Real and Simple No. 2: Answers to Your Most Basic Etiquette Questions

Category: General Etiquette

Number two on my list of most asked etiquette questions includes both business and social quandaries and how to address them. Here are more answers to help you navigate the modern world gracefully.

• Is the continental style of eating (fork in the left hand, knife in the right if you’re right-handed, and the opposite for lefties) considered correct in the United States? Yes, either that style or the American one, where the fork is moved to the dominant hand after the food is cut, is correct.

• Is it okay to arrive late to a dinner party? It’s acceptable to arrive 5 to 10 minutes late to a dinner party.

• If hosting a lunch for a client, should you choose the location? When you’re the host, you choose the location, but make sure it’s convenient for the client.

• If your friend is disabled, is it okay to ask if he or she needs help? Yes, offer to assist him or her but wait till the offer is accepted, and then ask what form of assistance is needed.

• Can you use either a fork or a spoon to eat dessert? Yes. If the dessert is a cake or a pie, use a fork. For ice cream or pudding, use a spoon.

• At a formal table setting, what is the correct height for a centerpiece? Use a centerpiece that is not higher than 14 inches; that way, guests can see each other across the table.

• In a formal business letter, is it okay to use the honorific Dear Sir? The correct greeting for a first-time formal business letter is to always use the first and last name of the recipient if possible. A letter addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam” will most likely get tossed.

• Is the maître d’ in charge of the kitchen? No, the mâitre d’ is in charge of all floor service, also known as “the front of the house.”

• When you arrive for a business meeting, is it okay to ask for coffee? It’s acceptable to ask where to hang your coat or where the restroom is, but never ask for coffee or any other beverage unless it is offered to you.

• When greeting a client in a restaurant, should you take the lead or let the maître d’ seat the client? It’s your job to follow the mâitre d’ and then indicate where your guest should sit. Think of yourself as a movie director: you direct the production.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (Lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts

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