Table Manners


  • Mind your language: don’t ever use unsuitable language or any swear words.
  • Speak softly and speak to the guests on your left and right, not across the table if it is a formal sit down dinner, or to the guests around you at a buffet.
  • Always turn off your cell phone or keep it on silent beforehand. You should not even read text messages during a formal meal.
  • Pass jugs, gravy boats etc. with the handle toward the recipient.
  • Never reach across the table. If anything isn’t directly in front of you, ask for it to be passed.
  • If you spill anything on yourself, use your napkin discreetly. Do not wet your napkin with water from your water glass.
  • Should you drop something on someone else, apologise and let them clean up for themselves
  • Once seated, do not move from your seat on the table unless it is an emergency.
  • Learn about and follow the customs of the country you are in: it is a sign of sophistication.
  • Elbows should not be on the table.
  • Keep your posture erect. At table there is no slouching or leaning.
  • Never rock back in your chair.
  • At a formal dinner, take your cue from your hosts. Don’t start eating before they do and finish when they do.
  • Do not smoke during a meal. Normally most places don’t allow smoking inside, so even after dinner, check with your host if that is alright.
  • Never try and freshen your makeup or brush your hair at the table or in front of the other guests. Use the washroom for this.
  • In an informal gathering, it is acceptable to receive calls/messages, but move away from the party to take your call.
  • Keep conversation to inoffensive general topics,don’t raise personal issues at all, either yours or your fellow guests.
  • If you sneeze, cough or burp, cover your mouth with your napkin and just say a quiet “Sorry” or “Excuse me.”
  • If you get some food stuck between your teeth do not use toothpicks, fingernails, or napkins to dislodge the food at the table. Do it afterwards.
  • At informal sit down meals, pass the dishes to the right. However, take the cue from the hostess.
Krishna Sahai
Krishna Sahai

Krishna Sahai took voluntary retirement as a senior Commissioner of Income Tax of the Indian Revenue Service to follow alternative paths. A multi-talented person, she is a trained Bharata Natyam dancer and has also published a book on the subject. Krishna has imbibed the old traditions of Avadhi culture from her family and is concerned about preserving the vanishing cuisines of India. She consults on financial and business matters apart from running a not-for-profit organization.

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