What Style of Eating Do You Use? American or Continental or Awkward?

If you don’t know, even your best friend won’t tell you, but we will.

When it comes to how to hold your knife and fork, our dining tips and table manners advice center on the style of eating you follow. We often ask our audiences what style of eating they use and we’re always surprised at how many people don’t know.

Pick a style

How many people use American style? Hardly any hands go up.

How many people use Continental style? Hardly any hands go up.

How many haven’t a clue?

Then I ask how many people haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. Most of the hands in the room go up. How can you be sure you’re looking good with table manners when you don’t even know what style of eating you’re using.

Let’s clear that up now.

Do you switch hands while eating?

Do you start off with the knife in your right hand and your fork in the left to cut things and then switch the fork to the right-hand to eat. If that’s you then you use the American style of eating. It is also sometimes known as the zigzag style because you’re changing hands. This is by far the most common style used in the United States. (I use the word common to indicate wide use and not anything to do with class structure.)

Do you never switch hands?

Do you keep the fork in your left hand and knife in the right to cut and eat your food? If this is you then you’re using the Continental style. This style has much more common usage in Canada.

Which style is best?

Now that you know which style you use, people often ask us which style is best. Either style is fine. That is, either style is best for you as long as you use the style properly. Our advice is to choose one style or the other and not look clumsy doing it.

Does this make me look awkward?

There is so much more to being a competent business diner than how you hold the cutlery. But if you hold your cutlery awkwardly everyone notices. Even people who don’t know anything about business dining etiquette will notice when you look unprofessional with your knife and fork.

Don’t blow it at the table

You spend time working on all your business skills including your professional dress and image. Don’t blow it at the table. We are amazed how many people think they are okay at the table, when they are not. Take the time to take some training. A great way to learn is our online dining course. 

Wisdom is the application of knowledge

Like any other skill, the key is to practice, use it at home so that it becomes natural when you are dining out.

Posted by Terry Pithers – the business etiquette expert and dining guy

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