Young Britons ‘resort to Googling formal dinner etiquette after being told off’

Many under-30s have never attended a ‘fancy’ banquet, according to survey

Steve Richmond
Thursday 02 June 2022 13:51 BST
Many just copy what the person next to them is doing, poll finds
Many just copy what the person next to them is doing, poll finds (Jason Lowe)

Young adults lack knowledge about traditional dinner party rules such as which direction to pass food, if a particular knife is for fish or steak and whether they are allowed to go to the toilet during a meal.

A poll of 2,000 adults under 30 found almost one in five had never attended a dinner that they would consider “fancy”.

Other rules younger generations were unfamiliar with included what to do with your napkin after eating, how many bread rolls are polite to eat and which glass is for what drink.

Nearly half planned to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee, and in the lead up to the celebrations, six in 10 said they believed the over-60s could teach how to behave at a formal event.

Dawn Roberts, clinical director at Specsavers which commissioned the poll, said: “The research has shown there’s a clear knowledge gap when it comes to etiquette and younger adults.

“However, what’s clear from this and our previous research is that many over-60s would love to pass on their knowledge and understanding around things like dinner party etiquette to the younger generation.”

More than one-quarter of younger adults have tried to host a formal spread of their own and went to extra effort in doing so. Forty-five per cent putt more cutlery on the table, 44 per cent tried their hand at table dressing and 37 per cent insisted that their guests respected manners at the dinner table.

Some 57 per cent of young adults had experienced someone pointing out they were doing something wrong at a formal occasion, with 22 per cent saying this had happened to them multiple times.

As a result, six in 10 had resorted to Googling formal etiquette at the dinner table, while others copied everything the person next to them was doing or relied on a partner to tell them what to do.

Young women worried about which cutlery should be used for which course and men stressed about what to do with their knife and fork when they had finished their meal.

Despite their efforts to learn, 73 per cent of those polled via OnePoll believed etiquette and good manners were dying out.

Diana Mather, an etiquette expert from The English Manner, said: “Things like etiquette can seem quite intimidating, but what better time than the Queen’s platinum jubilee to learn a bit about it and enjoy more formal celebrations.

“It’s sad to hear that younger people believe that etiquette is waning, as actually it is as relevant today as it has always been. Being able to hold your own at a formal event can be crucial to career success, as well as to being able to enjoy weddings and dinner parties.

“I hope my tips will help a little, but there’s really no substitute for talking to an older friend or relative if you need some more advice – and maybe you could even invite them to dinner to say thank you!”

Ms Mather added that diners should work their way from the outside in with cutlery, and that bread rolls should be broken by hand rather than cut with a knife.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in