Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you want to know how to be polite in an American dining situation?

Today we’ll show you what to do and what to say in four typical dining situations in the US.

Listener question:

“When you finish a meal and you eat with your family or friends don’t you say anything?

Or is there something you say to indicate that you are leaving a seat?

In Japan we say Gochisosama deshita which is a thank you word for everyone and everything that brings food to you.

For us Japanese it’s a little awkward if people leave the seat without saying anything.

What should you say in the US when you leave the table?”


What do you say when you leave the table?

You can say “Excuse me I need to use the restroom.”

This is a more formal way of speaking.

You might use this when you dine with your colleagues.

You could also say “Excuse me I need to check on the pie.” or just “Excuse me for just a minute.”


What do you say when you first sit down to the table?

  • “This looks lovely”
  • “This looks wonderful”
  • “This looks delicious”
  • “This looks amazing”


What do you say when you want someone to pass you a dish?

  • “Would you please pass the sweet potatoes?”
  • “Would you mind passing the sweet potatoes?”
  • (If you reach over someone) “Excuse my reach”
  • “Could I reach over you?”


What do you say when the meal is over?

You want to thank the host and you don’t have to just say “thank you.”

You can be specific about what you really liked about the meal.

You can say:

  • “Oh that was delicious. I am stuffed.”
  • “Oh the sweet potatoes were amazing.”


Dining norms in the US:

  • Don’t put your bread on the table or tablecloth
  • Don’t slurp when you eat any kind of soup or when you drink something with a straw
  • Don’t burp at the table
  • Don’t point your finger directly at someone
  • Keep your elbows off the table (except for maybe when you’re having coffee and you are leaning into someone at a small table)


Are these dining norms the same or different in your country?

Let us know in the comments below.

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