Dining Etiquette

American versus Continental Dining Style

In conjunction with my post from last week, I am expanding on the topic of “Dining American or European/Continental Style?” As I pointed out previously, there are some basic differences between the two styles. Today, I am expanding on these differences and breaking down the key components to each style!

  1. Holding Your Silverware
    • American Style: You switch your fork and knife between hands so the utensil being used is in the dominant hand. For example, if you are right handed, you switch the fork to your left hand so you can cut with your right hand. Once you cut a piece of food, you switch the fork back to your right hand and take the food to your mouth with the fork in your right hand.
    • European/Continental Style: You keep the fork in your left hand with the tines facing down and your index finger on the back of the fork. Your knife is held in your right hand with the blade facing down and your index finger extended along the back of it. Once you cut a piece of food, you keep the fork face down and your wrist flat as you bring the food to your mouth.
  2. Hand Placement
    • American Style: Your wrists/hands do not touch the table.
    • European/Continental Style: Wrists always remain on the edge of and above the table, both when you are eating and when you are resting.
  3. Silverware Placement
    • American Style: The resting position is the fork, tines facing up, in the 4 o’clock position and the knife resting along the top corner of your plate. Once finished, place your knife, with the blade facing towards you, next to your fork, tines facing up, both in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
    • European/Continental Style: The resting position is in the middle of the plate as if you simply placed the silverware down exactly as you were holding them. The knife blade faces towards you in the 4 o’clock position and the fork tines face down over top of the knife in the 8 o’clock position. Once finished, place your knife, with the blade facing towards you, and fork, with the tines facing down, in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
  4. Eating Dessert (my favorite!)
    • American Style: Typically dessert is served with either a fork or a spoon. If you are given both, you may choose which utensil you prefer.
    • European/Continental Style: A fork and spoon (rarely a knife) are used. Hold the fork in your left hand and the spoon in your right hand and proceed to eat in the same manner as your main course (detailed above).
  5. Commonalities
    • In both styles, you cut one bite of food at a time. Put that piece in your mouth then cut the next.
    • The side of your fork should not be used to cut something.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!) to get a piece of food onto your fork.
    • Do not place your elbows or forearms on the table.
    • Same rules for your napkin! Place your napkin neatly on your chair if you will be returning to the table. Place the napkin neatly on the table if you are finished and exiting the table.

To help explain these details further and give you a visual, here is an informative video by Kimberly Law.

Now you know the basics to be successful in both an American and a European/Continental dining style! If you have any questions about what I discuss here or on another topic, please comment here or contact me!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,



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