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Etiquette Tips For The Holidays

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are around the corner and whether you're dining with family or with business associates, making a good impression is a requisite for success. Unfortunately for many, poor manners and disrespect have created a crisis of degenerating civility. Knowing the basics of protocol will help you succeed in almost any environment - business or social. For this reason, we have prepared the following list of helpful tips for avoiding dining faux pas:

• Your napkin is a more versatile item than you perhaps imagined; for instance, besides just using it to wipe the food that missed your mouth from your face, it can be used to wipe your nose, or, in the event you will be dining on beef, a mock matador’s cape to shake in front of the carcass then pull away in a comical fashion for your company to enjoy.

• If you are not a religious person you may begin to eat while those at the table who choose to do so say grace. Doing so is considered a more polite way to let others know where you stand than making rude noises or rolling your eyes while groaning in an exasperated manner.

• It is rude to not stand when someone approaches your table or new guests are seated; therefore, if someone you have no real opinion of approaches make sure to drop your napkin or pretend to be distracted by something behind you until they sit down. If it’s somebody you don’t like, be sure to make eye contact with him or her while remaining seated to effectively convey your disdain.

• Don’t patronize your host. It is usually quite transparent and can be taken as an insult. However, if the food is particularly bad, it is okay to soften your true opinion somewhat. For instance, instead of remarking, "It sucked" or, "You cook like kamikaze pilots fly airplanes", merely say, "I’ve had worse" or, "I’m sure it was better than a lot of people get".

• Add salt or insult? Never season your food before tasting it. However, if after you take your first bite you realize it needs something extra it is okay to spit the food back onto your plate for seasoning so as to not waste it by eating it bland.

• If after adding salt and as many as three extra condiments the food remains unpalatable to you, do your best to eat it the way it is rather than force the host to continuously make trips back and forth to the refrigerator. If you absolutely cannot stomach it, apologize and inquire as to whether the host has a dog that he/she’d like to feed it to rather than have it go to waste.

• Dislodging stubborn food particles from your teeth is forbidden at the table; hence it is inappropriate for someone to call attention to such a condition. Therefore, if someone embarrasses you in such a way it is fair to reciprocate by commenting on their weight, style of dress, sexual history, etc.

• Taking a call during a meal is generally acceptable as long as you’re not interested in participating in the table conversation. However, avoid making any disparaging comments you may have regarding the dinner in the presence of your hosts. Instead, say, “I can’t talk about that right now. They will hear me.”

• Be careful about making jokes during dinner conversation, especially in the company of people you don't know since it is difficult to know what they might be offended by. A good rule of thumb is to ask whether anyone is Jewish, Asian, etc. before telling a joke of an ethnic nature, or whether anyone has had a miscarriage recently before telling a joke about dead babies.

• Be aware of how fast the host or hostess at the table is eating. Try not to get too far ahead or fall too far behind. If the host is especially old and slow, ask them if they don't mind if you eat faster before your food gets cold.

• If hot food is burning your mouth, discretely drink something cool to counteract the food. If you are choking, politely alert someone so they can assist you with the Heimlich Maneuver. Wild flailing of the arms, pointing, and banging the table are all considered poor manners. If you should happen to catch on fire, calmly extinguish yourself with a glass of water. Should you remain on fire politely excuse yourself by jumping out the nearest window as inconspicuously as possible.

• Always remember to thank the host or hostess. Showing gratitude is the key to being a gracious guest. If your dining experieince was particularly lousy, simply tell them, “Thanks for nothing".

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