While some etiquette trends come and go, table manners and good dining etiquette never goes out of style. And honestly, we live in a time where it doesn’t always take much to stand out from the crowd in terms of politeness and grace. So, it’s a good idea to know some basic dining etiquette rules. These small handy tips can go a long way in impressing those around you.

Place your napkin on your lap

Whether it is paper or cloth, one of the first things to do after sitting down to a meal is to unfold your napkin and drape it across your legs. Not only does this catch any wayward crumbs, its main purpose is to be able to discretely wipe way any food from around your mouth. If you have to get up from the table during the meal, fold your napkin and leave it beside your plate or neatly on your seat— do not leave it in a crumpled pile on the table!

Wait until everyone is served

No matter how hungry you are or how good the food smells, wait until everyone at the table has food in front of them before you dig in.

Eat slowly

There are always fast eaters and slow eaters at every table. But it is a good idea to slow down, chew your food carefully and pace yourself when dining. Scarfing a meal might be tempting or simply a habit you’ve had since childhood, but it’s time to break it.

Besides, by slowing down your eating, you will appreciate the food more because you will be tasting it and savouring it. Furthermore, it’s better for your body to chew slowly and more often for every, since the food is broken down and easier to digest.

Bring your food to your face

This can help with the point above. Instead of hunching over and shovelling food into your mouth, scoop after scoop, take the time to carefully load your fork or spoon. Then, while sitting up straight, lift your food up to your face. It will help slow your roll and is much more polite than the alternative.

Take an appropriate portion

If you are eating in a family style setting (where dishes are passed around) or heading to a party where appetizers are laid out, it’s important to take a small to medium sized portion to start. You can always go back for more once everyone has had a chance to enjoy the food.

Decline politely

Not all food is appetizing to everyone and some people have dietary restrictions. Whether you are a vegetarian, have allergies, are a teetotaller or simply a choosy eater, saying “no, thank you” is generally all you need to say to pass on a dish.

Do not launch into a diatribe about how your diet is better than someone else’s or how someone should be more like you. Perhaps that conversation can come up later but no one wants an unprovoked lecture.

Ditch the cellphone

No, don’t just leave it face down beside you or tuck it under your thigh. Turn your phone to silent and put it away. Otherwise you will be tempted to check it. Constantly checking your phone signals to others that you are not engaged in the conversation or experience at hand. The world will be just fine if you are not available for an hour or two and you should take the time to fully enjoy your surroundings.

Say please and thank you

Whether you are at a restaurant or dinner party, saying excuse me, please and thank you go a long way. If you reach across someone’s plate to pass the salt, offer an “excuse me”. And if something is out of your reach, instead of standing up and disrupting others to get it, kindly ask the person nearest to pass it to you.

Remember that someone has gone through the efforts of creating or serving this meal and some appreciation is in order. Always remember to thank the host and hostess or chef for the meal you have received.

There you have it. By practicing these tips, you will come off as a polite and appreciative person. You don’t have to be stuffy or pretentious to have good table manners. Instead remember that we are usually subject to so many distractions that meal time is the perfect time to unplug, engage with your fellow diners and savour the great food in front of you.

Happy dining!