American Style Dining vs. British Table Manner

American Style Dining vs. British Table Manner
American dining style is more casual and relaxed, with a focus on practicality and convenience. In contrast, British table manners are more formal and traditional, with an emphasis on proper etiquette rules, such as using cutlery in a specific way, making polite conversation, and respecting seating arrangements.

1. Table Setting Differences

Place setting: In America, the dinner fork is closest to the plate, followed by the salad fork. This table setting works because it’s common for the first course to include salad. In European-style dinners, salad is sometimes a final course. This means you should place the salad fork closest to the dinner plate.

Napkin etiquette: In States, you place the napkin on the left side of the plate, while in Britain, you may place it on the right side.

Serving style: In America,  meals are often served “family style,” with large platters of food placed in the center of the table for guests to help themselves. In Britain, meals are typically served “plated,” with each guest receiving an individual serving.

2. Silverware vs. Cutlery

Silverware in America; Cutlery in Britain

In the United States, you use the term “silverware”  to refer to eating utensils regardless of the material.

In contrast, the British use “cutlery”  to refer to eating utensils made of any material, including silver. The term “silverware” is still used in Britain but is explicitly reserved for silver or silver-plated utensils.

3. Eating vs. Dining

Since Americans are always hustling, they have a casual approach toward food and are often found grabbing a bite or a coffee on a bus or sidewalk. Their approach is more on the “eating” side.

While Brits follow a very systematic approach towards food with their table setting and eating manners. Hence it’s more on the “dining” side of the radar.

4. Offering Drinks To Guests

The approach to offering drinks to guests in the U.S. is more varied and proactive. You may have to ask for a drink before you are served one. It is customary in the U.S. for hosts to refill their guests’ drinks throughout the visit or meal.

In Britain, it is often more reserved and traditional. Expect a drink on arrival. In formal settings, such as a dinner party, hosts may offer a selection of wine with the meal.

5. Fork And Spoon Usage

In America, you hold your fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand and interchange them as required. You will use the same spoon for the main course and dessert.

In Britain, the fork is also held in the left hand, but the knife is held with the blade facing downwards in the right hand. There is a separate spoon for eating dessert.

6. Cutting Multiple Bites

It’s common for Americans to cut multiple bites at once because they rest the knife in between bites. In British culture, the custom is to cut one bite at a time. To Brits, cutting multiple bites is for kids who don’t eat hot food.

7. Customer Service

Americans value efficiency and may expect faster service than the British. In Britain, your food will take time to be served, and you should not expect a second helping.

8. Dining Chatter

In Britain, you can talk but not shout when dining. Meal times are respected, making it hard for you to talk too much. Talking with food in your mouth is impolite. While in the US, you are free to talk and air your views without being restricted.

9. Free Refills

Free refills are more common in America than in Britain. In America, it is common practice for restaurants and fast food chains to offer free refills on soft drinks because soft drinks are cheaper.

10. Ice In Water 

American restaurants serve water with plenty of ice, and refilling your glasses with ice as you drink is common.

In Britain, it is less common for restaurants to serve water with ice, and it is also less common for people to refill their glasses with ice as they drink.

11. Tip Etiquette Differences 

In America, tipping is expected and often considered an essential part of the service industry. The typical tipping you can give is around 15-20% of the total bill, depending on the quality of service provided.

In Britain, tipping is optional.  It is common to round up the bill to the nearest pound or add a small amount, such as 10%. 

American vs. Britain Table Manners – Summary

EtiquetteAmerica 🇺🇸Britain 🇬🇧
Knife and forkUse the knife to cut your food, place it on the plate and switch your fork to your right hand to eat. This is called the zig-zag style.Eat with your knife and fork in hand, and don’t swap the knife and fork between your hands.
EatingScoop food with your fork or spoon. Multiple bites are allowed.Use the knife to cut and push food onto your fork. Only single bites.
Fork tinesBring food to your mouth with the fork tines facing up.Bring food to your mouth with the fork tines facing down.
SittingKeep your elbows off the table while eating.You can rest your wrist on the table between courses.
Rule of thumbDo not slurp your drinks or food.Do not start eating until everyone at the table has been served.
Talking while eatingIt’s more about communication. Hence you’d hear a lot of chatter in restaurants or family dinners.It’s more about the meals. Hence you’d hear very limited talking at restaurants or family dinners. Chatter is considered rude during dining.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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