international dining etiquette
Dining etiquette for toasting. The most common toast is salud (to your health).
Dining etiquette for beginning to eat. Do not begin eating until the host says, "Buen provecho!".
Dining etiquette for handling utensils. When eating the knife remains in your right hand, and the fork remains in your left.
Dining etiquette for signaling that you are finished eating. When the meal is finished, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other across the right side of the plate. If you put both utensils down on the plate for any real length of time, it is a sign to the wait staff that you are finished, and your plate may be taken away from you. Alternately, if you lay your cutlery down on either side of the plate it generally means you haven't finished; but if you really are, the host might interpret this as a sign that you were not happy with the meal.
Dining etiquette for using the correct utensil. The fork and spoon above your plate are for dessert. There are often many additional pieces of cutlery at a formal meal; if you're unsure of which utensil to use, always start from the outside and work your way in, course by course.
Dining etiquette for eating bread. Bread, if replacing tortillas (rarely will there be bread and tortillas), is sometimes served without butter; in that case, there usually will not be a butter knife, nor will there be a bread dish; your bread is placed on the rim of your main plate or on the table by your plate. Remember, if tortillas are served, they can be used to scoop up bits of food on your plate.
Dining etiquette for drinking. There will be separate glasses provided at your setting for water and beer (after-dinner drink glasses come out after dinner).
Dining etiquette for using your hands. When not holding utensils, your hands are expected to be visible above the table: this means you do not keep them in your lap; instead, rest your wrists on top of the table (never your elbows).
Dining etiquette for passing food. At the table, pass all dishes to your left.
Dining etiquette for seating. The most honored position is at the head of the table, with the most important guest seated immediately to the right of the host (women to the right of the host, and men to the right of the hostess). If there is a hosting couple, one will be at each end of the table. In the European tradition, men and women are seated next to one another, and couples are often broken up and seated next to people they may not have previously known. This is done to promote conversation. Men typically rise when women enter the room, and continue to hold doors for women and allow them to enter a room first.
Dining etiquette for eating your food. It is expected that you eat everything on your plate. Nevertheless, it is a compliment if you ask for seconds, so when being served family style be sure to take small portions so that you can eat everything on your plate and still ask for seconds. You may always have additional beverages; drink enough to cause your cup or glass to be less than half full, and it will generally be refilled.
Dining etiquette for eating in a restaurant. In informal restaurants, you may be required to share a table. Wait staff may be summoned by making eye contact; waving or calling their names is very impolite.
Dining etiquette for talking business. The business breakfast and lunch are more common in Guatemala than the business dinner; dinner is usually saved for family, not business guests. The business meal, however, is generally not a time to make business decisions. Take your cue from your Guatemalan associates: if they bring up business, then it's okay to discuss it (more often than not, over the coffee at the end of the meal), but wait to take your lead from their conversation.
Dining etiquette for eating in a Guatemalan home. When you arrive at a Guatemalan associate's home for a formal meal, you will be told where to sit, and there you should remain. Once you (and the group) are invited to another room, most probably the dining room, be sure to allow more senior members of your party to enter the room ahead of you: men should move aside to allow women to enter the room ahead of them. Once at the table, be sure to look for place cards, or wait until the host indicates your seat: do not presume to seat yourself, as the seating arrangement is usually predetermined.
Dining etiquette for tipping. A 10 percent tip is usually sufficient in restaurants.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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