Dear Ms Manners,
I was at a formal boardroom lunch the other day when I got up to leave the table and put my serviette on my plate.
A waiter came along and very ostentatiously put it beside my plate. I then noticed that everyone around me had placed their napkin on their chairs when they stood up to leave the table. Who was right?
Ah, the napkin. This little bit of cloth can be the cause of all sorts of etiquette rules to be broken naively. The napkin is always the first giveaway to someone’s etiquette prowess.
I will lay out the napkin flow chart of your meal:
When you first sit down, place the napkin on your lap. Do not keep it on the table and do not tuck it into your shirt. Put it on your lap.
The napkin is only used to blot your mouth, nothing else.
If you need to get up for a moment from the table, place the napkin neatly on your chair and excuse yourself (no one needs the intimate details on where you are going – we really don’t need to know).
When you return, place the napkin straight back on your lap – do not shake the napkin before you sit as the person next of you won’t appreciate becoming a schnitzel from your crumbs.
When you are finished eating for the evening, place the napkin on the left of your dinner plate – never on the plate itself.
Enjoy your new confidence and the game of etiquette.