How would you react if you were
serving dinner to a guest and you had asked him
“Would you care to
have another helping of crepes, or perhaps more tea?” And, his reply
to you was “Nah-- I don’t want anymore of that”; you politely
interject, “Are you certain?” and he retorts, “I said
nah---didn’t I?” “Watsa matter, can’t ya hear me?”
How likely is it that the
person who replied to you in such a manner would be invited to tea
again? Well, unless he was a close relative you were “stuck with” or
a charity case that you might “excuse” because of pity, we are sure
that you would have been offended and he would not be asked back for
another meal, not even leftovers!
The difference between your
being hurt that you had gone to all of this detail and expense for an
“ingrate” and being pleased that you had invited him for the meal
lies somewhere in the fact that he had not applied the rules of Etiquette.
“What is etiquette?” It is an indefinite set of rules of
good manner and behavior. By using these rules, people make living with
one another more pleasant and comfortable.
There is an old saying “All
things may be allowed, but all things are not advantageous!” So,
although we may “get by” doing or saying something, it may not be in
our best interests or that of others. If one lives alone in this world
he has nothing to worry about.... but, who of us has the luxury of
having the “world to himself?” Therefore, since “no man is an
island”, and that is the way it is, many centuries ago
some very thoughtful people set an indelible guide of proper behavior
for us all to learn.
The interesting part is that
with the exception of a few, we all begin to be taught these rules from
infancy. Because the nature of a child is to be selfish, one must start
to teach him very early so that he will get along favorably in life. At
the outset, he grabs food and everything he sees regardless of whose it
may be. Or, he may throw it...at someone! He may scream loudly or hit
someone or even himself when he does not get his way. But, when he is a
taught one, he grows up recognizing these simple, but countless rules of
conduct that may “make or break” him, all according to how he
applies these mannerly rules in his life.
The word etiquette comes
from an old French word meaning ticket. It later came to mean a
prescribed routine that is “passed down”, especially of court
behavior. Charles 1 and 11 of England mimicked the rules of etiquette
from the French court, and these rules became the requirements of
behavior in court circles and among aristocrats from all over the lands.
Two or three hundred years ago in Europe, the rich nobles who lived at
the king’s courts enjoyed a highly developed social life, and they
added countless etiquette rules to suit their snobbish behavior.
Etiquette covers the whole
field of human relations, including rules for the simplest actions and
for the most elaborate of social occasions. An example of simple
etiquette may be when we meet or see another person we may know...or
even may not have been formally introduced to. We greet him with a
friendly “Hello” or “How do you do.” A man may have good table
manners, but a rude way of speaking to a waiter will identify him with
poor etiquette. Rudeness to those who serve us marks us as an impolite
person. Etiquette includes rules for what we say & how we say
In the Middle Ages, when two
men met, they extended their right hands and
shook hands to show that
they did not intend to use their swords. It was a display of friendship,
and the custom remains a gesture of courtesy through today. People
always shake hands with a guest of honor. Hosts and hostess’s shake
hands with friends. Guests shake hands with the host/hostess when they
leave, people shake hands meeting someone and when they depart,
introduce persons who have not met before, speak to others as you would
have them speak to you and offer one’s place to older persons who are
When women wore long, flowing
gowns, it was difficult for them to exit a carriage, so the gentlemen
helped them. Today it is polite for a man to stand ready to give his
hand to a woman getting out of a car, opening doors, climbing stairs,
getting seated at establishments, offering his seat so that she may not
have to stand, offering her the first plate at a buffet, and rising
politely when she rises from a seat, walking at the ladies left side or
nearest the curb.
Much of etiquette is based on
using “good taste.” We do not shovel food into our mouths, come to
the table with unwashed hands, talk with our mouths full, slurp soup,
chew with our mouths open, eat messy food with our fingers, break bread
after buttering, leave food on our faces, dribble food down the front of
our clothing, pick our teeth, floss in public, gorge ourselves on food
when we are invited guests for dinner, pick over our food, leaving all
of our food when we are dinner guests (unless ill) for to do so would be
unpleasant for other people to watch. We take frequent baths, use
deodorant, clean & comb our hair, groom nails, brush our teeth, wear
clean clothes, clean/polish our shoes, keep neat children, pets, homes,
yards and vehicles.
Too, we refrain from showing
poor personal habits and “body language” like nose picking,
scratching body parts, passing gas, fidgeting, taking our shoes off if
our feet smell, ignoring our own halitosis, removing dentures in public,
wearing hose with runs, spitting while speaking, using poor or obscene
language, speaking constantly (a bore!), bumping into companions while
walking side by side, slapping others on the back when we greet them,
being boisterous, touching others repeatedly while we speak with them,
interrupting others while they are speaking and/or finishing their
sentences, leaving unfinished work for others to do, preoccupying
oneself by picking loose strings or hairs off of others clothing,
repeating gestures (hand or facial), monopolizing conversations,
criticizing someone in public, talking about others “when their backs
are turned”, helping ourselves to food at the table before the host,
belching loudly (unless it happens to be the custom to show that one has
enjoyed the meal), always being the first one at the table, nudging
others with elbows in conversation, staring at others, “looking
someone over” as they talk with us, clearing our throats repeatedly,
coughing or sneezing in someone else's face, yelling in someone’s ear,
daydreaming as someone speaks to us, shifting from foot to foot when
engaged in standing conversation, nodding “yes or no” repeatedly,
our fingers on the table as someone speaks to us, forgetting to
say “please and thank you”, butting in line, talking during movies,
blocking someone’s view, immodestly dressing, dressing
inappropriately, smoking in the presence of a non-smoker, blowing smoke
in one’s face, not using vehicular courtesies (this may lead to
“road rage!”) and the list goes on and on! These things are
offensive to others and show poor etiquette. Being
polite and having good manners sometimes costs us some of our comfort.
But, in the long run, we gain more than we lose because other people
like us and show consideration for us!
The ways of formal etiquette
remain today. These customs include the proper way to conduct weddings
and wedding plans, to set silverware and dishes on the table for a
formal dinner party, to use a knife and fork to cut large pieces of food
at the table, to place utensils at the side of the plate, to send
invitations for a social function and to respond to social invitations.
These customs may vary with different groups. As a rule, affluent
members of what is called “high society” have more complicated and
more rigid forms of etiquette than less well-to-do people.
In formal city society, women
usually pay formal calls on newcomers to join their social group. These
“calls” are made only at certain hours, or perhaps calling cards are
merely left. On the other hand, informal country folk usually call on
newcomers in person regardless of their social standing and it is
considered “neighborly”. An interesting fact, however is that it is
considered in poor taste to switch the customs. One or the other would
view it as inconsiderate.
In business, it pays to be
polite. A customer who is waited on by a sales person with good manners
will want to return to that store. An employee will be respected by his
employer, and if he accomplishes his work as well, may even get a raise.
A polite telephone operator can provide excellent help to a distressed
caller and “make his day”. A cheery receptionist will bring more
business to her employer. A courteous and prompt waitress will usually
get good tips, and on his return to an eating establishment--- a good
tipper will usually get great service. A customer that telephones a
business and gets prompt results will likely do business there since he
was not kept holding on the line. We could go on and on, could we not?
Differences in Etiquette
Various countries do have sharp
differences in what is considered to be etiquette. For example, in the
United States, people consider it impolite for a man to walk ahead of a
woman. But in Burma, a woman may follow behind her husband, showing
respect and submission to him. Also, in Japan, it is polite to take
one’s shoes off before entering a house. The good reason for this is
that floors of Japanese houses are made of straw mats, and shoes may
damage them. It has also been the custom for such a long time, that even
if the floors are of modern materials, the practice is still polite.
Noteworthy too, is if a person
is impolite in ordinary society, he is simply considered “rude”. But
in some savage tribal societies, if a visitor or intruder
important rule of etiquette” his life may be “on the line”! They
may possibly kill him!
Etiquette in Summary
Etiquette is really simpler
than one may realize. One may lead a very plain, ordinary life and yet
show all of the politeness he/she may need to get along
others. In contrast, one may have been trained in “high society” and
know all about formal etiquette and yet, not “apply” the respect for
others that he has learned, in his daily life.
Therefore, at last we come to
realize that etiquette has not so much to do with formality or
informality, but rather how one causes another to feel or think. We may
sum up etiquette finally in this renowned way: Always try to
follow the “Golden Rule”, and that is “Do Unto Others As You Would
Have Them Do Unto You”.
Or, in other words, do, as they
would have you do!
© Copyright 2000.
Victorian Bazaar All rights reserved.
Company | Product
Guarantee | Testimonials
No items on this
page are for sale. This page is a recap of the Victorian Era.
To visit Victorian
Bazaar's Shopping Boutique of products, CLICK
Love Story || Bloomin'
Baskets || Billowy
Baskets || Lady
Sherry Bear || Moonlight
Candles || Delightful Doilies || Heavenly
Hats|| Sweet Hearts || Sachet
Hoops || Lather Luxuries || Petite
Mirrors|| Poetry || Potpourri
Pom-Poms || Posh Pillows || Sentimental
Swags || Rosey Wreaths| Victoriana
Feedback | Contact
Us | Tell
a Friend | Webmaster
part of this, or any page from our online internet site may be
copied, reproduced, transmitted or distributed without the express
written permission of the Webmaster.