9 Rules of dining etiquette you had no idea you were breaking

9 Rules of dining etiquette you had no idea you were breaking

When it comes to sitting at a table and eating food you can't use your hands for (ie. not the pizza and burgers you eat every day) you may know the basics of etiquette, but there are probably some lesser-known rules you didn't realise you're breaking.

From stirring your tea the wrong way to clinking glasses after a toast, here are the etiquette rules holding you back from becoming an expert. With some advice from a few etiquette pros, here's what's holding you back from becoming a master of manners.

1. You're probably passing the salt wrong

When you’re at the dinner table and someone asks for salt, you should always pass the salt and the pepper together, explains Maryanne Parker, a social, business and youth etiquette consultant based in San Diego, California. In fact, Parker says, in some social circles, this may be a test to see your level of etiquette exposure.

2. You pull from the bread basket too soon

"While taking a bread from a bread basket, always offer to the person on the right and to the person on the left, and then take a piece for yourself," Parker says. You can't be greedy, sadly.

3. You clink glasses during a toast

"Do not clink glasses, even if you see everyone in the movies doing so," Parker says. Instead of clinking glasses with the people around you, simply raise your glass, she recommends.

4. You take a sip after a toast is made in your honor

If someone honors you in a toast, it seems right to take a sip of your drink along with everyone else, right? Wrong! "Do not ever drink in your honor when there is a toast for you," says Parker. Keep the glass (never empty) with you, but don’t drink, she says.

5. You stir tea in the wrong direction

When drinking tea, avoid stirring your drink clockwise to dissolve sugar or honey, says etiquette expert Laura Akano. Rather, the motion should be "South and North," or between 6 pm and 12 pm.

6. You enter your seat from the left side

You should always enter your seat from the right side, says Gerald Glascock, director and co-founder of The Southern Institute of Etiquette and Protocol. While we’re on that topic: Never shake someone’s hand while seated, Glascock says.

7. You place your napkin in your lap in the shape of a triangle

It should be in the form of a rectangle so it covers all of your lap, Glascock says. You should use the inside of the napkin to dab away anything from your lips, he says. "You do that so if it falls on the floor the inside of the napkin is still clean," Glascock explains.

8. You make eye contact when sipping your beverage

Rather than looking up while taking a sip of your beverage, it’s considered polite to look into your glass when you’re drinking, Akano says. This is partially for practical reasons. How embarrassed would you be if you spilt your drink down the front of your dress?

9. You're passing food in the wrong direction

You should be passing food around the table in a counterclockwise direction, or to the right, according to The Emily Post Institute. This allows there to be a sense of order when food is being passed so that someone doesn’t have a dish coming from the right and another from the left. An exception: if someone only a few places away from you on your left asked for something to be passed, pass it to the left.

Now you can be belle of the ball, king of the castle, top dawg wherever you dine next. What I can't help with (sadly) is if your aunt Karren makes a shepherd's pie you'd rather see the back of. Looks like you're going to have to tough that one out, soldier.