Many people are unaware of the basic principles of etiquette and good manners and they find themselves in awkward situations whenever they are in places that demand strict patterns of behaviour.
Manners, as the adage goes, maketh a man. A person lacking in good manners is grossly disadvantaged in society.
Take hotel etiquette for instance. There are people who raise eyebrows in restaurants by their eating habits. You could be having a good time in a fine restaurant, leisurely munching your lunch or dinner , until the fellow at the next table starts chewing loudly.
Some people chew too vociferously for comfort.
Good breeding requires that one should chew in utmost silence so as not to cause consternation among other diners and dissuade them from finishing their meals.
There can be no excuse for chewing audibly, as most meals can be easily chewed in silence. A person who slurps his drink is likely to lose friends, and a similar fate can befall a person who chews loudly.
One is also advised not to open the mouth while chewing. For years, my son Jimmy chewed food with his mouth open, even after warnings and threats. In the end, it took special pleading to put an end to this habit.
“Avoid opening your mouth once you put food in it,” I would advise him. “Keep it tightly shut until you have safely swallowed the grub. People do not like to see your teeth, unless you are smiling at them.” Conversations must be kept at a minimum while dining.
Many people like chatting about football and politics over meals, leading to discomfort among innocent observers.
In case a conversation must be had, you should cover your mouth your palm or a serviette so as to avoid spraying fellow diners with matter that they would rather not accommodate.
Once you finish eating, it is good manners to wash your hands, using water provided by your hosts. Only an uncultured person wipes his hands on his garment, or leaves the table without washing his hands at all.
It is also a mark of good breeding to use a toothpick after a meal, as this improves your image and saves you from the embarrassment of a morsel sticking to your teeth.
You should avoid being overly dramatic when using a toothpick, however, as you might send the wrong signals to others around you.
Avoid making funny faces while using a toothpick. Do not expose too much of your teeth as you pick them, as people at the next table might construe this for a smile, and some of them may even smile back at you, only to realise that you are preoccupied with other business.
The speed at which you eat should also be checked. It does not help your image if you eat too slowly, the way a classy diva nibbles at food during a date. Eating too slowly may seem pretentious, or it may give the impression that you are pretending to be classy or you are not interested in the food.
On the other hand, do not shock the people around you by wolfing down your meal at the speed of a NYS recruit who is undergoing paramilitary training.
Such lightning speeds of consumption are generally considered uncouth in finer society. Finally, one must be polite towards hotel staff. You have probably encountered rude customers in our restaurants, the kind who create hell for the waitstaff and chefs.
Even though my family is generally disciplined and well cultured, I hope they will always abide by these and other principles of meal etiquette.