Etiquette when nobody is watching

I know you have heard me say this time and again, but manners are not just for Christmas.

They need to be second nature, not only brought out when a white table cloth and the silver service appear.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at a few of casual situations where you can beef up your behaviour to ensure you maintain stellar decorum.

Paying the bill at the restaurant: this is not a universal law since in America things are done differently than here in Europe, as in Asia and the Middle East and let’s not forget our friends in Antarctica.  Regardless where you are, never argue an amount in front of the other guests this will embarrass them and make you look cheap, even if you are right.  If you are dividing equally, don’t point out that you only had breadsticks and water. It’s okay to make a mental note of who ordered the lobster Thermidor.  Tip generously: you evidently can afford to dine out, a few more dollars won’t break the bank but will likely make a big difference to your server. Putting a spring in his/her step will enhance the others’ dining experience that evening, too.  It’s called pay it forward and is all the rage.

Queuing for transportation: take an example from the Brits and Japanese (to name but a few) who form a tidy single file at bus-stops, rain or shine. There is a good chance that everyone will make it onto the bus, but if not, do you want to be the one who made the pregnant/elderly woman jockey for position because of your impatience to get home?  There is virtue in missing the odd bus.

Punctuality: Take pride in being timely.  Just because other people are tardy doesn’t give you license to eschew timeliness.  (NB, exceptions exist and are culturally based, check your local listings for more information)

Vocabulary: Ban the use of swear words and curses.  In extreme cases (loss of limbs, or an atrocious toe-stubbing) embrace, if you must: ‘rats’.  If you say ‘shoot’ people will just laugh at you, or assume it’s an order and pull the trigger.  Try to use the most adapted word.  For instance, distinguish a rock and a stone from a pebble.  A rich vocabulary is the next best thing to being rich. (I just made that up and have no concrete evidence so don’t quote me, please)

At home: toilet seat down, glass from which to drink, eating fruit with a knife and a well-made bed will all ensure you face the day with self-respect, even when no one is watching.  But if no one is watching, and the lights are down low, then it’s ok to eat ice-cream directly from the tub, provided you polish it off.  Which is pretty much inevitable.

Self-respect at home will beget self-respect out and about which will beget respect toward you and so on.  And before you know it you’ll be getting exactly what you want out of life!

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