Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.
Q. Karen, I often find myself eating alone in restaurants when traveling. Is it OK to use my technical devices when I am alone in a restaurant?
A. Many people are uncomfortable and reluctant to eat alone in restaurants while away or even in their own hometown. However, there may be times that it's nice to get out of your hotel room and find a nice, safe place to dine instead of calling room service.
Ask for direction from the concierge at the hotel, who can advise you on safe places to eat and places where you wouldn't feel conspicuous eating alone.
Walk into the restaurant with confidence. If you look as if you feel sorry for yourself then why won't others feel the same toward you?
Ask for a quiet table. No one wants to eat alone in the middle of a restaurant. Ask for a table less central. How about one with a view?
Consider eating at the bar. Many restaurants serve their regular menu at the bar, too. No one even looks to see who is dining alone. You may feel less conspicuous.
Use your electronic devices based on the type of restaurant you are in. You can certainly check your email and text messages or even read a book on your e-reader, and browse the tourist attractions on your tablet. However, refrain from speaking on your phone in restaurants; that can be disruptive to other diners. And don't let your technology consume you and take away from the pleasure of your food.
Avoid hauling out your computer. If you have serious work to do, do it in your room or at a coffee shop that is used to people working on their computers. A five-star restaurant might not appreciate your computer at one of their tables.
Be sure to silence all of your bells and whistles. Those alert sounds can be very disruptive to others, too.
Order dessert. This is the perfect time to indulge yourself; no one is watching!
Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll forward it to her.