International Etiquette Dinner teaches universal table manners

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How should we act during a lunch interview with a potential employer? Which utensils are used for certain foods, and when is the right time to say something? Suffolk’s International Student Services Office held their first International Etiquette Dinner on Feb. 25 at 73 Tremont, where staff and students enjoyed a four-course meal and etiquette advice from a local owner of an etiquette academy.

Snezana Pejic, the guest speaker at the dinner, worked as the “protocol staffer for the king of Jordan in the early 1990s, guiding dignitaries through the ceremonies and etiquette of affairs of state,” according to Boston.com. Pejic worked for His Late Majesty King Hussein of Jordan for four years, and her time traveling the world in that position is what inspired her passion for manners and the ways people interact with each other. Pejic, a Boston University graduate, is now the founder of the The Etiquette Academy of New England, where she coaches people of all ages.

The purpose of the event was focused on helping international and non-international students get an insight of how to interact with U.S. employers outside of the office. In the past weeks, ISSO has been hosting a number of events centered on providing international students with knowledge of how to reach out to employers, gain courage in interviews, and navigate as a professional in this country. The etiquette dinner was just one of them. Part of the services that ISSO offers is helping students acculturate and transition smoothly into Boston, and these events have added a boost to aid students adjust to the expectations of American employers.

(Photo by Jonathan Acosta Abi Hassan)

The conversation with Pejic covered general table manners that are commonly practiced in New England. Her presentation jumped from topics as simple as the proper use of utensils to more important ideas such as leading small conversation during a “lunch interview,” an action that can be uncomfortable or difficult for young professionals to do when interacting with older people.

Advising on small talk in the Boston area, Susanna Lynch, Suffolk’s assistant director of international programs and services, suggested to students that an easy topic to carry on with Bostonians is local sport teams, such as the Red Sox or Celtics.

“Bostonians love their sports, and it might really help you during an interview if that person is a big sports fan,” Lynch joked.

Guests were welcome to ask questions during the presentation, and several students would make comments when they noticed that simple “proper” practices seen in the U.S., such as switching the fork from the left hand to the right when done using the knife, are taken as bad manner or conduct in their home countries. Pejic advised that while there are some sharp differences in manners when traveling between countries, it is important to know how to act in all the cultures and environments that are part of our lives.

Speaking from experience with training and hiring people, Pejic shared that although imperfect etiquette has never been a major factor when extending a job offer to someone, she said that it is a “boost” when she is interviewing for a public relations position.

“If I know they are going to be talking and seeing clients often,” she said, “good manners will always be something that I am looking for.”

“Being comfortable in social situations is huge,” she said to Boston.com. “It affects our self-esteem, our level of motivation, our level of achievement. It opens opportunities for us.”

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