Etiquette Tips: Dining in Europe


Business travel will always entail dining out. Each country in Europe has its own set of dining etiquettes to follow. How to behave?

Below, we’ve compiled a quick run-through of what you should expect and how you should act. We will cover 3 countries: Italy, France and Germany. Read on and enjoy!

When Dining in Italy:

l  Expect that your colleagues will be late.

l  Make sure our hands are visible, by putting them on the table, not your lap. Never put your elbows on the table.

l  There will always be pasta in your meal. The order of courses for the meal will start from appetizers, pasas down to Ammazzacaffee. Never order capuccino after lunch.

l  Don’t pick up your cutlery and eat first. When holding utensils, hold your knife in your right, fork to your left- and there they should remain. When you’re finished eating, lay the utensils on the right side of the plate (parallel position)- fork should be facing down. Remember to always use utensils in an Italian meal , even when you’re attacking your pizza.

l  East slowly. Italians love their foos, and they’ll take time to savor it. Bread will not be served with butter, but with sauce. Eat everything on your plate. After meal, drinks will include either a fine red wine or white wine.

l  To pay, signal the waiter to come to you. Don’t expect him to initiate it- it’s considered rude in Italy.

When Dining in France:        

l  The French people give formality and politeness huge values. Don’t sit just anywhere.  Your host would instruct you where to. As with Italy, it’s considered rude to put your elbows on top of the table- only your hands, which should be visible on top of the table all throughout the meal.

l  Use your right hand to hold knife; left holds the fork. The meal starts when the host or head of the table (the boss, during business meetings) will say ‘Buon appetito!’. This applies with toastings too- wait for the host to initiate. When the meal is ongoing, you may offer a toast in return as way to show gratitude. Don’t pour wine for yourself.

l  Pass dishes to your left.Lettuce are eaten by folding it with the knife before picking it with fork Now, when you’ve had your fill and doesn’t want any second servings, place the utensils in the middle of the plate. Otherwise, place them on each side of your plate.

l  The French restaurants are proud with the food they serve you, so never request for substitutions, unlesss you’ve got a very valid reason like health conditions (in which case you have to inform your host/ dining companion ahead of time).

l  Bread is served along with the main course or the cheese course. When it doesn’t come with a plate, are usually put directly on the tablecloth beside your plate. The  proper French way is to tear it piece by piece with your hand first, before stuffing into your mouth- not using your teeth directly.

l  Lower your voice. As much as possible, you don’t talk with your mobile phone where everyone can hear you.

When Dining in Germany:

l  Arrive on time. Germans hate to be late. For dress code, it is best to lean more towards formal suits (or dresses). Dark colors are preferred for men. Keep accessories to a bare minimum.

l  Begin eating when everyone is seated and your host or head of the table say ‘Guten Appetit’. Use knife using your right hand and fork on the left. On formal occasions utensils are aways used, even with pizza. As much as possible, use your fork when eating and cutting your food.

l  Always eat what’s on your plate- Germans consider it impolite for you to waste food. When you’re done eating, put your utensils at the side of your plate.  As with the French, dishes are passed onto the left. Make sure your hands (not your elbow) are on top of the table at all times.

l  German restaurants don’t serve tap water, unless you specifically requested for it. Rather, they’ll give you sparkling mineral water.

l  Though table napkins aren’t as often used here than in the US, make sure you put in on your lap. During the meal, if you have to leave the table, the napkins should be placed beside your plate. After the meal, neatly fold it and put in the left side of the table, still beside your plate.

l  Hosts usually initiate the toast, but you may propose a toast especially for special occasions. The usual word to utter would be “Prost”, meaning “Cheers”, or “Zum Wohl”, meaning “To your health. Eye contact is important during toasts.