot but years later on dates and at professional meetings/meals, I was prepared for it. Often the reasons why we're rejected have more to do with manners and appearances before the depth or lack of our character. Stack the deck in your favor.
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