Modern manners for dining out with style.
With one of the fastest growing restaurant industries in the world, if there’s one thing we Riyadh dwellers know how to do, it’s eat out. Or do we?
Do you make a beeline for the bread basket before the starter has arrived? When fine dining, is your attention really on your companions, or are you busy snap chatting the main course?
French etiquette expert Armelle Nicolas is on a one-woman mission to add a little chic to our eating habits. With a decade of experience tutoring high-profile clients from India to China, Thailand to Singapore, she is now bringing her unique coaching company, Manners Today, to the Kingdom’s capital.
But in an age where we are more likely than ever to tuck into a take-away pizza in front of the TV, and even ambassadors are found to favor a casual buffet over a sit-down dinner, does etiquette still matter?
Nicolas thinks so. For her, it is all about communication, especially as our habits and interactions become more international. “Respecting certain rules is very important in helping people live together. It puts people at ease so relationships are smoother.”
Nicolas’s goal is to help people succeed in their interactions, be they business-related or social, by avoiding faux pas and miscommunications. “If you are comfortable with the etiquette, you are more relaxed, more natural,” she explains, “you feel more confident so you can focus on the matter at hand. The other person sees someone pleasant who knows what they are doing. This gives a positive impression of you.”
And of course, her French approach adds a certain, je ne sais quoi. “I always tell my clients that French etiquette is not superior to any other, manners vary all over the world… But it is true that French culture is associated with history, and nowadays with fashion, perfume. France has a certain reputation for elegance.”
Whether it’s her French flair or the natural warmth she exudes, Nicolas’s etiquette sessions are certainly enjoyable. Hosted at fine restaurants and private homes, learning is hands-on and delicious!
From the right moment to take your napkin, to which way to scoop your soup, the number of rules involved in formal dining etiquette can seem overwhelming, but Nicolas insists “Etiquette should be very simple. It’s about how to treat people well.”
“Remember that, honestly, you have not been invited to eat. You have been invited to speak, to meet people. How you hold your cutlery comes second. Focus on the conversation, and voilà!”
Armelle’s top 5 tips for elegant dining
- No slurping. Make as little noise as possible while eating.
- Keep to your place. Avoid taking over the table with cutlery or elbows.
- The table is for the food. That means phones and bags should be placed elsewhere.
- Foucs on your fellow diners. If you need to take an urgent call excuse yourself from the table.
- Follow the leader. Remember, if in doubt, follow your host!