How to eat politely

Written by contributing writer
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Eating politely means eating in a way that doesn't draw negative attention to you. It's about subtlety and refinement. When you're eating by yourself in the privacy of your home, it doesn't really matter how you eat. But when you're around others, either at your house, at a restaurant, or at a high profile social event like a wedding reception, you'll want to consume properly. Eating politely just takes a little bit of care and awareness on your part.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Take small bites. You don't want to look like a chipmunk with your cheeks bulging out of your face. You also want to avoid taking such a huge bite that you end up choking on your food. Taking small bites is both practical and polite.

  2. 2

    Eat slowly. You're not in a race. Chew your food thoroughly, and savour the experience. Taking it nice and slow is better for your health and makes you look more cultured, too.

  3. 3

    Swallow before you speak. If your mouth is full when someone asks you a question, politely hold up your hand or index finger, completely swallow what you've got, respectfully say "Excuse me," and then begin talking. If needed, wash your food down with a sip of water before uttering your first word.

  4. 4

    Take small food portions. You will be seen as a more polite and gracious guest if you take a smaller quanitities. If it's really tasty, you can help yourself to a second helping when the tray comes around again.

  5. 5

    Let someone else have the last piece. Be a gentleman or a lady. Allow the other person have it, especially if it's a child or an elderly individual.

  6. 6

    Eat with your mouth closed. Nobody wants to see what's inside your mouth.

  7. 7

    Consume quietly. Even though certain cultures consider it a supreme compliment to the host when the guests smack their lips loudly and slurp noisily while eating, many cultures regard this behaviour as tasteless. Play it safe -- eat quietly to avoid attracting negative attention to yourself.

  8. 8

    Check for crumbs and food bits on your face. Every so often, pick up your napkin and gently wipe your mouth and its vicinity, including your chin. If you think you've got food stuck in your teeth, find a convenient point to excuse yourself. Go to the rest room where you can take care of the problem discreetly. It helps to have a toothpick on hand.

  9. 9

    Use utensils. Unless you're at a picnic or barbecue, it's usually best to eat your food with a fork and knife, not with your hands. When in doubt, first watch what others do -- especially your hosts. Then do as the hosts do.

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