Are you invited over for dinner to a friends house this weekend? Not quite sure what the proper etiquette is? Let me help you along with 9 basic and modern European dining etiquette rules you should follow. They apply whether you are invited to a kids birthday party, your boss’s house for brunch or a fine-dining dinner.
European dining etiquette is rather specific and rooted in royal and high-society traditions. Many of the rules date back from royal households from way back when. So it is fair to ask do these ancient rules still apply? Anything Royal, Nobility and Military related, yep they still apply. Since you might not having tea with the Queen just yet, when it comes down to our home and parties, rules can be massaged, let’s say. When in doubt take your cue from your host or hostess and following these 9 never-fail Belgian ( most of Europe) etiquette rules:
1. Bring a host(ess) gift. Whether you are invited to their home or at a restaurant, showing up empty handed is a BIG no-no when someone is paying for dinner. One exception should be made when it is your birthday or you are the guest of honor. However a last minute invitation can justify it but not excuse it. You can send flowers or a gift afterwards with a thank-you note. The host(ess) gift is not an item to be shared with the guests during dinner, it is an actual gift to the host(ess).
—— 16 gift ideas that always work ( tested and all given by me over the years): beautiful flower arrangement, a lovely plant for the garden or balcony, delicious Belgian chocolates, a nice book, a special coffee or tea, a fabulous coffee or tea pot and matching cups, a bottle of gorgeous wine or champagne, a special wine decanter, a scented candle, a beautiful cheese knife or cake server, a special apron and dishtowel set, a unique serving board, a set of vintage champagne glasses, a unusual coaster set, a basket with exotic spices and special salts and a luxurious hand wash and cream set.
2. Turn off your cellphone. I think that’s rather self-explanatory. If you must take an urgent call, please go into another room as not to disturb the dinner. You want to take some photos of the table, food and guest, make sure you ask first and ask for permission to share on social media.
3. Know which utensils to use and how. When multiple courses are served, multiple utensils of different sizes might be laid out in front of you. Start with the utensils on the outside and work your way in as the meal goes on. Use both utensils at the same time: fork in left hand, knife in right hand. Do not switch hands nor lay down the knife.
4. Know the “rest” and “finished” positions. For the rest position: place your fork at the 9 o’clock position and knife at the 3 o’clock position and meet in the middle of the plate. For the finished position: place the fork below the knife diagonally across the plate.
5. Know the position of your bread plate. Your bread plate is to your LEFT. When no bread plate is placed and bread is offered, place it on your plate at the top left.
6. Taste your food before you add salt or other seasoning. Doing otherwise you may insult the host or hostess.
7. Don’t cut all your food before you begin eating. Cut one or two bites at a time. Take small bites.
8. Sop up extra sauce only with a piece of bread on the end of your fork. Do not use your hands to sauce the plate with bread.
9. Always send a thank you note – whats app – message the next day. I do love a handwritten note!
I certainly hope these rules will help you to avoid any etiquette faux-pas from now on.
Written and photographed by Sandra Slawinski without commercial deals.