- If you receive an invitation that says, "RSVP" -- you need to RESPOND. The host needs to know how many people to plan for. Courtesy means you let him or her know just as soon as you know whether you will attend the event.
- Notice how your invitation was addressed: If it does not say "and guest", then you shouldn't bring a guest. It will be addressed to the specific people who are invited.
- Putting the host on the spot by asking to bring a guest, or perhaps your children, makes things awkward.
- Gentlemen: remove your hat when you are in a building.
- Anyone should open a door for an elder as a sign of respect.
- It's never wrong to say 'please' and 'thank you' when appropriate.
- Gentlemen, open the door to a building for the ladies. Ladies, say 'Thank You.'
- Also open and shut the car door for a lady when getting in or out of the car. If it is a dressy event and especially if she's wearing high heels, offer your hand to help her exit the car.
- As a courtesy, gentlemen should walk on the 'outside' of a sidewalk and women on the 'inside'.
- Ladies and gents, conservative dress is always the best choice.
- Be on time!
- Be patient and do not interrupt someone who is speaking.
- When you finish a dance, thank your partner if you are then parting ways.
- It is always wise not to bring up topics of controversy such as religion or politics.
- Turn your cell phone ringer off, and put the phone away when you are in a group of people.
- Respect the personal space of others: don't stand too close, or stand behind someone looking over someone's shoulder unless asked to.
- Wait your turn.
- Say 'excuse me' if you sneeze, and cover your sneeze. And use hand sanitizer.
- If you are ill, call and cancel your attendance rather than expose others to your germs.
- When in doubt, just smile and nod.
And then....there's the matter of table manners: Does this strike fear into your heart?
Why are there so many of everything, and which is mine??
The basic rule is, when you sit down at the table, you will eat to your left and drink to your right. That is, your plates are to your left, and your drinkware is to your right. Keep this in mind when the place settings are so close together that you can't tell. Start with the fork or spoon the farthest out and work your way towards the plate (for example, salad is served first, then dinner; or, soup and then dinner).
Here's a diagram of what it's all for:
When you set a table:
How to behave yourself at a formal dinner:
Basics at the table...
Even if it's not 'formal,' Don't reach! Ask to have it passed.
- Don't chew with your mouth open. Eat as quietly as possible.
- If you get something in your mouth you don't like, discreetly deposit it in your napkin--without a remark about how gross it was.
- No elbows on the table.
- Don't hunch over the table.
- Put your napkin in your lap.
- Grooming is done in a restroom or at home, not in public.
- When unsure, subtly look around you to see what others do.
Have you noticed the way people use their forks and knives in England? Check this out:
In some countries, eating with your hands is perfectly acceptable. In Asian countries, people use both chopsticks and forks, knives, and spoons as we do.
And what of the history of eating utensils?
Just for fun, Triogenius checked out some etiquette rules in other countries....it was rather enlightening:
Wear a solid tie, rather than a pattern; tie shoes rather than slip-ons; and a shirt without pockets if possible.
Tap your nose if you are talking about something that should be confidential.
Mr. Colbert missed the memo about the patterned tie.
Discussing the cost of things, such as how much you paid for your trip or for an item of clothing, is considered in very bad taste.
If you find yourself in a waiting line, or a 'queue' as they call it, just wait---trying to get ahead in the line is very offensive in England.
Do slurp your noodles and soup to show you enjoy the food.
Don't tip your servers.
When you stay in someone's home, when taking a bath, don't drain the bathwater as others will use it. As the guest, though, you are likely to get the first bath. And, ...ew.
Do not stare into the eyes of someone who is speaking to you.
It may be considered impolite to introduce yourself; wait for someone to introduce you to the others.
Dress casually at almost any occasion.
Bring your own beer to a restaurant.
Don't wear a soccer jersey, and especially if it's not for an Argentine team. They take their football very seriously, and there are deep rivalries.
When you eat at a restaurant, cross your fork and knife on the table to indicate you're finished.
Don't start eating until your host starts.
Finish everything on your plate.
Join in when they dance.
Take your shoes off when you enter someone's home.
Don't leave the dinner table until you are invited.
Don't give a baby gift before the baby is born: it's considered bad luck.
Give only an odd number of flowers, an even number is only done for funerals.
Don't point with your finger, use your whole hand.
Count these before you give them
Do not wear brightly colored clothing for a business meeting.
Don't give a clock as a gift.
Don't give a set of four of anything as a gift.
Do not wrap a gift in white paper, white indicates mourning.
Do not finish everything on your plate; otherwise, it looks like your host should have given you more.
Do not whistle.
For a list of other countries and their etiquette custom-including how to say thank you: http://etiquette.wanderbat.com/
Remember: Sit up straight, be polite, and no gift clocks. Now you're all set.