Dinner in the USA: A Brief Introduction to How to Eat in the USA

ESTA på dansk



Did you know that it is rude to place a fork in your mouth when eating in Thailand?

At the same time, handling food with the left hand is an insult to your host in the Middle East.

What about the US? If you get ready to travel there, you may be curious about how to eat properly in the United States.

What is acceptable (and not acceptable) when it comes to table manners in the US? In this post, we will discuss what to do at the dining table in the United States.


American table manners: You have to do it

Let’s mention a few cultural things to remember at the dinner table in the United States.

Remember your manners

Much of the table manners in the United States are similar to those in Europe. Avoid belching, slurping and talking with your mouth full, as these are considered rude.

Keep your napkin in your lap during the meal. It is also acceptable to keep your left hand in your lap when not in use.

Wait to eat until everyone is served

Whether you are at a restaurant or a private dinner party, do not start eating until everyone at the table has had their food.

An exception to this is if your host insists you start so your food doesn’t get cold. If in doubt, do what the host says or do the same as those around you.

Remember to leave a tip

One of the biggest cultural shocks for many foreign visitors is tipping in the US .

Love it or hate it. It’s a big part of American culture. Many waiters and bartenders earn as little as $2.13 per hour, so they rely on tips from their customers.

In a restaurant, you should tip between 15%-20% of the total price of the bill, and you can tip as much as 25% for exceptional service. It is not necessary to tip in quick-service restaurants or cafes, although it never hurts to throw a little money in the tip jar.


American table manners: You shouldn’t do that

Now that you know what to do, let’s briefly outline what not to do.

You should not be surprised by a prayer or a toast

Many American households will say a prayer or a blessing before a meal. At a formal dinner or event, such as a wedding, there may be a series of speeches and toasts.

If those around you stand, raise a glass, or bow your head, it is best to follow suit.

You should not season your food until you have tasted it

It’s perfectly fine to reach for the salt and pepper grinder – after you’ve tasted your food.

Seasoning your food before you eat it is an insult to the chef. Asking for extra spices or sauce – once you’ve tasted it – is perfectly acceptable.

Don’t think too much about kitchen equipment

After cutting the food, most Americans will switch their fork to their right hand and eat that way. Wherever you come from, holding your fork in your left hand may be the norm.

Whatever you are most comfortable with, don’t worry about it. Probably no one will notice if you choose to eat with your left hand.


Final thoughts on dinner in the US

As a whole, Americans are pretty relaxed when it comes to how they eat.

Still, there are some subtle differences between American and European table manners. Keep the above tips in mind when dining in the US and you will have nothing to worry about.

Before you go to the United States, make sure you have all the documents you need. Click here to learn more about ESTA and the application process.

It is recommended to apply for ESTA 72 hours before departure

All passport holders from Visa Waiver countries must apply for their ESTA online