First Date Etiquette Tips To Always Remember (For Guys And Ladies)

How do you tackle a big burger or nachos?

First dates are super awkward. Always. Chances are you've probably spent way too long choosing what to wear, wondering what the date will be like -- and how many things could go wrong -- and imagining what they look like naked (don't lie), so it's only natural that our nerves get the better of us.

First impressions are pretty important when it comes to dating, which can make the idea of a first date even more terrifying, especially when it's a date where you'll be eating.

If we get burgers, do I cut it in half? Or just eat it like I normally would? And what about pizza? Do I use my knife and fork?

To get the lowdown on date etiquette, The Huffington Post Australia enlisted the help of etiquette expert and founder of The Good Manners Company, Anna Musson.

"We are often on our best behaviour on the first date, which is a good idea while we work out if the other person is a good fit for us," Musson told HuffPost Australia.

Here are Musson's date etiquette tips and rules for both men and women.



1. Open doors for your date without making any grand gestures -- this is just what you do.

2. Compliment your date. It could be their shoes or a simple, "you look lovely".

3. Be waiting for her when she arrives so she's not standing around on the street or in a bar looking expectant.

4. Dress well. A collared shirt and good chinos or jeans and shoes (not thongs) if you are going out, as a minimum.

5. Offer to pay. Better yet, excuse yourself before the end of the evening to pay the bill out of sight. It's a stylish touch.

6. Ensure she gets home safely by seeing her into her ride and asking her to let you know when she is home.

7. An intoxicated date is unattractive and unhelpful company.

8. Phones off. The greatest compliment you can give a person is your undivided attention.

Drinking is part of the fun (and helps break the ice), but avoid going overboard.
Drinking is part of the fun (and helps break the ice), but avoid going overboard.
Getty Images/Blend Images


1. Feel free to get the door for him or her and if they get there first. A simple "thank you" is appropriate. Don't gush -- you always hold the door or have others hold it for you.

2. Respond to compliments with a simple "thank you".

3. With your outfit choice, leave something for the imagination. If it's a special occasion, choose one feature to accentuate -- legs, shoulders, decolletage, but never all three.

4. If you are uncomfortable with your date picking up the bill, offer to get dessert or cocktails at a new venue.

5. Avoid being drunk.

6. Keep your phone on silent and out of sight. The most interesting person is right in front of you.

Unless you're showing your date a cute cat video, get off the phone.
Unless you're showing your date a cute cat video, get off the phone.
Tim Robberts

When it comes to eating on a date, Musson has a few top tips, as well as some very clear no-nos.

"It's always safer to order a dish you are unlikely to spill, splash, drop or wear, and this is usually something that requires a knife and fork," she said. "So forget the spaghetti and go with penne, and take the steak over the snails."

Thanks to modern dating, we're less inclined to fine dine in a quiet, stiff restaurant on a first date and pick a casual eating setting instead. Opting for a more relaxed date can help ease the nerves and take off the initial pressure and awkwardness.

"Dining out is all about having a relaxed dining experience and bonding with your companion, so if you are worried about table manners, go somewhere relaxed where there's minimal fuss and less display forks," Musson said.

If you don't want the awkwardness that comes with a fancy dinner, bypass it and choose a more casual venue.
If you don't want the awkwardness that comes with a fancy dinner, bypass it and choose a more casual venue.
Ascent Xmedia

As for food faux pas on a first date, Musson said there's one in particular which everyone should avoid at all costs.

"Don't order for her unless she has told you what she would like," Musson explained. "Saying 'steak for me and she'll have salad' is not acceptable."

Other date and dinner faux pas, according to Musson:

  • Never lick your knife, no matter how good the gravy.
  • Don't try to impress the waiter. They are there to help -- ask their opinion if you're not sure.
  • Don't play with your hair, nails, face or phone at the table. Keep the table top clear.
  • Pause during the meal, it's not a race. You should put your cutlery down every three mouthfuls.

When it comes to eating your meal, doing so in a way that is polite can sometimes be difficult, especially when burgers, pizza, spaghetti, leafy salads, spicy food and nachos are on the menu.

Maybe leave stealing your date's fries for the second date.
Maybe leave stealing your date's fries for the second date.
Getty Images

To best approach these meals, Musson recommends the following.


"The fancier the restaurant, the more likely you will use your knife and fork," Musson said. "If it's a casual dining venue, go ahead and eat the burger with your hands, but let's be specific.

"Burgers may be cut in half and eaten with hands if it's casual dining -- most fine dining restaurants will not serve a burger so this is a fairly safe one.

"Gents are not obliged to cut it in half, but these ones can limit conversation as it's generally a big bite or nothing."


If you've been given a bread basket and are wondering whether you should be eating it with a knife and fork, don't worry -- you were probably doing it right to begin with.

"Always break bread and eat with your fingers," Musson said. "Butter the bread with a knife but break off pieces to eat a roll, and cut the toast before picking up with fingers."

Pizza is made for hands.
Pizza is made for hands.


Eating pizza with your hands is completely normal, so doing otherwise may seem strange. However, if the venue is fancy, Musson recommends just observing what others are doing.

"If everyone else is using cutlery, go with the trend," she said.


"Best avoided unless you are feeling confident," Musson said. "Use the fork to twirl a few strands onto the spoon or side of the bowl, and never cut spaghetti with a knife. Use just your fork and spoon or fork solo style as they do in Italy."

Spicy food

Eyeing off that spicy vindaloo curry? To avoid looking sweaty and red, Musson advises leaving the hot stuff for another time, when you're alone.

"A date is not the time to be adventurous with spice," Musson said.

A non-leafy salad is your best bet if you're going down the salad road.
A non-leafy salad is your best bet if you're going down the salad road.


"If you have the option, go for the beans instead of the seeds, but a thoughtful date will graciously let their dining partner know about greens in their teeth with a 'you've got a little...' and finger pointing to the offending area," Musson said.

"Do not use toothpicks at the table. If it's a bit tricky, excuse yourself to use the mirror in the bathroom."

Nachos and chips

"The rule of thumb is to gauge the venue: is it a casual pub or upmarket bar? If you are sharing and have a side plate, use your fork to place some nachos or chips onto your plate and eat with the fork or your fingers from there," Musson said.

"If you are not sharing, fingers is fine, but it's always nice to share nachos and chips."


"Only order crab, mussels or shellfish if you are confident and know how to use the utensils," Musson said. "Do you really want to use a finger bowl on your first date?"

With calamari rings, always use cutlery.

"Safe choices for a first date include roast, steak and mash or chips (never turn your fork over to use like a shovel for mash), penne pasta, risotto, fish (make sure it's not a whole fish) or chicken fillets."