Dining Out Etiquette

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Dining out should always be a pleasant experience, be it a intimate dinner for two or a party with friends and family.  When dining out, it is expected that you, as the guest behave in a manner which is in keeping with the sort of restaurant you are visiting.  Be it a casual brunch on a weekend to a formal dinner there are a handful of guidelines which can ensure your dining experience is an enjoyable one.

Make a reservation.

It is the host’s duty to call ahead of time to arrange a reservation.  This avoids unnecessary queuing as popular restaurants may be pre-booked for days in advance.   The time of booking is also an opportunity to check in advance and advise of any special dietary requirements of your guests.

Ensure you arrive in a timely manner at your reservation.  In the words of Ita Buttrose it is “unforgivable” to reserve a table and not turn up.  Always ensure you cancel a booking even if it is at the last minute.

Some restaurants may not take reservations.  In this case, be sure you arrive ahead of time to ensure you are at the top of the waiting list and may be seated before the arrival of your guests.

Arrival

Upon your arrival at the restaurant, wait for the maitre d’ to escort you to your table.  Some restarants may offer to take your coat or umbrella before being seated.  At a table with a banquette, women are traditionally seated on the banquette, the men on chairs opposite them.  Once seated, you’ll probably be offered pre-dinner drinks.  It is perfectly acceptable to politely decline until once you have perused the drinks menu further.

Ordering

Styles of menus various enormously, from  fancy handwritten menus that change daily to elaborate printed menus which feature a Table d’hôte or fixed price menu with limited choice.  In contrast, other restaurants may have a À la carte menu, which simply means that each dish has a stated price and the dishes can be ordered in any combination desired.

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The basic rule of ordering from a menu is to ask the waiter about any dish you do not understand.  Asking what a particular dish contains does not make you look stupid as there is no point in ordering what you do not recognize!  Any waiter will know what is on offer or at least be able to find out.

Complaints

What if something is wrong with the food you ordered?  The dish is not cooked, the food is cold or the salad tastes nasty!  Whatever your complaint be sure to quietly explain your issue to the waiter.  Any reputable restaurant will be obliging and willing to resolve the problem and replace the dish.

The Bill

When the meal draws to a close, attract the attention of a waiter and request the bill.  Don’t forget to discreetly check the bill for errors. Signal the waiter when the payment is ready for collection.

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Australian Etiquette

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Australian etiquette is always something that intrigues me. Australians people, commonly dubbed “Aussies”, have an casual air about them, which is epitomized by the common saying “She’ll be right mate”. Life tends to be informal and relaxed, particularly in the rural areas of Australia. The country folk are particularly friendly and even in this age of hustle and bustle generally have the time for an informal chat, which always seems to includes some comment about the prevailing weather conditions in their area

Appearance
• Men in business attire, usually wear a conservative dark business suit and tie.
• Women may wear a dress, or skirt and blouse, for business.
• Informal clothing is appropriate when not attending business functions.
• Country gents characteristically never go too far without their favorite hat, which often have a personality of their own.
• Country women enjoy their weekly outings to town and relish the opportunity to get dressed up for the occasion.

Behavior
• Being punctual is critical.
• Maintain good eye contact during meetings and conversations.
• When conversing with them be sure not to invade their space by moving too close to them.
• A single, male passenger using a taxi should sit in the front seat.
• Gift giving or tipping is not a common practice in business.
• You may bring a small gift of, wine or flowers if invited to someone’s home. chocolate
• Should you approach a line/queue, go to the end/back and wait your turn.
• Do not litter.
• Afternoon tea is about 4:00pm
• Tea is between 6:00 – 8:00pm and is an evening meal
• Supper is a late night light meal or snack

Communication

• English is the spoken language
• Shake hands when meeting and when leaving.
• Although uncommon, some women may greet each other with a kiss on the cheek.
• Exchanging business cards is common among professional workers.
• Australians are friendly and open, but directness and brevity are valued.
• Opinions are respected, and opinionated discussions are entertaining.
• Be an active listener, and ask if you do not understand something in the conversation.
• Do not hype yourself, your company or your information.
• Sightseeing and sports are good conversational topics

The key to becoming an ‘Aussie’ is to stay relaxed, keep realtions informal and don’t be afraid to mix business with pleasure.  As Australia is a Commonwealth country many of its citizens will hold titles similar to those in the UK, but be aware of how the person you are meeting prefers to be addressed. Untitled persons should be addressed as Mr, Mrs, or Ms on first greeting.
Australians will soon adopt first name terms when talking to visitors. As a rule they abhor stiffness, so this friendly informality will also stretch into the small talk that will precede the meeting proper. It is common for Australian men to call each other ‘mate’.

Work Etiquette

Avoid long-winded job titles, they are simply not considered important, so avoid pinning one of these tags on yourself in the course of polite conversation. Your host will wonder what on earth you are trying to prove. Australians have a mindset that does not take well to perceived authority or anyone with pretensions of superiority. Australia’s is a very even business environment where people are also quite frank and direct in their comments and criticisms, which may be meant earnestly but should be taken in good humour.

The Australian default condition is casual so aggressive sales pitch, or meandering negotiations can be met quite negatively. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be modest, direct and to the point.  As in the UK, time is seen as valuable and irreplaceable commodity in Australia so book appointments well ahead and stick to them, arriving punctually and dressed smartly.
Most Australians sincerely believe that the have been born into the best country in the world, and during business and social meetings you may be reminded of this. Listen politely, nod encouragingly and try not to bring up the 2005 Ashes defeat too often. Australians, in general, don’t encourage comparisons of their culture with that of the US.  Australians may not like authority but they stick to the letter of the law when it comes to business. Company policy is followed at all times. Decision making tend to be made more collaboratively, and therefore cannot be rushed.

Conclusions
Aussies are increasingly a mufti-cultural community, however up until relatively recently Irish, English, Italians, Greeks and Germans made the major contributions to the building of Australia.. Mostly these ethnic groups have assimilated well into the greater Australian community and yet have still been able to retain their distinctive character. Only after several generations do they loose their uniqueness as they impart a little of what they brought with them to the building of the Australian culture. We can look forward to the added flavor of the more recent Asian migrants as they also impart a little of what they brought with them to the culture of Australia.

 

Photo Credits: Danish Royal Watchers