How to dine in style

Sandra Slawinski 26th June 2020 0 comments

Let me share a few tips for making a great FIRST impression on the in-laws, your new boss or new friends. If you re invited to a formal affair, take a glance at the dress codes. A few simple etiquette rules to keep in mind and you won’t put your foot into it so to speak.


Are we late? In Belgium arriving early at your hosts house is worse than being late. But never be more than 15 minutes late if a specific time was given without a quick warning message to the host.

What to bring? A host(ess) gift is not something to be consumed during the meal. Only bring a dish or dinks when requested and cleared by the host. Have flowers delivered before the meal or offer flowers in water and not requiring immediate attention from the host. A small gift instead of flowers can be offered in line with the hosts interests. In Belgium flowers and chocolates are perfect acceptable host gifts if you do not know them well enough for more personal gifts.

Damm, I dropped my napkin. “Elbows off the table”  mothers says. Where are my knife and forkPlace the napkin in your lap upon seating. When leaving the table temporarily, put the napkin on your chair. At the end of the meal, fold the napkin and place it to the left of your place setting.

Your hands are expected to be visible above the table, however no elbows on the table. The knife remains in the right hand and the fork remains in the left. When the meal is finished, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other diagonally across the plate. When taking a break during a meal, place  your knife and fork on your plate near the center, slightly angled in an inverted V. Your bread plate is to your left.

Pass all serving dishes to your left. Wait until all guests and the hosts are served before you begin eating. Chew with your mouth closed. Take small bites. Cut your food one piece at a time. Don’t speak with a mouthful. Don’t reach across the table.

Be sensitive to the phone etiquette, best not to bring it to the table. If you are on call or expecting an urgent call advise the host in advance and take the call outside.

5 FORMAL dining styles to be acquainted with:

à l’anglaise ( English style): serving platters with food are brought to the table and the host(or server) serves each guest to their left.

à la francaise (French style): serving platters with food are passed to the guests to help themselves, passing on their left to the next guest.

à la russe (Russian style): next to the dining table individual plated courses are prepared after presenting the platter and carving of the main course in presence of the guests.

à l’americaine (American style):  individual plated courses prepared in the kitchen are placed in front of each guest.






6 DRESS CODES: Today there is flexibility in dress codes but should you be invited to a formal party with dress codes noted on the invitation, best to abide by them.

CASUAL: anything goes

SMART CASUAL: business casual or city chic. Women: no rules, degree of polish. Men: denim, suit pants with a shirt, dressed up t shirt – no tie

COCKTAIL:  women: an above the knee hem is appropriate or evening pantsuit. men: suit, tie is optional.

FORMAL:  women: formal gown knee length or longer. men: dark suit, white shirt with a tie

BLACK TIE:  women: floor length formal gown. men: suit/tuxedo with black bow tie

WHITE TIE:  women: floor-length formal gown and gloves, hair worn in an up-do. men: suit/tuxedo with a vest and white bow tie.

Written and photographed by Sandra Slawinski without commercials deals.