international dining etiquette
Dining etiquette for toasts. The most common toast is skoal. Do not reach for your drink until the host or hostess has said skoal; at that moment, you should take your glass and raise it. Wait for the host or hostess to make the first toast; after that, you are free to propose one. It is absolutely essential when making a toast to maintain direct eye contact from the moment the glass is raised to the moment it is placed back down on the table. If many people are being toasted, go around the table with your eyes, making contact with each individual as you make the toast.
Dining etiquette for beginning to eat. Do not begin eating until the host has invited you to do so.
Dining etiquette for utensils. Swedes, like all continental Europeans, do not switch knives and forks. The knife remains in the right hand, and the fork remains in the left. When the meal is finished, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other across the right side of the plate, the tips pointing to the ten o'clock position; the knife should be above the fork, with the blade side pointing in toward the plate.
Dining etiquette for the place setting. The fork and spoon above your plate are usually for dessert. Always start from the outside and work your way in, course by course. There will be separate glasses provided at your setting for water and white and red wine (after-dinner drink glasses come out after dinner).
Dining etiquette for your hands. When not holding utensils, your hands should be visible and above the table. The only food eaten at the table with the hands is bread.
Dining etiquette for passing food. Pass all dishes to your left. Salt and pepper shakers or holders should be passed so that the receiving person takes them directly; do not place them on the table first.
Dining etiquette for salad. Never cut the lettuce in a salad: fold it with your knife and fork so that it can be picked up in a small bundle with your fork.
Dining etiquette for seating. The most honored position is either at the head of the table or in the center, with the most important guests seated first to the left and then to the right of the head of the table or the host(s) in descending order of importance. If there is a hosting couple, one will be seated at each end of the table, with the male guest of honor seated to the left of the hostess, and the female guest of honor seated to the right of the host.
Dining etiquette for restaurants. Waitstaff may be summoned by making eye contact; waving or calling their names is impolite.
Dining etiquette for discussing business. The business lunch or dinner is widespread. Take your cue from your Swedish associates: if they bring up business, then it's okay to discuss it, but wait to take your lead from their conversation.
Dining etiquette in the home. Meals at a Swedish associate's home can be either relaxed or formal; take your cue from the information your host gives you when you are invited. Unlike other countries, you may be surprised at how quickly you might be invited to a dinner at a Swedish home. Once within the home, you will be told where to sit. At the table, look for place cards or wait until the host indicates your seat. At an informal gathering in the Swedish home, you will be expected to remove your shoes, following a Swedish family tradition.
Dining etiquette for paying the bill. Usually the one who does the inviting pays the bill. Sometimes other circumstances determine the payee (such as rank).
Dining etiquette for tipping. Restaurant bills will include a 12-to 15-percent gratuity.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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