Where are your manners?

    I recently had a very fun but also a nerve racking dinner with some friends because other than the wine and food there was an etiquette workshop as well. Fun because we were amongst friends, nerve racking because I knew I was sure to make a fool of myself as far as dining etiquette is concerned. I don’t think my friends would be too offended if I said they were just as nervous as I was on that night. We had gathered to meet for dinner at Kanpeki, a local Tepanyaki restaurant in Richmond. Our host? None other than the consummate etiquette instructor, Vancouver based Winnie Ko. Winnie is a regular guest on my radio show and I have learnt many things about etiquette from just listening to her. This time all of us were going to be dining as well as learning dining etiquette on the spot under her watchful eyes. [photo:1354557487791] [photo:1354557507438]Winnie had booked a private room for our small gathering of six and she had prepared everything for our mini etiquette workshop. The moment we sat down, the lesson began with “how to sit”? Did you know that you aren’t supposed to sit fully into your chair? The correct way is to sit two thirds of the way in with your back straight and elbows off the table. Your body should be at least two fists away from the dining table. Yes it can be a bit tiring and many of us eventually did unknowingly lapse and sat back all the way. Winnie says it takes patience to master this one dining etiquette alone. Winnie then talked about the napkin; where it should or shouldn’t go. Winnie told us never to tuck the napkin into your shirt, tie or slipped into your belt. It is just placed gently on your lap. She jokingly told us that during the evening she was going to keep track of how many times our napkins slipped onto the floor! [photo:1354557584993]We learnt the correct placing of cutlery and dishes for the various table settings. We were also taught where all the drinking glasses should be placed. Just in case you are wondering, they are placed on your upper right with the champagne flute closest to you. Winnie taught us how to hold wine glasses – no pawing! We learnt that spilled wine, lost napkins and dropped utensils are to be left to the servers to deal with. Food is not to be shared or passed around. You shouldn’t leave the table to go to the washroom half way through a meal; you should wait until the end of the meal when coffee is served. Winnie also reminded us that if you must leave the table to go to the washroom, it should be done discreetly– it’s not a group event. Sorry ladies, there’s no party waiting for you in the toilets! It goes without saying, applying lipstick and combing ones’ hair should not be done at the dining table either. I never know where to put my handbag. Winnie informed us that hanging it off the back of one’s chair is not acceptable. Winnie suggests placing it on your lap with the napkin on top or placing it on the floor next to your chair but closer to the inside of the table. Depending on the venue or restaurant you can even ask for a napkin to put your handbag on. I can confirm this because I recently was at a restaurant and when I tried to put my handbag on the floor the server rushed over to place it on top of a napkin. How thoughtful! [photo:1354557631127]During the evening, there was much amusement and many boo boos. Someone tried to squeeze lemon onto their crab and the juice ended up in the eyes of the person next to them! Oops! Another person’s napkin fell to the floor so many times that Winnie had to get him a whole stack of them. When I returned from the ladies room and waited patiently for one of the gentlemen to pull out my chair – it was to no avail. Instead, I received a quizzical ‘what’ look. My male companion was just not getting it even after I stared pointedly at the chair. I finally had to hiss ‘the chair’ much to everyone’s amusement but even that action is a not acceptable. A lady just doesn’t shout at someone like that. Although Winnie was very patient with us and came around to teach us individually, I gave up on the shellfish. I was getting nowhere with the shellfish cracking utensil and desperately wanted to just attack the darn thing with my bare hands. Remember the scene from “Pretty Lady”? In the end, I just did what I normally do when I see difficult and messy food being served – pass on it. I know, the chicken way out! However, I did learn to debone a whole piece of fish deftly and without mess! It was a very fun and informative evening. Winnie taught us much about dining etiquette and general social behaviour in public. One important lesson I did learn from Winnie is that you should never draw attention to yourself, especially when you feel you have made a mistake. Nothing is worse than to have everyone stare at you as you clumsily try to make amends. I will never forget the time I lost my little character head from my cell phone as it fell under the table. I asked everyone at my table to lift their feet off the ground as I tried to search for it. I did say “Please”! Let’s just say I’m glad Winnie was not present on that occasion. [photo:1354557649799] During one’s lifetime there will be many meals eaten either at a restaurant or at a friend’s house. It can only be helpful to arm ourselves with basic common etiquette and some gracious manners as we present ourselves to the world. I highly recommend a fun workshop for you, your family and friends. You would be surprised how some good manners go a long way, even when you are at McDonalds!!