2. Bring a host/ess gift, but…
For private parties, it’s proper to bring a small gift for the host/hostess, but make sure it’s not something they’ll feel obliged to bust out that evening… so food, wine, dessert, etc. are not ideal. You risk putting your host in a weird position. Imagine going out on a date and your date brings you a hat to wear. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s kind of pushy and weird.
3. Know your place settings.
Hosts: If you’re setting a table, only place utensils that will be used in the meal. Extraneous items make everyone feel like they’re doing something wrong.
Guests: When in doubt about, say, which fork to use, start from the outside and work your way inward.
4. Don’t add salt and pepper before tasting the food.
Rude. You’re explicitly telling the cook that you know they didn’t season it properly.
Pro Tip: When you do pass the salt and pepper, pass them together as a set.
5. Your dietary restrictions are your responsibility.
It’s 2013. Ain’t nobody gonna judge you for your vegan/kosher/gluten-free/whatever diet. But let your host know several days before dinner — you’re not being demanding, you’re being polite. if you keep it to yourself, it’s on you. If you just sit there and pout at the salmon, your host will feel bad.
6. Use chopsticks in a dignified manner.
It’s rude to rub your chopsticks together to remove the splinters because it presumes that wherever you’re eating uses splintery, low-grade chopsticks. It’s a little like bringing a sponge and soap and washing your silverware when you sit down to eat.
7. Observe proper napkin etiquette.
When you sit down, put your napkin in your lap. Don’t tuck it into your collar like a bib, because you’re not a cartoon hobo. Also, when you’re done eating, gently place the napkin on the table beside the plate. Don’t ball it up and hurl it onto the empty plate.
8. Wait for everyone to be served before eating.
Seriously. Don’t be an animal.
Pro Tip: In many foreign traditions, you must wait to eat until the oldest person at the table has started eating. If you’re not sure, especially in an international or business scenario, play it safe and wait for your elders.
9. Politely excuse yourself to blow your nose, etc.
We get it. That vindaloo is crazy spicy. Doesn’t matter: Don’t blow your nose into your napkin. Politely excuse yourself to the restroom* and take care of your business like a gentleman or lady.**
- Do this by saying “Excuse me” or “I’ll be right back.” Don’t mention the bathroom or otherwise delve into specifics.
** This is doubly true for burping, and infinity times true for farting.
10. When you’re done eating, place your utensils at “four o’clock.”
This is the polite and proper way to let your server know that you’re done eating.
11. Tip 20%.
Always. It’s gracious without being showy. There are rare exceptions: You can tip more for exceptional service, 15% for mediocre service, and less than 15% if you want to look like a clueless tourist or a petty, miserly jerk.
Pro Tip: If the owner serves you him/herself, tip anyway. The owner will divide it among the kitchen and waitstaff.