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  6.Table Manners in Anglo-America

  "Oh, no! Here I am at an American family's home at the dinner table. There are all kinds of plates, saucers, cups, and silverware at my place. Which should I use for which food? Should I sit down first or wait for the host to invite me? Should I have brought a gift? Someone please tell me what to do!"

  Have you ever been in or had a nightmare about this situation? Don't worry! This article will help steer you through the rocks and reefs of Anglo-American table manners so that if you are ever abroad in Canada or the United States, or at someone's home from one of those countries, you will feel right at home.

  It is important to distinguish what kind of occasion you will be attending before you plan for a pleasant evening. Most Anglo-Americans enjoy entertaining at home, but they don't enjoy stuffy, formal dinners. They invite their friends over for a fun evening, not as a test of one's knowledge of cultural traditions. If, however, you are invited to a formal affair, such as a so-called "sit-down" dinner, you may want to know in advance some basic rules of "black tie" etiquette.

  The first thing to remember when attending a dinner at a Western home is that you are the guest and that you are a foreigner. No one will invite you if he does not really want you to enter his "castle," so you can be sure that you are wanted. Additionally, as you do not come from the same country or culture as your host, he or she or they will surely be aware of this, and will be very forgiving if you unintentionally do or say something which would otherwise offend them. Keeping these two simple tips in mind should greatly ease your concern about being present at a dinner in someone else's home.

  Before arriving at your host's home, you may want to make sure of three things. First, be a few minutes late, say, about five to ten minutes if possible. Never be early, as the host may not have everything prepared yet. Nor should you be more than 20 minutes late. Your host may begin to worry about whether you are able to attend the dinner or not. Next, as to whether to bring a gift, in most informal gatherings, it is not necessary. If you like, you can bring some fruit or sweets, or, especially if there is a hostess, some flowers. These are thoughtful, cheerful gifts sure to please. Do not bring alcoholic beverages unless you are sure of your host's or hostess's preferences in drinks. Above all, do not spend a lot of money, and never give money. As we say in English, "It's the thought that counts." Finally, wear comfortable clothing. One can overdress as well as appear sloppy. For a special occasion or religious holiday, such as a retirement party or Christmas, a tie and jacket would be suitable for the gentlemen and a dress or sweater and skirt for the ladies.

  For more formal affairs, you will probably be told what to wear, such as "formal dress requested," etc. A tie and jacket or tuxedo for the gents and an evening gown for the ladies would be in order here. If you are unsure what to wear, you can always ask the host. Gifts are seldom appropriate for these affairs, unless for a wedding reception, at which gifts are more customary than cash.

  Your host in his home will usually motion you where to sit. At formal gatherings, name cards are sometimes provided, or you will be told where to sit. Do not be alarmed by a great deal of cutlery: simply start from the outside and work your way in. Formal affairs often have several courses of food with the appropriate cutlery for each dish. There is no harm in checking with your neighbor to see what implement he is using. After all, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." It is customary to ask others to pass dishes to you for self-serving; at a formal dinner party, there is usually catering (service). Again, do not hesitate to ask others for information or advice. They are usually pleased to help you.

  The most important piece of advice is this: enjoy yourself. No host enjoys seeing nervous or fearful guests who are struggling to "do the right thing" at his home or expensive formal dinner party. Watch others or ask for their advice, and join in the conversation and good times as best you can. If you do, after the first such evening out, you will certainly look forward to the next!

  “哦,糟糕!此刻我坐在一个美国人家里的餐桌前吃晚餐。在我眼前有各式各样的盘子、碟子、杯子和银制餐具。该用哪种餐具盛哪一道食物呢?我应该先坐下来还是等主人来招呼呢?我是不是应该带了礼物才来吗?有谁来教教我该怎么做!”

  你是否曾经置身或经历过像这样可怕的情形呢?别担心!本篇文章将助你破除英美餐桌礼仪的重重障碍,如此一来,以后如果你出国到加拿大或美国,或到这两国人士的家中作客,便能怡然自得了。

  在计划过个愉快的夜晚之前,先分清楚要参加的是哪一种场合是很重要的。大部分英美人士喜欢在家里招待客人,而不喜欢沈闷的正式晚宴。他们邀请朋友到家里来是为了过个快乐的夜晚,而不是要测试一个人的传统文化知识。然而,如果你应邀参加一个正式场合,例如所谓的“安排就座”晚宴,也许你会想事先知道一些正式宴会礼节的基本规范。

  当你参加西方家庭的晚宴时,首先要记住的是:你是客人,而且是个外国人。如果不是真要让你进入他的“城堡”,人家不会邀请你,所以你可以确定你是受欢迎的。除此之外,因为你来自和主人不同的国家和文化,他或她或他们当然会明白这点,所以假使你无意间做了或说了某些冒犯他们的事时,他们会非常宽宏大量的。记住这两个简单的准则应该就能大大消除你到别人家用餐的忧虑。

  在到达主人家之前,你可能要先确定三件事情。首先,要晚到几分钟,譬如说5~10分钟左右,如果可能的话。千万不要提早到,因为主人可能尚未一切就绪。但你也不要迟到超过20分钟,否则人家会开始担心你是否能来赴宴。其次,关于要不要带礼物,在大部分非正式的聚会中是不需要的。你若高兴的话,可以带一些水果或甜点,或者,尤其是有女主人的话,可以送一些花。这些都是体贴、令人愉快的礼物,一定会讨人喜欢。不要带酒类饮料,除非你确知主人或女主人偏爱什么酒。更重要的是,不要花太多钱,而且绝不要送礼金。就像我们在英文中说的"It's the thought that counts."(“礼轻情意重”)。最后,穿着舒适的衣服。过度打扮以及显得邋遢都不好。在特别的场合或宗教节日,如退休宴会或圣诞节时,男士宜穿西装打领带,女士则穿洋装或毛衣加裙子。

  在较正式的情况中,你可能要照规定穿着,例如“请着正式服装”等等。此时,男士宜穿西装打领带或穿燕尾服,女士则穿晚礼服。如果你拿不准该穿什么服装,问主人就好了。在这些情况送礼通常不适当,除非是结婚宴席,在习俗上大多是送礼物而非现金。

  屋里的主人通常会招呼你就座。在正式的聚会中,有时会摆出写上名字的卡片,要不然人家会告诉你座位。不要被一大堆刀叉餐具吓着了:只要由外往内按顺序使用就行了。正式宴会常会有几道菜须使用特定的刀叉餐具,这时不妨咨询一下邻座的人看他用什么餐具。毕竟,人总要“入境随俗”嘛。习惯上可以请别人将菜传给你自己来盛;在正式晚宴上则通常会有分菜(服务)。同样地,不要犹豫不敢向他人请益,他们通常都会很乐意帮助你。

  最重要的一个忠告是:好好享受。作东的人都不乐于见到客人在他家中或昂贵的正式晚宴上,神情紧张或害怕地努力要让自己的举止合宜。观察别人或向他们请教,尽可能地融入谈话和欢乐当中。如果能做到这样,初次尝过甜头之后,你就一定会很期待下一次的晚宴了!

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