Have some social grace at the dinner table: we bring you our guide to modern etiquette and manners while dining out
Correct us if we’re wrong but bad manners at the dining table can turn even a brilliant five-star meal sour – after all, dining out is not simply about the food but also the overall dining experience as a whole.
And believe us when we say we’ve seen it all: everything from a single person taking charge of the dinner table conversation all night, an annoying broadcasted telephone conversation, a phone camera shoved in front of our meal, to repeated shouts for the waiter – anything goes. While admittedly Hong Kong’s dining rules (and expectations) in general are relaxed in comparison to ones found in other world-class cities and civil societies, it is still a good idea to behave in a socially apt manner.
To assist you with your next dining experience, making it one that will be thoroughly enjoyable for you and your guest, we present our guide to etiquette and manners for the modern dining table.
Telephones and Texts
- In Hong Kong you’ll often see a shocking number of phones sprawled across the dinner table, this is unacceptable and very rude. Keep your phone in your pockets or in your handbag.
- You are not to attend to calls or texts at the dining table, unless this is a call from someone you’re expecting to join your party.
- Put your phone on silent during dinner. If you’re expecting a call, put your phone on vibrate, let the person you’re dining with know that you’re expecting a call and excuse yourself should you choose to take it. But you should only take a call if it’s urgent.
- If your phone persistently rings and you suspect this is urgent, apologise to your companions, step outside and take the call.
- Wait for everyone to be served their meals before eating, and should there be a host, take the cue from the host when to begin eating.
- If you’re sharing food in a group setting, pass the dish in an anti-clockwise direction.
- Be considerate to other diners, don’t yell or shout (outlandish behavior is simply irritating) and your conversations should not be auditory to the tables across from you.
- Photo-taking of dishes, especially of the gourmet-type is extremely popular in Hong Kong. While most will accept this practice, if you’re taking a picture of someone else’s dish, you must ask for their permission and should they allow you to do so, do it in a prompt manner as their food is rapidly cooling due to your photo-taking.
- Do not shake your legs, drum your fingers or fidget at the table (or at all), it is annoying for other diners, and is a reflection of a lack of confidence and irritability.
- All matters relating to personal hygiene or appearance should be done in the restroom, including application of lipstick or the usage of toothpicks.
- Think before you speak, a thought-through conversation of substance is appreciated at the table.
- Don’t say things for the sake of being controversial.
- Do introduce yourself to guests, it is useful sometimes to also explain how you relate to the host
- Don’t dominate the conversation at the dinner table, be ready to listen and absorb, and speak when you have something worthy to contribute.
- Healthy arguments or debates on noteworthy topics always make for great dinner table banter – just as long as they stay ‘healthy’. Don’t get upset or overly aggressive. More conservative hosts frown upon any mention of religion or politics at the table.
- Make an effort to speak to those sitting around you and especially those next to you, don’t isolate a conversation.
- If you have an issue with anyone at the table, let your host know this in advance to make an appropriate seating arrangement. Should you unfortunately be seated with someone you don’t appreciate, be polite and do not make this obvious to other diners as this behavior is childish and can make other diners uncomfortable.