People who go to a formal Western dinner party for the first time may be surprised by table manners in Western culture. Knowing them will help you make a good impression. Having good table manners means knowing, for example, how to use knives and forks, when to drink a toast and how to behave at the table. Beside your napkin you will find a small bread roll and three glasses - one for white wine, one for red wine, and one for water. There are two pairs of knives and forks on the table. Fork on the left and knives on the right of the plate. When you see two spoons, the big one is for the soup and the small one for the dessert. The knife and fork that are closest to your plate are a little bit bigger than the ones beside them. When you sit down at the table, you can take your napkin, unfold it and put it on your lap. In China, you sometime get a hot, damp cloth to clean your face and hands, which, however, is not the custom in Western countries.

Dinner starts with a small dish, which is often called a starter. Some people pray before they start eating, and other people may keep silent for a moment. Then you can say “Enjoy your meal” to each other and everybody starts eating. For the starter, which you eat with the smaller pair, you keep the knife in your right hand and the fork in your left. After the starter you will get a bowl of soup - but only one bowl of soup and never ask for a second serving.

The next dish is the main course. Many Westerners think the chicken breast with its tender white flesh is the best part of the bird. Some people can use their fingers when they are eating chicken or other birds, but never touch beef or other meat on bones. It is polite to finish eating everything on your plate, so don’t take more food than you need.

At table, you should try to speak quietly and smile a lot, but do not laugh all the time.

Most Westerners like soft drinks if they will drive home. Many of them drink white or red wine with the food. When drinking to someone’s health, you raise your glasses, but the glasses should not touch. The custom of toasting in some parts of China is to finish the drink at once, but Westerners usually take only a sip. For drinking during a dinner, the best advice is never to drink too much.

Table manners change over time. They follow the fashion of the day. Besides, table manners are only important at formal dinner parties. If you’re not sure what to do, you can always follow your hosts. Although good manners always make you look good, you do not need to worry about all these rules while having dinner with your friends or family.