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Project Britain

Foods in Britain

by Mandy Barrow

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Eating Etiquette
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What should I do or not do when I am eating in Britain?

The British generally pay a lot of attention to good table manners. Even young children are expected to eat properly with knife and fork.

We eat most of our food with cutlery. The foods we don't eat with a knife, fork or spoon include sandwiches, crisps, corn on the cob, and fruit.

Things you should do:

If you cannot eat a certain type of food or have some special needs, tell your host several days before the dinner party.

If you are a guest, it is polite to wait until your host starts eating or indicates you should do so. It shows consideration.

Always chew and swallow all the food in your mouth before taking more or taking a drink.

Always say thank you when served something. It shows appreciation.

You may eat chicken and pizza with your fingers if you are at a barbecue, finger buffet or very informal setting. Otherwise always use a knife and fork.

When eating rolls, break off a piece of bread before buttering. Eating it whole looks tacky.

On formal dining occasions it is good manners to take some butter from the butter dish with your bread knife and put it on your side plate (for the roll). Then butter pieces of the roll using this butter. This prevents the butter in the dish getting full of bread crumbs as it is passed around.

In a restaurant, it is normal to pay for your food by putting your money on the plate the bill comes on.

Knife and fork position


When you have finished eating, and to let others know that you have, place your knife and folk together, with the prongs (tines) on the fork facing upwards, on your plate.



"I was taught never to place ones fork tines facing upwards, but to do the exact opposite, to place the fork with the tines cruved and only the tips sitting on the plate. This was because if you had anything of an acid nature i.e vinegaret dressing etc it would tarnish the fork, so as little as possible of the fork would be left placed on the plate to avoid this.

If you also so consider that silverware would have taken time to polish by staff a tarnishing of the silver would take them longer to clean off (if indeed it had not been damaged beyond repair) thus staff would be tied up cleaning these items not getting on with other tasks that were needing to be done.

Worse it could be these days ones self doing the cleaning not a job wanted by many these days I dare say. Acidity can damage even modern made cutlery tarnishing it beyond repair and with the cost of good cutlery the best way to keep it getting spoit is to place the knife and fork together fork tines facing down so only the tips of the fork are upon the plate."
Advice from a visitor to our website

Things you should not do:

Never lick or put your knife in your mouth.

It is impolite to start eating before everyone has been served unless your host says that you don't need to wait.

Never chew with your mouth open. No one wants to see food being chewed or hearing it being chomped on.

It is impolite to have your elbows on the table while you are eating.

Don't reach over someone's plate for something, ask for the item to be passed.

Never talk with food in your mouth.

It is impolite to put too much food in your mouth.

Never use your fingers to push food onto your spoon or fork.

It is impolite to slurp your food or eat noisily.

Never blow your nose on a napkin (serviette). Napkins are for dabbing your lips and only for that.

Never take food from your neighbours plate.

Never pick food out of your teeth with your fingernails.


Things that are ok to do:

It is ok to pour your own drink when eating with other people, but it is more polite to offer pouring drinks to the people sitting on either side of you.

It is ok to put milk and sugar in your tea and coffee or to drink them both without either.

I am not used to eating with a knife and fork. What do I need to know?

We eat continental style, with fork in the left hand and the knife in the right (or the other way round if you are left handed). At the top of your plate will be a dessert spoon and dessert fork.

If you are eating at a formal dinner party, you will come across many knives and forks. Start with the utensils on the outside and work your way inward with each subsequent course

How to eat with a knife and fork in England

The fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right.

If you have a knife in one hand, it is wrong to have a fork in the other with the prongs (tines) pointed up.

Hold your knife with the handle in your palm and your folk in the other hand with the prongs pointing downwards.

How to hold a fork
How to hold a knife
How to hold a fork
How to hold a knife

When eating in formal situations, rest the fork and knife on the plate between mouthfuls, or for a break for conversation.

If you put your knife down, you can turn your fork over. It's correct to change hands when you do this, too, so if you are right handed you would switch and eat with the fork in your right hand.

How to hold a fork


If it is your sole eating instrument, the fork should be held with the handle between the index finger and the thumb and resting on the side of your middle finger.



How to eat Soup

When eating soup, tip the bowl away from you and scoop the soup up with your spoon.

Soup should always be taken (without slurping of course) from the side of the spoon, and not from the 'end' as in most of the rest of Europe.

How to eat peas

To be very polite, peas should be crushed onto the fork - a fork with the prongs pointing down. The best way is to have load the fork with something to which they will stick, such as potato or a soft vegetable that squashes easily onto the fork. It's sometimes easier to put down your knife and then switch your fork to the other hand, so you can shovel the peas against something else on the plate, thus ensuring they end up on your fork.

The fork should not be used as a scoop but held so that the points of the tines face

How to eat pudding (desserts)

To eat dessert, break the dessert with the spoon, one bite at a time. Push the food with the fork (optional) into the spoon. Eat from the spoon. (Fork in left hand; spoon in right.)

How to hold a spoonEating with a spoon

How to use a napkin or serviette

The golden rule is that a napkin should never be used to blow your nose on. This is a definite no-no. Napkins should be placed across the lap - tucking them into your clothing may be considered 'common'.

What do you say or do if you've accidentally taken too much food and you cannot possibly eat it all?


"I'm sorry, but it seems that 'my eyes are bigger than my stomach'.


"I'm sorry. It was so delicious but I am full".

The main thing is not to offend your host

Other pages on our web site about food or manners and etiquette

For information about the food we eat, visit our food pages.

For more information about manners and etiquette:

Visit Social Customs and Dos and Don'ts in Britain

Questions (or statements) sent to us by visitors to our website


email© Copyright - please read
All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

Follow Project BritainTwitterFollow Mandy Barrow on Twitter

Woodlands Junior Homework Help new website


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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

email© Copyright - please read
All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website.
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

Follow Mandy on Twitter

Woodlands Homework Help new website

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