Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Declining manners?

One of my blogmates recently deplored the decline of table manners, and pointed out several distasteful habits she often observed.

I was surprised to see how many people agreed with her over the habits in question, and how little, on the other hand, I myself was bothered.

I really wondered what all the fuss was about. I have to say that when I'm eating with other people I'm much more interested in how intelligent and engaging the conversation is than in how exactly they're eating their food.

Unless they're throwing their food all over the floor, or commenting on how badly it was cooked, or saying they're allergic to practically everything on offer, I don't really care how they eat just as long as they're enjoying themselves and enjoying the assembled company.

But for the record, these were the habits under discussion:

1. Talking with your mouth full
2. Starting to eat without waiting for others
3. Answering the phone while others are talking
4. Hitting your teeth with your cutlery
5. Not using cutlery
6. Hoovering through the laid-out dishes
7. Texting during the meal

I do object to people texting during the meal, as I expect them to be contributing to the conversation and not trying to be somewhere else at the same time. But other than that I'm very laid-back about other people's eccentric and unconventional habits. After all, my own table manners are far from perfect and no doubt give rise to ribald comments as soon as I'm out of earshot.

So am I really untypically tolerant or are others absurdly fastidious?

21 comments:

Grannymar said...

I know a few people who seem to be surgically attached to their smart/i/phones, I have been known to ask a guest to switch off his phone and laptop while we were at the table. The young lady with him told me that I was the only person who succeeded in doing so.

nursemyra said...

Talking with your mouth full really revolts me. I'm not fond of people using their phones at the table but I'd prefer that to seeing lumps of masticated food

Nick said...

Grannymar - Good for you asking them to stop using their self-absorbed gadgets at the table. I think it's the height of rudeness.

Myra - But I don't quite see how someone can talk at all if their mouth has to be empty first. How do they manage to eat?

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm with Myra. And the answer to your question is they swallow their damned food and THEN talk. No one has anything to say that is so important that it can't wait a few seconds. If they need to talk with their mouths full, they are talking too much. You chew and swallow while the other person in talking.

The whole point of manners is to make others not feel uncomfortable or disgusted. I sure don't care what fork someone uses, but I do expect them to be engaged and behave with some civility.

JohnD said...

"...1. Talking with your mouth full
2. Starting to eat without waiting for others
3. Answering the phone while others are talking
4. Hitting your teeth with your cutlery
5. Not using cutlery
6. Hoovering through the laid-out dishes
7. Texting during the meal ..."


1. I was always taught to not talk with your mouth full. I strive not to do so and get annoyed at myself on the few occasions I have needed to do so.

2. Starting to eat without waiting for others is something you do only when invited to do so - e.g. slow service in a restaurant, or, when the situation necessitates it - e.g. on the 'fire line' meal protocol goes out the window due to the urgency of the situation.

3. If you haven't turned your phone off and it rings it is better to answer it and say you are busy right now and I'll call you back as soon as i'm free. if it keeps ringing - Turn it off!

4. Hitting your teeth with your cutlery ... ????? Never really known this to occur, at least not with the people I've eaten with.

5. Some meals/dishes you do not use cutlery - Arab cuisine are meals commonly taken without utensils, many Indian(Asian) dishes and South American dishes are eaten by hand.

6."... Hoovering through the laid-out dishes ..." Not familiar with this expression. In Australia it is referred to as 'grazing the table' - common in buffet layouts and Bistros.

7. "... Texting during the meal ..." - see 3, above.

Nick said...

Agent - Hmmm, strong emotions here! Do you know, I never even notice if people are talking with their mouth full or not (including myself). Must pay more attention.

Certainly it's important that people don't feel uncomfortable or disgusted. But then again, some people seem to be over-sensitive to other people's eating habits.

Nick said...

John D - Starting to eat without waiting for others, while the food is still hot, is common in Italy.

True, there are lots of countries where food is commonly eaten without cutlery. Princess Diana is reputed to have often eaten with her fingers.

Grazing the table - I like that expression.

Rummuser said...

Table manners from culture to culture is different. One of the nicest stories that I have come across is: The lovely and gracious Queen Elizabeth was hosting a banquet many moons ago with some prominent foreign dignitaries. Very formal affair quite so out came the finger bowls on a tray. These finger bowls are not small and for those of you educated in America and Canada you are supposed to dip your fingers in them to clean before the next course. The servants them take them away. Out comes the finger bowl, the foreign head of state puts it down in front of him, grabs a spoon and starts souping it up! Her Majesty looked around to the other appalled guests. Who is this barbarian? The Queen, rather than embarrass this person did the same thing. She took her finger bowl and started into it as if it were soup too! Then everyone else at the table did the same thing!

Nick said...

Ramana - A great story. No doubt totally apocryphal but amusing just the same. Reminds me of the other apocryphal story of a VIP presented with a plate of guacamole who thought it was mushy peas. As long as they didn't try to eat it with their fingers....

Bijoux said...

I can't say I've noticed too many atrocious table manners in adults, although loud talkers in a restaurant drive me insane. I'm also disturbed by people who are rude to their servers. I can't tell you how many times I've been with groups of people who IGNORE the server and just continue on with their dialogue, as if the server is invisible. RUDE!

Nick said...

Bijoux - I totally agree about rudeness to servers. They're doing us a service so they deserve a friendly response, some appreciation, and generally being treated as another human being. Indifferent snottiness is just a sign of immaturity.

Suburbia said...

There's so much cultural stuff tied up with Table Manners isn't there? I am sick and tired of instilling them (or trying to) in my children!

Nick said...

Suburbia - That's true. Whether you find certain eating habits distasteful or not is very much linked to your personal background and the kind of family you come from.

kylie said...

i get pretty narky if someone wont leave their phone alone, hate it if i cook a meal and nobody is at the table to eat it, dont worry about talking and eating unless it's outrageous, have no chance of keeping my fingers out of the food and there fore have to expect others to pick....

i do think some are absurdly fastidious, its all about time and place and i think table manners can be a bit flexible.

Ursula said...

Fastidious, definitely. Manners are there for a reason. Which doesn't mean we shouldn't make allowances. However, I firmly believe manners maketh man, just as shoes should be polished and not down at heel.

You know what makes me laugh: When people think they are 'posh' by holding their knife as if it were a pen. It's a peculiarly English thing. Marking to me a person who doesn't have a clue. But then the English will insist on keeping their fork upside down, balancing peas in a precarious way on its back. What do they think that bend of a fork is there for?

Do I sound bitter? If I do I am.

U

Megan said...

I...I guess I hope that no one is ever turned off by the way I eat. I'm not paying attention to that. So yeah, Nick, with you on this one.

At the same time, I know some pretty reasonable people that can't separate themselves from this. As in, the conversation is only so much buzz in their ears because all they can hear is eating sounds.

It's just one of those things.

Nick said...

Kylie - I'm glad you agree some people are too fastidious. Re nobody being at the table to eat, my father never came to the table promptly when my mother called him, it drove her nuts.

Ursula - When I was young there were endless rules about how to hold your cutlery correctly. Not many people bother with that nonsense any more. The best way to eat peas is with a spoon, but that would mark you as a complete oik.

Nick said...

Megan - People who only hear eating sounds really ought to retrain themselves to concentrate on the conversation. Isn't that likely to be rather more interesting?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

All those behaviors are rude, in my opinion, and show both disrespect for others and a lack of interest in those who are unfortunate enough to be at table with them.

Nick said...

Heart - Ooh, if I ever come to see you, I'll have to watch my eating behaviour or I'll be thrown out onto the street! I agree though that you should show some respect for your co-diners.

Liz said...

I'm not keen on 1 but would definitely object to 3 and 7.

It's the football manager's way of chewing gum that really gets me though.