Etiquette expert reveals top tips for how to eat in a formal setting

I’m an etiquette expert – this is how you should behave in a formal dining setting (and what you should NEVER do)

  • London and Berkshire-based Lucy Challenger makes etiquette videos on TikTok
  • In a recent viral video the 39-year-old discussed posture rules while dining
  • READ MORE:  I’m an etiquette expert – this is why you shouldn’t ‘double dip’ – and the correct way to eat nacho chips and dip

An etiquette expert has revealed her top tips on how you should behave when it comes to formal dining in British and other Western settings.

London and Berkshire-based Lucy Challenger, 39, is the founder and CEO of high-end Mayfair agency Polo and Tweed, which sources employees for uber-wealthy clients.

She is also a TikTok and Instagram creator, and has garnered more than 12.6 million likes for her videos which teach Gen Z social media users the essential manners and etiquette they need to fit in with the upper echelons of society.

In a recent video, she tackled introductory etiquette tips, explaining ‘how one should behave when at the formal dining setting, particularly in British or Western settings’. 

Etiquette expert Lucy Challenger (pictured) has revealed some of the basic etiquette tips you should know if you’re going to be dining in a formal British dining setting

She said: ‘Firstly, we need to think about our elbows, don’t stick them out, as typically you’ll end up interfering with the guest next to you.

Lucy’s top tips for dining PROPERLY  

– Don’t stick your elbows out

– Never rest elbows on the table 

– Don’t cross your legs. Instead, keep your feet flat or cross your ankles 

– Keep ‘air’ to a minimum – avoid burping, farting or shouting 

– It’s important to be respectful to cultural etiquette – follow the host’s behaviour if in doubt 

–  Be respectful to the diners around you, have polite conversation. If things start to get heated, try to navigate from this conversation 

‘So as you eat, keep your elbows tucked into your body, as this is a polite way to do it. 

‘Secondly, with the elbows, we never rest them on the table. This is considered rather rude…instead, your arms can rest on the side of the table, either side of the plate, or of course neatly into your lap.’

She explained that the reason for this is that in Medieval times, tables were unstable, and if too many people put their elbows onto them, the table would collapse.

While furniture is now more structurally sound, according to Lucy, the ‘principle and common etiquette still remains’.

This led onto another key point: putting elbows on the table can affect your digestion, according to Lucy.

She continued: ‘So wherever possible, I recommend sitting to the front section of the chair with your feet grounded on the floor. 

‘Crossing your legs is never advised as again, it’s not great for hip stability and back position.

‘Instead, [keep you] feet flat or cross at the ankles if you prefer. Of course we have a backrest. 

‘So if you do have to use it for any postural aspects, or because it’s particularly a long dinner and you want to relax at some point, then by all means, use the back of the chair.’ 

According to Lucy (pictured), it’s important to be respectful to cultural etiquette – you should follow the lead of your host if you’re in any doubt

However, she said you should ‘slide back to the back of the chair, so that you’re remaining as upright as possible and not compressing your stomach’. 

Her next tip touched on something rather more delicate. As the etiquette expert put it ‘keep your air to a minimum’. 

She explained: ‘By that, I mean no burping, no farting, no shouting, try to keep bodily functions to a minimum, or at least step away and go to the bathroom to to do what you need to do.’

Lucy said it is ok to use your seat’s backrest, but if you do, you should ‘remain as upright as possible [so not to] compress your stomach’

When it came to more general tips, she said it’s important to be respectful to cultural etiquette, adding that if you’re in doubt, follow the host as ‘they will be setting the tone and the general etiquette for the dining experience’.

She continued: ‘Be respectful to the diners around you, have polite conversation, and if the conversation starts to get heated, perhaps onto a topic which becomes slightly uncomfortable, try to navigate away from this conversation. 

‘You want to respect people’s opinions and try to have a lovely polite evening. So having a big row with someone isn’t necessarily advisable.’

Lucy concluded: ‘Think about the people next to you, but also think about the people opposite you, as this will allow you to have excellent conversation and be fully inclusive with those around you.’

Lucy has made a range of videos on etiquette topics, including tongue-in-cheek clips on how to eat certain foods like Pot Noodles and Kit Kats. 

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