COPASUndoubtedly more than one person has asked themselves what is the difference between protocol and etiquette and do they only have a bearing on diplomacy or whether they actually have something to do with ordinary mortals. Let’s look at the definitions.


Is the combination of rules and customs that allow us to behave correctly in different situations. Ceremonial and solemn acts as observed in palaces and public places.


Combination of courtesy rules which are followed in social relationships and that have been established through usage.


Is the use of intelligence and tact in the relations between people and nations. It is the art of courtesy. A science which studies the interests and relations that exist between states.

Montaje Mesa Imperial Opaca China

Let’s look at a few important points to bear in mind at the table, when and how we should behave. First some pointers as to how the table should be laid for a formal lunch or dinner.

The table linen should be white for grand occasions and pastel coloured for less formal occasions –this way you are always confident of your decision, which is the idea. Taking risks is not a good idea on these occasions. The napkins and the tablecloth should be of the same colour.

VAJILLAThe tableware is made up of various pieces. The service plate sometimes called the charger which serves as the underplate or support and must be larger in size than the other plates.

Cutlery consists of various utensils which must be correctly placed. They are placed in an “outside in” order, positioned in the order in which they will be used. The forks go on the left. The knives and spoons go on the right. The knives are placed with the cutting edge inward. The dessert spoons and forks are placed above the plate.

Once we have finished eating, we leave the cutlery placed together on the right hand side of the plate.


Now some pointers as to how we should conduct ourselves at the table so as to behave correctly with the other guests.

Firstly and obviously, when speaking, don’t gesticulate whilst holding the cutlery. Water should be served before being seated at the table. Red wine should be served at room temperature. Young reds may be served between 12º and 15ºC to bring out their crispness and floral notes, the Crianzas between 16º and 18ºC and the great vintages at 20ºC. White wines and rosés are served between 6º and 10ºC.


The fork is raised to the mouth without inclining the body. Each portion of meat or other food which needs to be cut is cut as needed. One never for example cuts up a steak in one go. Of course one doesn’t play with the food on the plate, such as moving the food around with one’s fork. As regards the bread, this is broken when it is to be eaten.

There are many doubts regarding the foodstuffs that may be eaten using one’s fingers. Well let’s see, it’s permitted in the case of asparagus, shellfish, fruit such as grapes and always with finesse. It should also be clarified that spaghetti should not be cut, it should be wrapped around the fork, using a spoon as a base.

It’s important to remove all the previous plates before introducing the dessert plates. Coffee is always served away from the table in the living room.

Toya de la Guardia
  • Almustapha Majidadi Chonoko
    Posted at 06:54h, 02 December Reply

    Dear Toya, I have read through your write up on the difference between Protocol and etiquette and found it to be quite informative and educative especially the cultural aspect of table etiquette and eating habits during dinner or at public functions. I intend to use some of your ideas in a handbook am working on the essentials of Protocol and etiquette. You will be duely acknowledged in my work and I hope you would oblige me the permission to do so in order to help in creating understanding on functions of Protocol officers in this part of globe and reduce the many misconceptions individuals and corporate bodies have about the roles Protocol officers discharges in their organizations.

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