Using a napkin properly is more than rubbing your mouth while eating spaghetti or some other messy food. If the napkin is made of paper or cloth, the way to use it politely remains the same.
At informal meals, place the napkin in your lap immediately upon seating.
Place the napkin in your lap upon seating.
It is not necessary to completely open a large napkin; just fold it in half. However, you can completely open a smaller napkin. The napkin remains in the lap throughout the meal and should be used to gently dry the mouth. If you need to leave the table during the meal, place the napkin on your chair and silently apologize from the table. Do not fold it.
During formal occasions, before unfolding the napkin, wait for the hostess to remove her napkin from the table and unfold it in her lap.
No matter what the occasion, you should not slam the napkin like a flag before putting it on your lap and do not put the napkin in your shirt like a bib. Never use a napkin to clean lipstick or blow your nose!
Do rules change according to the type of meal, the formality of the occasion or even the type of napkin used, such as paper or cloth?
With a paper towel, you have to open it completely or use two for extra protection.
In the most exclusive restaurants, your server puts the napkin on your lap, and when you leave the table temporarily, this waiting staff member will bring you a new napkin and place it to the left of the plate.
At the end of the meal, the guest signals the end of the meal by placing the napkin on the table. You should follow the example by placing the napkin neatly on the table to the left of the dinner plate, without showing dirty areas. Do not fold the napkin, roll it up or place it on the plate.
When leaving the table temporarily, put the napkin on your chair.
At the meal’s end, fold your napkin and place it to the left of your place setting.
Can you share interesting stories or anecdotes?
If you bite something hard to chew (like a piece of meat or cartilage), do not spit it into the cloth napkin. When nobody watches, discreetly extract it with your two fingers and place it on the edge of the plate.
Is it acceptable to use a napkin a Bib?
Are there any special rules, such as when using cocktail napkins or using napkins when standing?
You should always have a napkin when you’re having a drink or a plate of food. If the server does not provide one, ask for one.
Are there differences in the way men and women use or should use napkins? And who are the worst offenders?
Men are usually the worst offenders because they are more likely to cover only one leg and not two. Some men have been taught that this is correct. It is not.
Knowing your table manners gives you more confidence in embracing new dining experiences, whether it’s dinner at a fancy restaurant, job interviews over a meal, or a meal at a friend’s home.