Is that a napkin in your lap or are you just happy with your food?

Darren Barefoot wonders, how do you protect your lap? — which got me thinking about napkin use here in Singapore.

Most times, in a casual eatery that offers napkins as part of the table place settings, I see people ignore the napkin until the end of the meal when they use it to wipe their lips (unless some kind of spillage or splashage during the meal precipitated its prior application). But in more formal restaurants, or at least those establishments that offer actual cloth napkins, people tend to lay them on their laps, no problem.

I’ve laid a disposable napkin on my lap before, and sometimes it’s weird when the napkin’s so thin you know it probably wouldn’t offer much protection against any food stains anyway. But I do it out of habit, which I picked up when I used to live in the States for a bit: everyone seemed to automatically stash the napkin in their laps, regardless of how informal the restaurant was.

Of course, what’s de rigeur here when eating out casually is the packet of tissue paper! Handy when not only dining at hawker centres, which typically don’t provide any napkins or serviettes, but also to chope (reserve) your seat when it’s crowded, so that your seat’ll still be there when you get back from ordering your food.

I used to think carrying a packet of tissue paper was a girl thing, but most of my guy friends aren’t shy to whip one out when the occasion demands it, so I’m happy to report that on this front, at least, there need be no battle of the sexes.

Do you diligently lay a napkin on your lap whenever you’re eating someplace that’s nicer than a hawker centre?

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