“In Europe, people eat good food. In England people think that good manners at the table are more important than the food you get to eat.” ~ So wrote Hungarian émigré author George Mikes (1912-87) in 1946, seven years after choosing to make England his permanent home. Good table manners are certainly expected at British mealtimes as part of consideration for others and in the interests of hygiene.
One of the first printed books set out the aristocracy’s rules for table etiquette and many similar handbooks ensued. Some of the rules became commonplace and so it is that: we do NOT slouch, scratch, cough, slurp, burp, spit or blow our noses at the table; we do NOT stretch over fellow diners’ plates; we do NOT put our knife in our mouth; we DO wait to start eating until everyone is ready; and we TRY to engage in a little conversation between mouthfuls.
While these are just a few of the politenesses learnt at home, there are even more to be observed when eating out in high-class restaurants and fine dining rooms. People’s table manners in these situations can reveal their levels of social acumen and self-awareness.
(Image: pixy.org / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)