Many people look at etiquette as a list of rules. This attitude presumes failure and puts undue pressure on the diner. Success is more likely when we think of etiquette as a set of skills that can be used in myriad situations while allowing the diner the ability to relax and enjoy the company of fellow guests.
Here is a list of tools you can use to ensure good manners in most teatime scenarios.
1. Entering a room. Enter the room with confidence while being aware of all that is around you. Leave negative feelings, such as feeling rushed or too busy, at the door. Pay attention to the well being of your fellow guests. When in a foreign setting, use your peripheral vision to see how other diners are behaving and take your cues from their comportment.
2. Being seated. In formal settings, pull the chair towards you and enter from the right. Place large purses underneath your chair or small purses in your chair and not on the table. Nothing, including cellphones should be placed on the table. You can prepare ahead for success by not bringing any of those items into the dining room. When you leave the table, exit from the right as well.
3. Napkins. Place your napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated. If you leave the table during the tea meal, place the napkin on your chair and not on the table. The napkin goes back on the table when the meal is finished.
4. Drink your tea like a expert. Add milk or sugar to your teacup after tasting the tea. Most specialty teas can be enjoyed without any additions. Milk is not added to green tea, oolong tea, or fruit infusions which contain citric acid. After using your teaspoon, place it at the top of the saucer, not the table.
5. Finger foods. Small finger foods maybe eaten without utensils. If the portion will require more than three bites, use you knife and fork to cut into small portions. Pace your meal and try not to finish before the host.
6. Be a good neighbor. Be aware of the level of noise generated by many guests. Large groups often dominate the room with their excited chatter or laughter. That exuberance is fine in a private setting, but it can be annoying to fellow diners in a public setting.
Etiquette training has given me the confidence I’ve needed to enjoy tea comfortably in settings around the world. I never enter a new dining situation without my well-honed set of etiquette tools. My advice to you is dont leave home without them!
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