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Etiquette tips for family meals

· French Etiquette

During Spring festival, most families in China have gathered and shared delicious meals. It’s the right time for us to remind useful table manners tips !

Today, we answer all your questions for making your next family dinner a joyful and mannerly moment.

Can I start eating without everyone at the table ?

Did you ever notice that the first person sitting at the table is rarely the one who cooked it ? It’s always worth paying respect to the cook and to others by waiting a few minutes for everyone to be at the table. Food will not get that cold.

Should we eat in front of the TV for a more enjoyable moment ?

Switching the dinner table for a sofa should not be a regular habit. Indeed, it should be exceptional, as family meals are meant to gather people together to encourage conversation while sharing a home-made meal.

Should we keep the TV open while we eat at the table ?

The best is to turn it off before starting a meal, for the same reason that silence can help focusing attention on the dinner and can stimulate conversation. But if you really are uncomfortable with silence, keep the TV at a low volume and out of eyesight.

Should we toast with others when drinking wine ?

Of course ! But there’s a clear difference between French and Chinese etiquette regarding this : in France – and in the West in general – you will only toast once, at the very beginning of the meal, and don’t have to toast again each time you are sipping on your wine.

Tap the picture to find our wine toasting guide

Who is in charge of serving the food ?

The person who cooked is usually in charge of serving individual portions to each person around the table, one by one. With big groups, somebody close to the person serving the food could assist her by passing along the plates.

Can we pass dishes around the table ?

This is common in a casual setting with a large number of guests around the table. Dishes are passed from left to right, as it is more convenient to hold the dish with the left hand and serve ourselves using our right hand. You could also hold the dish to the person on your right while she helps herself.

Can I reach for something across the table ?

You’re not supposed to reach for anything far away from you. In the past, people with puffy sleeves could set them on fire with reaching over a candle. Today, even though candles are rarely found on the table, it is smoother to ask for your neighbour to pass you the bread or salt instead of disturbing the guests with your long arms.

Should I offer wine to the person next to me ?

The host is in charge of pouring wine to the guests. In bigger meals, the host can not always take care of it, in that case you are expected to handle it yourself. As you pour your glass, offer some to your neighbours as well. The same goes with water, bread, or when you are serving yourself another portion of food.

Can I get that last piece of chicken ?

The rule of thumb for finishing dishes is to leave the last piece for the elder. That being said, elder people will usually want to make the younger ones happy by having it. Still, young people should wait for it to be offered to them, or at least ask for permission to have it.

Should we always finish what’s in our plate ?

Always try your best to finish the portion that has been served to you, even though the taste is not your favorite : it is a matter of respect to the person who cooked it, as well as a way to avoid waste.

Can I yell at my kid when he pulls out his phone at the table ?

This can happen to everyone nowadays. But one thing is for sure, phones should be left away from the table to avoid disturbing the family meal. You could institute a no-phone-at-the-table policy and let everyone drop their device in a platter before the meal begins.

Can my kid leave the table before we’re done ?

When the meal is soon to be finished, grown-ups are often still discussing while children are getting impatient to get back to their room. It’s important that they ask permission for it, and that you grant it when you feel it is the right time for it.

These simple etiquette tips will certainly help make your next family dinner a more pleasant time. Try them out !

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