In the US people are more relaxed when it comes to eating etiquette.. We enjoy our finger foods and think nothing of eating French fries, hamburgers, or other things with our hands. Europeans rarely if ever tend to eat with their fingers. That even goes for their chips (French Fries). In some cities in Italy, it is common to fold pizza into a sandwich and then eat it out of a wrapper.
We always use utensils for everything when in Europe unless it is something like crisps (potato chips) or breaking bread. If you need to use a fork and a knife at the same time you will hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right. Once a bite-sized piece of food has been cut, it is placed in the mouth using the fork with your left hand. When eating items such as potatoes, vegetables, or rice, use the blade of the knife to assist or guide placement of the food on the back of the fork while the tines remain pointing down. Now I can’t say that I always point the tines down. (There are a few that do use their right hand for the fork and left hand for the knife which is the American way.) Never use your finger to push food onto the fork.
The knife and fork should both be held with the handle running along the palm and extending out to be held by the thumb or forefinger. They call this “hidden handle” because the palm conceals the handle.
Setting the knife and fork in a crossed position with the fork turned down (fork at 5 o’clock and knife at 3 o’clock) on the plate indicates to the server that you are not yet finished. Setting the knife and fork parallel with the fork turned down on the plate indicates you are finished. This is not a hard rule and we have not had all servers really get it. Never pick up a dropped utensil and once used keep your utensils on your plate and not the table.
While eating never talk with your mouth full and never talk loud. If you are eating and drinking and start to get loud, everyone will automatically assume you are American.
Typical restaurants include a service charge (10 to 15%) on your bill. Check your bill to be sure – don’t ask. If you received wonderful service you can always tip an additional 10% but it is not expected. In a typical pub in Ireland you will never see tipping by the locals to the bartender. We still tip if we got outstanding service.
Always carry wet wipes – not all restaurants offer napkins. Check out our post on Wet Wipes and why you should always carry them. Always travel with Wet Wipes
TIP: Sparkling water is very common in Europe. If you want still water be sure to ask for it. The term with gas (sparkling water) or no gas (still water) is very common.
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