Learning Etiquette for Dinner—and Professional Life
I still remember the first time I ate dinner at a restaurant in the U.S. The menu to me was like another language, and I already know three! I was observing others around me and trying to figure out how they handled their meals. I was nervous; I wanted to be elegant, or at least not rude. I knew that the dinner table is the best place to learn about a new culture and build my social network, so when I received the invitation to the Pathology Department’s professional dinner etiquette training, I responded immediately. Meg Atchison, our department DGSA, sent me some material about business dress and five-star dining to read through so that I could be more prepared.
I arrived at Maggiano's Little Italy early, dressed in the nice suit and tie that my beloved wife picked out for me. The room was decorated with white tablecloths and place settings in anticipation of the upcoming meal. The five-course dinner was exquisitely prepared. During the short networking session before the etiquette workshop, we shared a drink with our newly met alumni mentors. Then it was time for dinner. At a raised table up front, Meg introduced basic dining etiquette and explained every single detail throughout each course.
Here are some messages I took away from the event:
- When using a knife and fork, choose one style (American style or Continental style) and keep using it for the whole dinner.
- You should learn to place your knife and fork the right way to show whether or not you have finished your dinner; this is called silent serving code!
- Always use a napkin to gently dab your mouth instead of wiping it.
- When drinking soup, sit straight, use a spoon like a ship which goes out to sea and then comes back to your mouth.
- Do not reach across others to get food or condiments; ask someone to pass them. When passing salt or pepper, pass them together.
- Practice eating spaghetti like an expert by using a fork and spoon to swirl it. (Which I did very well by using chopsticks.)
Having dinner with friends is comfortable, but having dinner with people you do not know helps you to make new friends. Thanks to Meg`s arrangement of the seats, every new student was able to talk with senior students and alumni. At our table, Laura Valente and I were first-year students. Senior Pathology students Casey Moure and Xin Yu shared their experience in Ph.D study, like how to select the right courses and how to balance the courses with lab work. Alumna Dr. Christina Pham, who sat next to me, has worked in industry since graduating in 2015. She told us the story of her school life, and why she made the choice to go into industry. She illustrated the difference between academic and industry research. She also shared her experiences of interviewing. As a new student, I came to know the issues I may encounter in graduate study. I realized the different choices that I might face before I graduate. Moreover, I learned some important strategies for the industry interview. This dinner was not only a simple course for etiquette learning;it also helped us to be more prepared for professional life.
The Professional Dining Etiquette Dinner was sponsored in part by The Graduate School’s Professional Development Grant.
Ph.D. student, Pathology
Heng Liu is a first-year Ph. D student in the Pathology Department. After finishing medical school in Wuhan, China, he studied and worked in Hong Kong for two years before coming to the US. He now works in Dr. Hai Yan`s lab. His research focuses on the investigation of oncogenesis and the therapeutic targeting of brain tumors with genomic approaches.