Dining with Finesse

Cutlery, Dining Etiquette

Did You Know the Dissimilarities Between American and European Dining Etiquette?

11 Mar , 2015  

You are probably already aware of the two predominant dining styles across the globe. These are the American Dining Etiquette and the European Dining Etiquette. An interesting fact about dining etiquette, the American dining style was originally the European dining style. Often called the ‘zigzag style’ of dining is comparatively slower than the European style of dining. Both styles begin the same way, i.e. with the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left hand for right handed people. The knife is held in the left hand and the fork in the right hand for left handed people. A simple way to remember this is to keep in mind that the knife is held in the predominant hand and the fork the other. Also both styles require you to begin with the fork tines facing down towards your plate. The differences in the two styles begin as you start to cut up your food. Note: Remember that all etiquette rules are noted as per a right handed person.

Cutlery in hand or on plate?


The European style requires you to keep both the knife and fork in hand while eating. The American style on the other hand lets you cut a couple of bite sized pieces of your food, then rest your knife on the top right corner of your plate with the blade facing in towards you, then switch your fork to your right hand with the tines now facing up towards you, you scoop your food and you eat your food. Your left hand remains in your lap while you do so. It sounds complicated but really isn’t.

Sometimes one needs to take a mini-break while eating 

american dining etiquette

While eating, you may want to take a break and to let your waiter know that you so or they might clear your plate away. The sign for this in the European dining style is to place you fork and knife at right angles. If you imagine a clock, you’d keep them at a 4.40 position. Remember the tines down in the European style. With the American dining style you rest your knife on the upper right edge of your plate and the fork on the left edge slightly parallel to the knife. The tines, in the American dining style, remain facing up.

Done eating? Here’s what you do

european dining etiquette

You place both your knife and fork, tines down, on the 4 ‘o’ clock position in the European style. The blade of the knife always faces inwards towards the fork. You keep the knife and fork in the same position in the American style except that the tines face up.

Hands have manners too

american dining etiquette

The position of your hands when not eating in the American style, your hands remain in your lap at all times when not in use. The European style, on the other hand, requires you to show your hands i.e. wrists on the table. Some believe the hands remain visible as a sign of respect. With both styles you may keep your wrists on the table but never your forearm or elbows. However you may rest your forearm once everything is cleared in both the styles. An easy way to remember is, it is always good to keep your wrists on the table, sometimes okay to keep your forearm on the table and never okay to rest your elbows on the table.

Here’s a video demonstrating the differences in the dining styles.

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Nikita Nilekani

Nikita has a serious thing for any food that does not fall into the diet category, a strange kind of disdain for tomato sauce, and her day could never be complete without indulging in a fresh baked pastry. Most of her daydreams involve making desserts in a white-walled kitchen.
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