Easing Into Etiquette
Have you ever questioned the relevance of etiquette? Who has time for all those picky little rules? Especially in college – with a full load of classes, a deluge of exams and papers, a less than rewarding part-time job and a semi-neurotic roommate – does etiquette really matter?
Most of us automatically associate the word etiquette with eating. And it’s no wonder. If your family meals were anything like mine growing up, you heard things like “keep your elbows off the table,” “chew with your lips together,” and “don’t talk with food in your mouth.” Although these rules sounded amazingly like nagging to me, my mother called it dining etiquette. She said these rules should be practiced faithfully until they became habit because someday I would be asked to go out for dinner by some boy and I would want to make a good impression.
As usual, my mother was right. Eventually, I was asked on a dinner date. And, after a couple months, my boyfriend invited me to dinner at his family’s house. I was so nervous. But I was also grateful that due to my mother’s tenacity, I wasn’t going to come across as an ignorant slob at my future in-laws dinner table.
If you weren’t subjected to the same nagging (oops, I mean rules) when you were growing up, don’t worry. The family dinner table isn’t the only laboratory for behavioral modification. College is the perfect time to learn and practice etiquette. Here are five tips to get you started.
Fold napkin into a large triangle and place on your lap with the folded end to your waist once everyone at your table is seated. Use your napkin often, especially before taking a drink from your glass.
Use this “handy trick” to figure out which water or tea glass is yours at a crowded pre-set table and which bread plate you can use.
The left hand makes the letter “b” for bread!
The right hand makes the letter “d” for drinks!
Pass community items (like a basket of rolls) counter-clockwise – that’s to the right. And, always pass the salt and pepper together.
Take small bites. This probably isn’t your last meal so take time to enjoy your food and to avoid a choking hazard.
Remember, the real purpose of etiquette is about being attentive to the people around you. Be kind and gracious. Don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.
So, is etiquette relevant? Given this last tip, I truly hope so.