American Dining vs European Dining Experience: 3 Surprising Differences and Similarities
We’re more and more finding European influences in the dining experience across American restaurants and diners. It’s always fascinating and insightful for us here at Table Linens for Less to find inspiration in the amalgamation of European elegance and American traditions in dining. From table cloths to cutlery, what does European elegance mean when it comes to the dining and etiquette? They are both similar and vastly different in surprising ways, both with their own merits and fine details.
So how do they differ?
In what ways are the two different dining experiences actually very similar?
Here are our top 3 how-to’s of European and American dining.
The Cutlery Conundrum
Perhaps one of the starkest differences in European and American dining etiquette is how we are expected to use our cutlery, such as the varieties of forks, knives, and spoons. These features of modern dining etiquette have origin in the age-old traditions of both American and European culture. Although not always used or taught, cutlery etiquette matters when entertaining or in a business or formal environment. So how do they differ?
Left or Right: In America, formal cutlery etiquette involves holding the fork in the right hand when a knife is not being used. Etiquette then demands that, when the diner needs to use a knife, they change hands, taking the knife with the right hand and exchanging the fork to the left hand. In Europe, it is expected that the fork is always placed in the left hand, with the fork consistently held in the left hand.
When Resting: In formal American dining, placing a fork diagonally on the plate and the knife parallel to the diner at the top of the plate indicates that the diner hasn’t finished, but is resting. The resting position indicates to the waiter that they should not attend to the diner. In European etiquette code, both the fork and the knife are left crossed at the tips in the middle of the plate.
When Finished: Amazingly, Americans and Europeans place their cutlery in the exact same way to indicate that the diner has finished eating. The fork and the knife are placed diagonally but parallel and close together on the right side of the plate.
In formal eating scenarios, eating manners still matter to equal measure both in America and across the pond in Europe. How much manners matter depends on the context in both continents. But what are the different features of eating manners?
When to Start Eating: When your meal is served at different intervals to different people around the table, it’s important to note when to start eating. In the US as well as in Europe, it is common to wait until every person has been served before starting to eat. When at a dinner party, it would usually be considered polite to wait until the host starts eating.
Using Cloth Napkins
Another similarity in European and American dining is the etiquette surrounding cloth napkins.
When Seated in a Restaurant: Once you sit down to a table in a restaurant, it is important to take the cloth napkin, unfold it carefully and place it on your lap. This rule is valid both in Europe and in America.
When Attending a Dinner Party: If the dinner party is a formal affair, a rule of thumb is to wait on the host or hostess to place their napkin on their lap. The rules around cloth napkin formalities for dinner parties in both American and Europe are varied. However, it’s always helpful to wait for a signal from the host.
We love to explore the differences in how to entertain with class and elegance across the world. There are many subtle differences and similarities in both international codes of etiquette that make a big difference to the dining experience of your dinner party or restaurant.
For more information about how to entertain with quality table linen, such as table cloths or cloth napkins, we invite you to explore our website.