Query: holding cutlery incorrectly

Dear EtiKate,
I naturally eat with my fork in my right hand. But I was told that if I was to dine at a formal event I would have to eat my cutlery the ‘right way round’. Should I be forced to eat in an unnatural way in polite company?
Many thanks,
Confused Guest

Dear Confused Guest and Readers

The dinner table is set with the fork to the left of the plate and the knife and spoon to the right. The fork, used mainly to hold down or to eat (safely speared) food is secondary to slicing food or spooning scalding soup. As most of us are right handed, this placement makes sense with the dominant hand performing the more complicated tasks.

Formal events have an aura of glamour that make them inherently more special than other gatherings. This distinction we give them makes the whole experience more stressful. However, always be reminded that good manners is simply making sure everyone around you is as comfortable as possible.

This means that other guests should not make you feel uncomfortable. If you are holding your cutlery in a way you are not used to, you might be so nervous about possibly dropping food that you will be hardly able to dazzle the other guests with your clever conversation.

Left handed individuals are not forced to hold their cutlery “properly”. From experience, new acquaintances are unlikely to make such as fuss. I suggest simply picking up the cutlery and switching them around, the way you are accustomed, without drawing attention to yourself.

Children should be taught from a young age how to use their cutlery correctly. I appreciate it can be difficult to change one’s ways later in life. If you still feel inclined, start by practicing “the proper hold” in your every day life, and not just sporadically when formal occasions call.


We will be delighted to answer all your etiquette-related questions. Send your queries, worries and dilemmas on our Dear EtiKate section. Alternatively, you can get in touch via Facebook or Twitter.


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