Table Manners in Anglo-America

"Oh, no! Here I am at an American family's home at the dinner table. There are all kinds of plates, saucers, cups, and silverware at my place. Which should I use for which food? Should I sit down first or wait for the host to invite me? Should I have brought a gift? Someone please tell me what to do!"
  Have you ever been in or had a nightmare about this situation? Don't worry! This article will help steer you through the rocks and reefs of Anglo-American table manners so that if you are ever abroad in Canada or the United States, or at someone's home from one of those countries, you will feel right at home.
  It is important to distinguish what kind of occasion you will be attending before you plan for a pleasant evening. Most Anglo-Americans enjoy entertaining at home, but they don't enjoy stuffy, formal dinners. They invite their friends over for a fun evening, not as a test of one's knowledge of cultural traditions. If, however, you are invited to a formal affair, such as a so-called "sit-down" dinner, you may want to know in advance some basic rules of "black tie" etiquette.
  The first thing to remember when attending a dinner at a Western home is that you are the guest and that you are a foreigner. No one will invite you if he does not really want you to enter his "castle," so you can be sure that you are wanted. Additionally, as you do not come from the same country or culture as your host, he or she or they will surely be aware of this, and will be very forgiving if you unintentionally do or say something which would otherwise offend them. Keeping these two simple tips in mind should greatly ease your concern about being present at a dinner in someone else's home.
  Before arriving at your host's home, you may want to make sure of three things. First, be a few minutes late, say, about five to ten minutes if possible. Never be early, as the host may not have everything prepared yet. Nor should you be more than 20 minutes late. Your host may begin to worry about whether you are able to attend the dinner or not. Next, as to whether to bring a gift, in most informal gatherings, it is not necessary. If you like, you can bring some fruit or sweets, or, especially if there is a hostess, some flowers. These are thoughtful, cheerful gifts sure to please. Do not bring alcoholic beverages unless you are sure of your host's or hostess's preferences in drinks. Above all, do not spend a lot of money, and never give money. As we say in English, "It's the thought that counts." Finally, wear comfortable clothing. One can overdress as well as appear sloppy. For a special occasion or religious holiday, such as a retirement party or Christmas, a tie and jacket would be suitable for the gentlemen and a dress or sweater and skirt for the ladies.
  For more formal affairs, you will probably be told what to wear, such as "formal dress requested," etc. A tie and jacket or tuxedo for the gents and an evening gown for the ladies would be in order here. If you are unsure what to wear, you can always ask the host. Gifts are seldom appropriate for these affairs, unless for a wedding reception, at which gifts are more customary than cash.
  Your host in his home will usually motion you where to sit. At formal gatherings, name cards are sometimes provided, or you will be told where to sit. Do not be alarmed by a great deal of cutlery: simply start from the outside and work your way in. Formal affairs often have several courses of food with the appropriate cutlery for each dish. There is no harm in checking with your neighbor to see what implement he is using. After all, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." It is customary to ask others to pass dishes to you for self-serving; at a formal dinner party, there is usually catering (service). Again, do not hesitate to ask others for information or advice. They are usually pleased to help you.
  The most important piece of advice is this: enjoy yourself. No host enjoys seeing nervous or fearful guests who are struggling to "do the right thing" at his home or expensive formal dinner party. Watch others or ask for their advice, and join in the conversation and good times as best you can. If you do, after the first such evening out, you will certainly look forward to the next!

  在到达主人家之前,你可能要先确定三件事情。首先,要晚到几分钟,譬如说5~10分钟左右,如果可能的话。千万不要提早到,因为主人可能尚未一切就绪。但你也不要迟到超过20分钟,否则人家会开始担心你是否能来赴宴。其次,关于要不要带礼物,在大部分非正式的聚会中是不需要的。你若高兴的话,可以带一些水果或甜点,或者,尤其是有女主人的话,可以送一些花。这些都是体贴、令人愉快的礼物,一定会讨人喜欢。不要带酒类饮料,除非你确知主人或女主人偏爱什么酒。更重要的是,不要花太多钱,而且绝不要送礼金。就像我们在英文中说的 "It's the thought that counts."(“礼轻情意重”)。最后,穿着舒适的衣服。过度打扮以及显得邋遢都不好。在特别的场合或宗教节日,如退休宴会或圣诞节时,男士宜穿西装打领带,女士则穿洋装或毛衣加裙子。