As in any social interaction, knowing rules, norms and practices of a social group you are dealing with is of paramount importance. Table manners are not universal. They vary from country to country, class to class, situation to situation. What is required at formal dinner is not necessarily a good practice to follow at your friend's barbecue party. Paper napkins are a much better choice for the latter.
An interesting article about the differences between the countries. Let us know if you agree.