Which hand do you use to hold your fork?
In the United States, there are two styles of dining: American or Zig-Zag and Continental.
The very thought that the American dining style may be preferred over traditional British table manners has caused a firestorm among some British journalists.
One writer referred to the new trend as a “ghastly revelation” and “simply too hideous to be tolerable,” while another blamed cell phones as the reason young adults needed to use the American dining style to keep one hand free. No matter your opinion, it is important to know both.
The American School of Protocol® teaches mastery of both dining styles. When eating Continental, the fork remains in the left hand with tines pointed down and the knife is held in the right hand. Between bites your utensils rest on the plate in a triangle, fork tines down at the 8’ o’clock position and the knife at the 4 o’clock position.
When you are finished, or to close out in Continental style, the knife and fork are placed side by side on the bottom of the plate in the 6:30 clock position.
When eating in American or Zig-Zag style, the fork is in the left hand to hold the food while the right hand uses the knife to cut. Once the food is cut, the knife is placed at the top of the plate with the blade facing your throat. The fork is then switched from the left hand to the right for eating. The resting position for America is to place the knife at the top of the plate with the blade facing you and the fork in the 4 o'clock position with tines up.
When you are finished or to “close out” your meal in American style, the knife moves down from the top of the plate to the 3 o’clock position. The fork moves up from the 4 or 5 o’clock to 3 o’clock. If you are right handed, you will use the above close out. If you are left handed, close out will be on the left side of your plate at the 9:45 clock position.
Once you begin the meal, your utensils never touch the table again whether you are using the Continental or American method. Knives and forks are placed together in close out to show the server you are finished eating.
Knowing how to use your knife and fork with confidence is an important part of dining etiquette. The American style is only used in the USA. The Continental method is well known throughout the world. It takes a little practice to master Continental style but it is worth it. If traveling abroad, you will want to master Continental dining.
The key is to be comfortable with your choice. Today our society is multi-cultural and major business dinners are international. Cultural dining styles are mixed and the lines are blurred. It is important to know both dining styles so you will be confident no matter where you go.
In early October, students from Malaysia and London traveled to Georgia’s American School of Protocol to learn to teach etiquette to young children and adults. Both styles of dining are taught to adults as well as children.
The American School of Protocol offers unparalleled training for individuals who want to teach etiquette to 1st through 12th grades and collegians. Our 5-Day Children’s Etiquette Certification provides not only curriculum, but training on how to start your etiquette business journey. This nationally recognized five-day intensive Etiquette and Life Skills program gives you hands-on training and thoroughly prepares you to teach your own classes.
The etiquette certification training program is taught in Atlanta, Georgia by Founder and President, Peggy Newfield and her knowledgeable staff of professionals, all giving you first-hand lessons from the company’s 30+ years of experience. Ms. Newfield has traveled extensively and offers a wealth of information on international and cultural differences.
Whether you use the Continental or American style of dining, good training allows you to be able to easily adapt and feel comfortable to any situation at home or abroad.
Traveling can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences. If underprepared and unsure of the region’s customs, it can also be a very stressful time for you and annoying for those around you. Read on for how not to be mistaken for an "Ugly American".
•Before you decide to jet off to a country, do your research. Learn as much about the culture and people before you arrive. If you do not speak the language, learn a few key phrases and invest in a translation app or book.
•Money makes all trips possible. So before you make landfall, be sure you are aware of the currency used by the country you will be visiting. Typically, if you exchange your money before you arrive, you will be able to avoid a higher currency exchange fee. Banks offer this service for a small fee or even free.
•Traveling to a different country means long flights and little leg room. If you have been on a plane in the last decade, then you know that your personal space on a plane is decreasing as you read this.
•Airlines are trying to figure out how to add more passengers onto every flight, so it is really important to respect other’s space. Have your luggage neatly tucked away and leave as much room as possible for others. Just because you have someone sitting next to you, that does not mean that you have an open invitation to talk to them. Respect other’s privacy and make sure that if you are in a conversation that it’s mutual.
•When you arrive at your destination, most likely you will need a taxi to take you from point A to point B. If you encounter a reckless taxi driver and you feel unsafe, immediately ask the driver to pull over and let you out. Do not yell at the driver, but record the car number and get out safely. Once you are out, call the company and let them know about the awful experience.
•One of the greatest joys in traveling to new countries is the chance to take in the sites. Respect the fact that these sites hold an enormous historical and cultural value and should be left as you found them. Don’t carve your initials on anything or leave litter for someone else to pick up. When the museum says “No Pictures”, please obey and put your camera away.
•Dining out is definitely something that you will be doing. Know what the culture’s dining customs are and what times are set aside for lunch and dinner. Or is it called supper? What local cuisine should be a “must a try”?
•If you end up disrespecting the culture or their food, it is highly likely that you will be labeled as an “Ugly American”. If you want to learn more about dining styles abroad click here.
•If the menu is in a different language or you do not recognize certain dishes offered, then ask. It is ok to be unsure. When asked politely, most wait staff persons are so happy to help.
•Every country has a different policy in regards to tipping. Do yourself a favor and do research on the tipping customs and the percentage that is customary to that country.
•If you happen to run into some inconsiderate neighbors in your hotel, take the appropriate actions. If the problem escalates, call the manager on duty and have them resolve the problem or get you a new room. Avoid taking matters into your own hand, which usually intensifies the problem.
•It is also important to know about the government and laws. Not every country is a democracy and laws can vary drastically in different nations.
For years, we have been known as the "Ugly American.” It is an image that we, unfortunately, deserve. Please keep these tips in mind next time you travel and do your best to show kindness and consideration for all people you meet. Be a “Role Model American” not an "Ugly American".