Bad table manners include the worst etiquette mistakes to avoid at the dining table. Avoid them to be the ideal host or the perfect guest.
What bad table manners are
Bad table manners are the etiquette mistakes that we should avoid at the dining table. Such behaviors can disrespect hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.
If you are hosting, avoid bad table manners to appropriately serve and attend to your guests.
If you are a guest, avoid bad table manners to avoid any embarrassment.
Bad table manners: the worst mistakes
1) Disrespecting hygiene rules
Some of the worst table manners offenses are related to personal and table hygiene.
Poor personal hygiene is bad table manners
Not washing your hands, arriving at the table smelling or with an unclean face, or wearing dirty clothes is unpleasant for the other guests and can ruin their meal.
Do not spread germs by touching food
You should limit any contact with food on the serving dishes. Never double-dip the same piece of bread in a shared dish. Do not use your personal utensils to serve yourself or eat from a shared dish.
Do not eat off other guests’ plates or forks. If you want to taste someone else’s food, hand them your fork, they will spear some food with it, and return the fork to you.
If you touch food or bread on a shared dish, you must then put it on your plate. Doing otherwise is bad table manners. If you need to slice a whole loaf of bread or a baguette, use a napkin to hold it while you slice it.
If you drop a utensil on the floor, pick it up but do not use it. Ask for a replacement. It does not matter for how long the dropped utensil touched the ground.
Eating with your hands is bad table manners unless the food or the situation specifically calls for it. In any case, avoid licking your fingers. Wipe them on a napkin or excuse yourself and go wash your hands.
Do not rest your elbows on the table. The reason behind this rule is that nobody washes their elbows before a meal. Thus, elbows are unclean and should not be rested on the dining table. Fun fact: according to other interpretations, this rule could be meant to keep your clothing clean, prevent slouching, or prevent violence at the dining table.
2) Performing activities that do not belong to a dining table
As a general rule, at a dining table, you can eat and socialize with the other guests. Doing anything else is bad table manners.
Picking your teeth is bad table manners
Use toothpicks only in private. Never pick your teeth with your fingers. If you cannot resist, excuse yourself and go to the restroom to remove any unwanted food from your teeth.
Blowing your nose at the table is rude
Do not blow your nose at the table. Excuse yourself and do it in the restroom or another room.
Grooming at the table is rude too
Avoid rearranging your hair, combing your beard, or refreshing your make-up. Groom before joining the table, or do it in the restroom.
3) Making noises at the table
Smacking, crunching, and slurping are bad table manners
Eat as quietly as possible. Any noise you make while eating is considered bad table manners. Avoid other noises too, such as drumming with fingers or clinking plates or glasses with your cutlery.
Speaking in a loud voice annoys everyone
Keep the volume of your voice low. Do not raise your voice or make loud exclamations. In the case of a small table incident, such as spilling food or beverage, do not overreact.
4) Showing partially eaten food
Opening your mouth with food inside is rude
Do not eat with your mouth open. Never speak with your mouth full.
This rule becomes easy to follow if you take only small bites. Avoid stuffing your mouth. Do not take a half-bite, but eat everything on your fork or spoon completely. Do not drink if you still have food in your mouth.
Spitting food out is bad table manners
Do not spit food. Instead, remove any unwanted food, such as pits, in the same way as you brought it to your mouth. Use a napkin or a hand to cover your mouth while you remove the food.
Cutting food all at once is unpolite
You should cut as you eat, one bite-sized piece at a time. The only exception is when you are slicing or mincing the meal for a young child.
Stacking dishes at the end of the meal is bad table manners
As a general rule, you should eat everything on your plate and avoid leftovers. If this is not possible, discard leftovers and scraps on a side of your plate. Do not move them or fidget with them using your utensils.
After the meal, remove the plates as they are. Pick up one dish with each hand. Do not stack dishes and move scraps of food from one dish to another.
Resting your napkin unfolded is inelegant
Every time you leave the table, fold your napkin. Fold it in a way that hides the unclean parts. Do not let other guests see a soiled napkin on the dining table.
5) Disrespecting the hosts or other guests
Eating with others is a social activity. Failing to respect other people is bad table manners.
Being rude to the server is bad table manners
You should respect waiters and the restaurant staff. Remember that they are people at work. Do not speak down to them, or call their attention with indiscreet gestures. Do not make them wait for long while you decide what to order. Avoid asking continuous requests.
Requesting multiple custom changes to a course is bad manners. If you need more than one custom change to your meal, you should order something else. You should also avoid ordering something that is not on the menu.
Being rude to your host is not acceptable
Do not add salt, pepper, oil, or another seasoning before tasting your food. It means that you do not trust the capability of the host to prepare food that tastes right. For the same reason, do not exceed with seasoning, but add it in moderation.
Never say that you do not like the food. Eat at least a small quantity of each food on your plate. Make up an excuse if necessary, such as an allergy or intolerance.
Not sending a thank-you note to your host is rude. Do not wait more than 24 hours after the event.
Being rude to the other guests is against table etiquette
If somebody does something wrong, do not criticize them. Be patient and tolerate their mistakes, as others tolerate yours.
Eating right away is bad table manners. Wait for everyone to be served, and for the hosts to signal that you can start eating.
Do not eat too fast, but pace yourself so that you finish your food around the same time as the other guests.
Do not use your phone. Being on your phone means that you do not value the other guests, their company, and their time.
6) Invading the personal space of the other guests
Bad posture means bad etiquette
You should sit with your back straight. Both your feet should rest on the ground. Your elbows should be attached to your body. Slouching on your chair, or leaning your chair back, is bad manners.
Do not lean over your plate to put food into your mouth. Instead, use utensils to bring food to your mouth. If you ordered a drink with a straw, do not lean over your glass to drink. Lift your glass from the table and bring it to your lips.
Distracting gestures are annoying
Avoid distracting gestures. Use utensils only to bring food to your mouth. Do not wave them or gesture with utensils in your hands. Do not fidget with your food, tableware, or accessories such as ties, glasses, or jewelry.
Disrespecting place settings is bad table manners
Be aware of your place setting. Invading other guests’ place settings is bad table manners. Your bread is on your left. Your glasses are on your right. Pay attention and avoid using someone else’s bread plate or glasses.
Be careful with your napkin. In some countries, it will be placed on the left side of your place, in others on the right side.
Do not push your plate when you have finished eating. Leave it at the center of your place setting.
Keep all your belongings off the table. That includes your phone, any electronic device, glasses, purse, wallet, and any other item.
Reaching for something is unpolite
Do not reach across the table. Avoid crossing other guests. Instead, ask other guests to pass you whatever item you need. Reaching across the table annoys other guests and may lead to knocking glasses or bottles over.
Avoid doing more than one thing at the same time. When you are passing something to another guest, rest your utensils or your glass first.
If you drop a utensil, do not venture under the table to pick it up. If the utensil is out of your immediate reach, apologize and ask for a replacement.
7) Handling shared dishes the wrong way
Passing food the wrong way is bad table manners
Pass food always to your right. Never pass food across the table or switch passing directions with each dish. This way you avoid knocking items over or having a guest with two serving dishes at once.
Pass salt and pepper together, even if someone asks only for one.
Picking the best part of a course is rude
Do not choose which food to pick from a serving dish. Take the food closest to your side. Serve yourself with a moderate and proportioned amount of each food.
Picking half portions is rude too
Some food is supposed to be served whole. Do not take half a donut, bagel, fishcake, or meatball. Take the food whole or leave it on the platter.
Seasoning food in a shared dish is bad table manners
Do not assume that your tastes in seasoning apply to the other guests. Do not add seasoning such as salt, pepper, oil, or lemon to food on a shared dish. For example, do not squeeze lemon on a platter of seafood. Instead, serve yourself and squeeze lemon on your plate.
8) Eating food the wrong way
Do not blow on hot food. Wait for it to cool down.
You can sop up the sauce left on your personal plate. However, you must do it with a bite-sized piece of bread, speared by the tines of your fork.
Every food and every beverage has its own etiquette. Order or serve only food and beverages that you know how to prepare, serve, and consume.
- Dining Dangers: A Cross-Cultural Study: researchgate.net