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ENGLISH AT WORK: Dear Ken


Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 12/2018 vom 14.11.2018

Communication expert KEN TAYLOR answers your questions about business English. This month, he looks at seating arrangements and phrases for starting a meal.


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KEN TAYLOR
is a communication consultant and author of50 Ways to Improve Your Business English (Summertown). Contact: ktaylor868@aol.com


Send your questions about business English by e-mail with “Dear Ken” in the subject line to: language@spotlight-verlag.de Each month, I answer two questionsSpotlight readers have ...

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Send your questions about business English by e-mail with “Dear Ken” in the subject line to: language@spotlight-verlag.de Each month, I answer two questionsSpotlight readers have sent in. If one of them is your question, you’ll receive a copy of my book:Dear Ken… 101 answers to your questions about business English. So don’t forget to add your postal address.

Dear Ken
What is the accepted form for seating arrangements at international executive dinners where other halves are in attendance? In England, one tends to find that it is normal not to sit next to your wife or husband at the table. In Germany, on the other hand, you usually expect to sit next to your own partner, even at social meals. What’s your advice?
All the best
Nick Y.

Dear Nick
Seating arrangements in the UK depend on the formality of the occasion. The general rule of thumb for a formal meal is to use place cards when there are more than six people in order to avoid confusion. With six or fewer people, the host or hostess tells people where to sit.
The host usually sits at the head of the table with the main guest to their right. If there is a second host or hostess, they sit opposite the head of the table with the second most important guest to their right.
Unless it is a very formal occasion, the other guests are not usually placed according to their importance. Married couples are often split up, but generally, guests should be arranged in such a way that the hosts feel will help the conversation flow freely. Then language levels should be taken into account.
In very formal situations, where spouses are not present, the seating might be according to rank. Here are guests who might be your guest of honour:
⋅ visiting foreign dignitary or customer
⋅ guest with military or government rank
⋅ guest with distinguished career or other important achievement
⋅ guest who is celebrating an occasion such as a promotion, transfer or birthday
⋅ elderly guest
These guidelines work in most situations and are generally accepted internationally, too. Have fun at your next dinner!
Best wishes
Ken

Dear Ken
When I’m hosting foreign business guests, I never quite know what to say at the start of the meal. In German, we have the expression “Guten Appetit”, but I know I can’t say “Good appetite”. Do you have any suggestions for what to say instead?
All the best
Elisabeth K.

Dear Elisabeth
I’m glad you don’t say “good appetite” to your guests. If you did, it would sound as though you are commenting on the large amount of food they are able to eat! There are several expressions you can use to indicate the start of the meal. You could say, “Enjoy your food” or “Enjoy your meal”. In the US, you often hear this shortened to “Enjoy!”. In the UK, you are more likely to hear your host or hostess say, “Do start” or “Please start”.
Sometimes, you hear people use the French expression “Bon appétit”. This can sound a little pretentious and some native speakers use the expression in a humorous, slightly ironic way. Friends who know each other well often use very informal expressions, like “Dig in” or “Tuck in”. And where there is no formal host, native speakers might look at one another and say, “Shall we?”.
In your situation, I’d probably use the expression “Enjoy your meal”. It sounds friendly and businesslike.
Regards
Ken


Foto: Gert Krautbauer