Proper behaviour; it’s a very fluid thing – what one person may consider the height of rudeness, another may feel is entirely reasonable. In days gone by, acceptable social behaviour was far more clear and defined. Today, it’s hard to know. Is it ok to invite someone to a wedding on Facebook? Is it too familiar to call your neighbour, or should you simple send them a text? Is it rude not to offer gluten free options when guests arrive, or are they rude to expect them?
Courtesy amounts to respect for both yourself and others. Here are a few tips on modern etiquette that may help if you are unsure.
- Surprise visits are a no-no.
It only takes a second to text or call to see if a visit is convenient. No-one wants to be taken by surprise – they may have just managed to find a minute to themselves, or were enjoying a well-deserved lie-in. Don’t intrude – warn anyone you are going to visit, unless you have expressly been told to ‘come anytime.’ Regardless, a little warning is always a good idea.
One etiquette expert says that when you are confronted with an unexpected guest, open the door with shoes on, and your bag or an umbrella. If the person was a welcome surprise, you can say, “oh excellent, I just came home!” If not, you can say, “oh, what a pity, I’m just on my way out!”
- Please, thank you and excuse me are still important
Whether you are at work, speaking to a child, in a shop or on the phone, good manners do count. Thank people for their hospitality via letter, email or text and say why. Speak in a polite tone and maintain good eye contact.
- Hang an umbrella on an umbrella stand or hook
It’s bad manners to leave an umbrella open in someone’s home or office to dry.
- Hang your handbag
Never put a handbag on your lap or your chair; a small clutch can be placed on a table, otherwise hang your handbag on a chair back, bag hook or put it on the floor. Briefcases should be put on the floor.
- Plastic bags
Only use plastic bags (including those from boutiques) to carry the goods you have purchase home. After that, they can be used to line rubbish bins. Using them as handbags is a bit tacky.
- Home wear vs sleep wear
Home clothes are comfortable but tidy – for example yoga or sweat pants and a sweatshirt. A robe and sleepwear are meant to get to the bathroom in the morning and from the bathroom to the bedroom in the evening. Adult ‘onesies’ are questionable at any time and are certainly not intended to be worn outside of home (not even to the letterbox and definitely not to the supermarket!). Whenever you leave your home, wear footwear. Bare feet in public (except on the beach) is inappropriate.
- Knock before entering
When a child moves to his/her own room, make it a routine to knock before entering, and expect the same courtesy from them. The same goes in the bathroom.
- Who pays?
If someone says ’Let’s go to a restaurant,’ that means everyone pays for himself/herself; if a man offers to pay for a woman, she can agree or ask to pay half. If you specifically invite someone to a restaurant, you pay.
- Food etiquette
It’s considered bad manners to say that you’re on a diet to refuse food. If you are happy to accept someone’s hospitality, then you accept their offering politely. If you have an actual allergy (which will do you actual harm), then alert your hostess when you accept the invitation.
- Elevator behaviour
Generally, the person who exits an elevator first is the one who is closest to the door. If you find yourself stuck at the back, at least say excuse me.
- Taboos for small talk
Politics, religion, health, money – including as part of a compliment – “What a great dress! How much did it cost?”
Similarly, discussing those who are absent, when it is simply gossip, is unacceptable.
It’s better to make a secret of nine things:
Age, wealth, family quarrels, religion, your medical problems, love affairs, gifts, honor and disgrace.
Jack Nicholson has this to say about common courtesy decency: ’I think much of decency. How to pass a plate. Not to shout from one room to another. Not to break a closed door open without knocking. Let a lady pass. The aim of these endless simple rules is to make a life better. I pay close attention to my manners. It’s not an abstraction, it’s a simple and comprehensible language of mutual respect.’
What are your thoughts? Please comment below!