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Living in Singapore: Advice on social, cultural and corporate etiquette

An article about minding your P’s and Q – even when others don’t.

Questions on proper behaviour at restaurant buffets:

I was recently eating brunch at a very high-end hotel when I saw a woman at the bread bar pick up four different pastries, inspect each one and put all but one back. Later, another lady reached into a Parmesan cheese wheel – right past the tongs – and picked out a piece of cheese with her fingers. Would I be just as guilty as they of breaching etiquette if I, sternly but politely, called these folks out?

At its core, having good manners is showing respect and consideration for others. Your actions directly affect those around you. I’m guessing Ms Bread Basket was unaware of what she was doing and would probably (at least we hope so) be equally disturbed if she were to see someone else fondling the pastry. If confronted with a similar situation, I would kindly point out the serving utensil: “Here are the tongs for those rolls.”

Is it OK to sneak a quick bite of food while I’m filling my plate, or should I wait until I’m back at my table?

While you may be tempted to sneak a bite while perusing your next gourmet buffet selection, it is better to wait until you are seated at the table to take your first bite of food.

Young children and buffets don’t mix well, if you ask me. Is there a minimum age that kids should reach before they are allowed to serve themselves without a parent around?

By age ten children should be able to serve themselves independently at a buffet. For younger kids, guided serving with a parent or caregiver is the best option. While younger kids are usually able to serve themselves, having a parent alongside is especially helpful. Adults can demonstrate how to use serving utensils, remind kids to take only what they can finish, and encourage kids to try new things.

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