Mr. Manners

Mr. Manners

What do you do if you're at a business lunch and you drop your napkin? Which way do you pass bread—to your left or your right? How do you hold a glass of white wine? (Answers below.) These were some of the questions Keith Soster, U-M's food service director, addressed during a two-hour "etiquette dinner" attended by 50 SPH students last fall. Funded in part by the SPH Dean's Office, the sold-out event was designed to give students the confidence they'll need on job interviews, said Shelagh Saenz, director of the SPH Office of Graduate Career Development, who organized the dinner.

During the two-hour meal, Soster offered tips on everything from introductions ("Avoid a 'wet fish' handshake"), to place settings, to table conversation ("Speak in low, intimate tones"). Etiquette "is really about presenting yourself in a good light," he told the students. "When you're in a business setting, it's never about the food."

Utibe Effiong, a Nigerian-born student in environmental health sciences, said the evening taught him "what to do and when to do it—that was really important. Dinner in my country is not the way it is in the U.S., so this was really useful."

Answers:

  • Don't pick up the napkin; ask your waiter for a new one.
  • Pass bread to your right.
  • Grip a white wine glass by its stem, so the wine stays cool.