Thursday, July 31, 2014

Early 20th Century Etiquette Advice for "Us Average Folks"

or, Good Manners for All People, Especially for Those "Who Dwell Within the Broad Zone of the Average"

The long lecture of instruction to the little Ruggles', preparatory to their visit to the Birds, is a comical—if burlesque—illustration of the emergency that sometimes faces some people, that of suddenly preparing to "behave themselves" on a great occasion. "A sprig of holly lay by each plate, and nothing would do but each little Ruggles must leave his seat and have it pinned on by Carol, and as each course was served, one of them pleaded to take something to her... " From Kate Douglas Wiggin's "The Birds' Christmas Carol", 1887

As a rule, books of etiquette are written from the standpoint of the ultra-fashionable circle. They give large space to the details of behavior on occasions of extreme conventionality, and describe minutely the conduct proper on state occasions. But the majority in every town and village are people of moderate means and quiet habits of living, to whom the extreme formalities of the world of fashion will always remain something of an abstraction, and the knowledge of them is not of much practical use except to the few who are reflective enough to infer their own particular rule from any illustration of the general code.
A simple family dinner compared to a State Dinner? "The degree of formality varies; the quality of courtesy is unchanging."
Though it is interesting as a matter of information to know how a state dinner is conducted, still, as a matter of fact, the dinners usually given within this broad zone of "the average" are served without the assistance of butler, footman, or florist; innocent of wines and minus the more elaborate and expensive courses; and though served à la Russe the service is under the watchful supervision of the hostess herself and executed by the more or less skillful hand of a demure maid-servant. Yet, in all essential points, the laws of etiquette controlling the conduct of this simple dinner of the American democrat are the same as those observed in the ceremonious banquet of the ambitious aristocrat. The degree of formality varies; the quality of courtesy is unchanging.

Well-mannered people are those who are at all times thoughtfully observant of little proprieties. Such people do not "forget their manners" when away from home. They eat at the hotel table as daintily and with as polite regard for the comfort of their nearest neighbor as though they were among critical acquaintances. They never elbow mercilessly through crowded theatre aisles, nor stand up in front of others to see the pictures of a panorama, nor allow their children to climb upon the car seats with muddy or rough-nailed shoes; nor do a score of other things that every day are to be observed in public places, the mortifying tell-tale marks of an habitual ill-manners.
No "phubbing," please! "Well-mannered people are those who are at all times thoughtfully observant of little proprieties. Such people do not 'forget their manners' when away from home."
The importance of constant attention to points of etiquette cannot be too earnestly emphasized. The long lecture of instruction to the little Ruggles', preparatory to their visit to the Birds, is a comical—if burlesque—illustration of the emergency that sometimes faces some people, that of suddenly preparing to "behave themselves" on a great occasion. Although the little Ruggles' were fired with ambition to do themselves credit, their crude preparation was not equal to the occasion. The best of intentions could not at once take the place of established custom. One might as well hastily wrap himself in a yard or two of uncut broadcloth expecting it to be transformed, by instant miracle, into a coat. The garment must be cut and fitted, and adjusted and worn for a space of time before it can become the well-fitting habit, worn with the easy grace of unconsciousness which marks the habitually well-mannered.

From "Etiquette," by Agnes H. Morton, 1919

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

8 Etiquette Breaches Around the World

1. Ben Affleck in a Breach of Yemeni Etiquette 

The sole cause of Ben Affleck's breach of etiquette? His soles.
Ben Affleck was in hot water during his visit to the Persian Gulf in 2004, after shocking a Yemeni prince. The actor had been briefed about local customs but in a moment of tiredness he forgot about etiquette and showed the soles of his shoes. The infringement of Middle Eastern manners earned him an angry ticking off from a bodyguard. 

Affleck said: "They told me, 'Don't show the soles of your feet.' I forgot about that. "At one point, I was in one of the Middle Eastern airports, going from one place to another, and I was tired," he explained. "So I was sitting there, kicking back, and apparently there was some Yemeni prince that came through and this guard literally looks over at me and comes charging over."I thought I was being terrorised on the spot. "He yelled, 'What are you doing? Your feet,' and then he slaps my feet puts them on the ground."

2. Nobel Etiquette Breached for Monolingual Mo Yan in 2012

The 57-year-old Mo Yan, was the first Chinese resident to win the prize. Chinese-born Gao Xingjian was honoured in 2000, was not a Chinese citizen.
Nobel organizers made a special exception to stringent seating rules for 2012's gala banquet in Stockholm, allowing literature laureate Mo Yan and his wife sit together because they both only speak Chinese.

Who gets to sit next to one of the princesses usually peaks Swedes' interest. That year, chemistry laureate Brian Kobilka was seated next to Crown Princess Victoria's right, as Mrs Kobilka sat directly opposite the heir to the throne. The Swedish speaker of parliament, Per Westerberg, flanked the crown princess on the left, which he usually does.

Princess Madeleine, was to be responsible for entertaining physiology laureate Shinya Yamanaka and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. The laureate's wife Dr. Yamanaka faced the younger princess.

Princess Madeleine had her brother Prince Carl Philip diagonally across from her. He entertained Dr. Yamanaka and Mrs. Westerberg, a psychiatrist, with Professor Yamanaka facing him.

Seating at the top table strictly follows what is commonly known as the 'Nobel Order', which takes into consideration the rank of the members of the royal court and then matches them with the laureates in the order set out in Alfred Nobel's last will and testament.

Nobel mentioned physics first, meaning that the laureates, that year Serge Haroche and David Wineland, and their spouses were clustered around King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia. The regent is also always seated near the president of the Nobel Foundation and the president's spouse, presently Mr. and Mrs. Storch.

"There is a protocol for the seating, but we can make modifications based on for example language abilities," Nobel Foundation spokesperson Annika Pontikis told the TT news agency. Literature laureate Mo Yan was thus seated next to his wife Quinlan Du. Married couples are usually never seated next to each other but the Foundation found it apt to make an exception.

"Neither of them speaks anything but Chinese," said Annika Pontikis. Seemingly to ensure the couple was not linguistically cut off from conversation, the wife of the Chinese Ambassador to Sweden was seated next to Mo Yan. Her husband was, in turn, seated next to her.

The top table takes centre stage in the main hall of Stockholm's 1920's City Hall, considered by many an important example of the National Romantic architecture style.

The Blue Hall, which is not actually blue but has walls of exposed brick soaring more than 20 metres up to the ceiling, is most famous internationally for hosting the Nobel banquet, but hosts many other events including ceremonies for immigrants when they become Swedish citizens

3. The Emperor's Code: Breach Of Protocol Spurs Debate In Japan

Actor turned lawmaker, Taro Yamamoto, handing a letter to Japan's aging and frail monarch, Emperor Akihito, as Empress Michiko looks on, during the autumn garden party at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 31, 2013
 A staid and unremarkable royal garden party suddenly became the stuff of front-page scandal, when rookie lawmaker and passionate anti-nuclear activist Taro Yamamoto slipped a handwritten letter to Emperor Akihito. The mystified monarch hurriedly passed the epistle to an aide, unread — but the damage was done.

There is no audible reaction on video of the Oct. 31 incident, but the collective public gasp over an unusual breach of conduct was heard nationwide in Japan. The lawmaker's sin, officially, was violating Japan's ban on using the emperor for political gain. But the incident showed lingering sensitivity over the emperor nearly 70 years after the end of World War II. That's when Emperor Akihito's father, Hirohito, renounced his divine status.

Japan's emperor has been a titular head since then, as the U.S. imposed a constitution that proscribed royal participation in the business of ruling. His life is confined to a whirlwind of goodwill trips, photo ops with foreign dignitaries, and attendance at arts events.

Since the aging and frail monarch is constitutionally powerless, the letter incident was widely seen as a pointless and shameless spotlight grab. Yamamoto argued he was only trying to draw imperial attention to the plight of Fukushima, particularly children's exposure to radiation, and workers involved in cleaning up the aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear plant accident.

4. The Ultimate Sucker Punch: A Breach of Boxing Protocol in 1991, Cost "Macho Camacho" a Title

The late-boxer, "Macho Camacho"
The crucial moment in the late-Hector Camacho's loss of his World Boxing Organization junior-welterweight title against Greg Haugen in 1991, came down to an impromptu decision by the bout's referee, Carlos Padilla.

 At the start of the 12th and final round, Padilla, a 57-year-old Las Vegas resident, watched and waited for the fighters to touch gloves, as boxing protocol dictates. Camacho extended his gloves but Haugen was disinclined to reciprocate, even when Padilla urged him to. That led Camacho, always an impulsive sort, to throw a punch at Haugen, and Padilla to decide this was a breach of conduct. He instructed the three judges to penalize Camacho a point. 

Delighted, Haugen leaped into the air with a big smile on his face for having suckered Camacho into that gaffe. Had he known just what effect Padilla's decision would have on the outcome, Haugen might have gone into orbit. The 1-point deduction turned out to be pivotal in the final result. 

Two judges, Dalby Shirley and Bill McConkey, scored the bout, 114-112, Shirley for Camacho and McConkey for Haugen. The other judge, Art Lurie, had it 114-113 in Haugen's favor. 

Had Camacho not been penalized the point, Lurie's scorecard would have read, 114-114, and the bout would have been declared a draw, with Camacho retaining his title. But that was not the case, and because of that Camacho lost for the first time in a professional career spanning 40 bouts. 

For the time being at least he also lost a chance for a big-money match with Julio Cesar Chavez, the World Boxing Council-International Boxing Federation junior-welterweight champion.

5. The Breach of Etiquette and Cringeworthy "Selfie," Witnessed by the World, at Nelson Mandela's Memorial Service

Etiquipedia cannot think of a better caption than the one penned by Seema Goswami
People around the globe gasped collectively at the sight of  Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron clicking a "selfie," not at Disneyland, but at the memorial of the late, great South African leader, Nelson Mandela. "The three world leaders, grinning cheesily into the camera, craned their necks together to get into the frame, oblivious to the thunder-faced Michelle Obama who looked pointedly away." wrote one Hindustand Times columnist, Seema Goswami.

Memorial services and funerals are to remember and honor a life lived. They are definitely not the proper forum for taking "selfies," especially on the world stage.  This almost makes one forget this same U.S. President's breach of etiquette in skipping the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski to go golfing. Almost.

6. Route 40 in the State of Maryland: Breaches of Diplomatic Etiquette and Protocol Cause of International Crises 

Route 40 played a role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act
Diplomats from newly independent African nations suffered a series of indignities during the 1950s and early 1960s, traveling through a segregated State of Maryland, on their way from the United Nations to the White House. Newspapers in their respective home countries, railed against American racism whenever a diplomat was ejected from a “whites only” establishment. 

The State Department eventually was forced to establish an agency just to deal with the discrimination against black diplomats, things had gotten so out of hand. The Kennedy administration officials argued that ending segregation was vital to winning the Cold War. Many believe this ultimately helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

7. The Man Dubbed "The Lizard of Oz" After a Breach of Royal Etiquette, and Those Who Have Followed in His Footsteps

Well at least he didn't hug her.
In 1992 Paul Keating was given the nickname of 'Lizard of Oz' after he touched the Queen's lower back with his arm as he guided her through a crowd of people.  In 2000 another Australian premier, John Howard, denied touching the monarch as he introduced her to MPs at a VIP reception. 

In 2010, the Queen visited Canada. A racehorse owner, Don Romero, put his hand on her back as she presented a trophy to the owner of the winning horse at the Queen's Plate Stakes in Toronto. This breach of royal etiquette was swiftly corrected, however, by his jockey, of all people. Jockey Eurico Da Silva, showed some real panache and executed two bows so low that his head was level with the Queen's waist.

8. Republic of China's Vice President Wu, Breaches Religious Protocol at the Vatican

Vice President Wu Den-yih, 5th right, is pictured with a group of guests that Wu invited for lunch during his visit to the Vatican City, in May of 2014.

According to the Taipei Times, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) was seen partaking in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which should only be done by baptized Catholics. 

In a letter to the Liberty Times (a sister newspaper of the Taipei Times), a reader surnamed Tung (董) criticized the vice president over what he said was ignorant and imprudent conduct by partaking in the Eucharist. 

“Wu is not a Catholic, but during the ritual he ingested the Eucharist offering of bread and wine. This is very improper conduct. His behavior was disrespectful to the diplomatic relationship between Taiwan and the Vatican,” Tung wrote. “In the future, when the president or the vice president attend an important international event, they should put more effort into learning proper protocol and etiquette. This can prevent them from becoming a laughingstock in the international community,” Tung said. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Little Red Book of Etiquette for the Beijing Olympics

Don't dress in more than 3 colors?
"The Little Red Book," the sayings of Chairman Mao, was replaced by a little red booklet that instructed Beijing's residents in how to act and dress ahead of the city's 2008 Olympics.
  • Don't mix more than three colours
  • Do shake hands for three seconds only
  • Don't wear your pajamas in public
Citizens were ordered not to dress in more than three colors, wear white socks with black shoes or parade in pajamas, in the dos and don'ts of Olympic etiquette. 
Like a totalitarian version of "Trinny and Susannah," from British television's "What Not to Wear," Zheng Mojie, deputy director of the Office of Capital Spiritual Civilisation Construction Commission, penned a booklet posted to four million Beijing households stating acceptable standards of dress and behavior.  
On the black list was handshakes that last longer than three seconds, quizzing visitors about religion or politics and spitting. (Spitting was a popular habit which was banned in the city in 2006.) 
The etiquette booklet was part of a slew of admonitions on manners, said Ms Mojie: "The level of civility of the whole city has improved and a sound cultural and social environment has been assured for the success of the Beijing Olympic Games." 
There should be no more than three colour groups in your clothing, the committee advised, and wearing pajamas to visit neighbors, as some elderly Beijing residents like to do, is also out.
It recommends dark socks, and says white socks should never be worn with black leather shoes. In the last few years the government prepared people for the Olympics with the slogan: "I participate, I contribute, I enjoy."
Dog meat was struck from the menus of officially designated Olympic restaurants, and Beijing tourism officials are telling other outlets to discourage consumers from ordering dishes made from dogs,according to the official Xinhua News Agency . Waiters and waitresses are being instructed to patiently suggest other options to diners who order dog meat. Dog meat, known in Chinese as "xiangrou," or "fragrant meat," is eaten by some Chinese for its purported "health-giving qualities." But Beijing isn't the first Olympic host to ban the dish. South Korea banned dog meat for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. South Korea invoked a law prohibiting the sale of "foods deemed unsightly." After the Olympics, the ban was not strictly enforced. Dog meat is eaten in Vietnam, Laos, and the Philippines. 

Measures such as the ban on spitting in the capital city and the introduction of a day to show more patience in lines – on the 11th of each month – have paid off, Ms Mojie said. Campaigns involving nearly a million volunteers have been launched to give etiquette tips at schools, universities and government offices.

Ms Mojie said: "Such campaigns and educational activities are now improving the lives of Beijingers. Now you'll find more smiling faces and people are more elegantly dressed." She said people have formed a habit of queuing and at more than 1,000 bus stops people are forming orderly lines. "This has already become a habit for the Beijing citizens," she said. 

The booklet also advised there should be no public displays of affection and feet should be slightly apart or in a V or Y shape when standing. It also says residents should not ask foreigners their age, marital status, income, past experience, address, personal life, religious belief or political belief. 

Another book, published in April of 2008, detailed how to be a good fan when watching Olympic competitions, saying spectators should cheer all teams, and accept that a victory or loss is temporary whereas the impression of the culture inside a sports venue lasts forever.

Monday, July 28, 2014

More on U.S. Military Etiquette of the "Dining-In"

Introduction To The Dining-In

2013 San Diego Dining-In ~ "In November of 1964, the Chief of Naval Operations Naval History Division prepared an article on the mess night for the BUPERS Mess Newsletter. The article was aimed at Commissioned Officers Mess Managers and provided a synopsis of the Navy dining-in. This was the first official mention of the event. A renaissance of the dining-in can be linked to the 200th birthday of both the country and the Navy. During the bicentennial, officials were reviving virtually every traditional event to celebrate the occasion. The Chief of Naval Information (CHINFO) prepared a pamphlet entitled "How to Conduct a Dining-In." The guide was published as an article in the March 1975 issue of U.S. Navy Medicine. This is a most important document because it describes the basic format of the Navy dining-in." From Military Facts, History of the Navy 

1. The purpose of this booklet is to familiarize the junior officer with an old custom that has begun to experience a resurgence of popularity after a period of considerable decline.

This custom is known as the Dining-In. Simply stated, the Dining-In is the assemblage of all the officers of a particular unit for a formal dinner. There is of course much more involved in conducting the Dining-In than just sitting down to dinner. It is a rather complex affair that can and often does include a receiving line, cocktail hour, a ceremonial posting of the colors, a punch ceremony, ceremonial toasts, etc. All of these will be discussed in detail later in this booklet.

2. The formal Dining-In has several purposes. First, it brings together the unit officers on a social basis. Second, it fosters a spirit of team work in the unit as the officers get to know each other better. Finally, each officer has an opportunity to see his place in the unit history. He learns that many brave and capable men have gone before him and have left him a legacy of falor and efficiency. He also learns that his own day-to-day activities become a part of the unit’s history which encourages higher standards of performance from him. It is to this end that the Dining-In should be conducted.

3. The Dining-In should be compared to an officers’ call as far as its purpose and function are concerned. Therefore, when invited you should consider your attendance as obligatory and your absence should occur only for those reasons for which you would be excused from any military formation.

Background On The Dining-In

1. GENERAL. Conduct of the British Officers’ Mess over the years has had great influence on many of the procedures practiced today by US organizations in the formal Dining-In. The British mess was a source of solemn formality; a cause for living above one’s means; and a source of long-lasting customs and traditions.


a. Today’s colorful British officers’ dinners continue a custom which arose in the eighteenth century. In those days there were no barracks. Consequently, officers and men were billeted wherever lodging was available. When a battalion entered a town the Quartermaster would select billets for the unit. Then the unit would hold a parade and group the colors at the officers’ billet. This billet became known as the officers’ mess and was the central meeting place for officers.

b. The custom of dining together was especially useful in large units where many officers did not normally come in contact with one another. However, during dinners they were brought together in a fraternal atmosphere. The mess, besides entertaining guests in the surroundings of traditions and customs of the regiment, served to make the officers aware of the social amenities. Young officers received training which enabled them to give formal entertainment later as senior officers.

c. While the mess served a functional purpose it also served as a constant source of satire and junior officer horseplay. Additionally, they served as a method of transmitting the histories and traditions of the Regiment to junior officers.



a. US Army Dining-In traditions are related directly to those of the British Army prior to the American Revolution, and in many instances, more modern British Army Mess procedure has been incorporated into our unit social events. The oldest recorded American Dining-In occurred in September 1776.

b. In the regimental mess of the 1920’s the colonel or senior officer presided and sat at the head of the table with the lieutenant colonel to his right and the adjutant to his left. The other officers were seated on both sides of the table according to rank. Dinner was a formal meal with everyone wearing the uniform prescribed. The officers of the mess assembled and upon arrival of the presiding officer followed him into the mess and took seats when he had taken his. In general, the US Army Dining-In has been more formal and restrained than its
usual British Army counterpart.

c. The importance of the mess as related to the image of the officer corps was evidenced by the recommendation that all newly commissioned officers should carefully make arrangements for messing to enable them to “live with the quiet dignity becoming their station.” It was sufficient for expenses, and he owed it to the service to “dress and live, though simply, yet always like gentleman.”

2. TRADITION: As with the British Mess, the US Army Dining-In has served as a vehicle for transmitting the histories and traditions to junior officers. This is particularly true in our Army where rotation between units is quite frequent. As an example of this tradition, the punch bowl for 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry (MANCHU) reflects upon each of the major battles and wars in which that fine regiment fought.


1. Principal officers of the mess are listed below. Their duties and responsibilities are also listed. 

a. PRESIDENT OF THE MESS. The Presiding Officer is the company commander. He is the President of the Mess. It is his responsibility to oversee the entire organization and operation of the Dining-In. His operational techniques will follow those of any formal dinner affair and will include appointment of a host and persons or committees to take care of the arrangements, food, and protocol. The President will appoint a Vice-President, Mr. Vice, who is one of the senior trainers of the company; open the mess and close the mess; and call upon Mr. Vice for performance of any duty deemed appropriate during the conduct of the affair.

b. MR. VICE. Mr. Vice opens the lounge at the appointed time. When the dinner chimes are to be used, he sounds them as appropriate. He may be called upon to provide items of unit history, poems, or witticisms in good taste relating to particular personalities present. He is seated at the opposite end of the dining room to permit the President of the Mess to face him easily during the dinner.

c. THE COMMANDER. The formal Dining-In is the one occasion when the battalion commander is a guest. Planning by the President and Mr. Vice should be so thorough that the commander may relax and enjoy a smooth, efficiently run dinner. He may participate actively or remain an observer. The option is and should be his.

d. THE ESCORT OFFICER. Escorts should be appointed for each guest attending the dinner to act as personal hosts.

(1) The Escort should welcome his guest upon his arrival and join his guest immediately after the receiving line.

(2) The Escort should familiarize himself with the guest’s background prior to the night of the Dining-In.

(3) It is the Escort’s job to make the guest feel at home explaning the different portions of the Dining-In and its history.

(4) He should introduce the guest to the members of the mess during the cocktail hour and be sure that the guest understands the Punch ceremony procedure.

(5) The Escort has a large responsibility. Many of the guest’s impressions of the unit will be formed due to the actions of the Escort.

(6) The Escort’s duties terminate when the guest leaves the Officers’ Club, or place of the Dining-In. 

2.  APPROPRIATE DRESS.  Black tie is the appropriate dress for a formal Dining-In and is the designation used on invitations.  Civilians wear the tuxedo while military personnel wear the black bow tie with one of four appropriate uniforms, Army Blue, Army Blue Mess, Army White, or Army White Mess.  The black tie designation also implies the wearing of miniature decorations on the Army Blue Mess or Army White Mess uniforms and the wearing of ribbons, miniature or full size, on the Army Blue or Army White uniforms.  The term military black tie may appear on invitations directed to a predominately military group, but the same uniform implications apply. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Etiquette for Dining and Tea in India

"Every second soiree or intimate gathering in the city is themed on a high tea. And although hosts call it high tea, more often than not they end up serving the regular Hyderabadi fare — chai, biscuits and crisp samosas."

Some Basic Indian Dining Etiquette 

  • Not known for their own punctuality, Indians expect foreigners to arrive close to the appointed time for which they have been invited. 
  • Depending upon the circumstances and occasions, Indians enjoy entertaining in their homes, private clubs, restaurants, and other public venues. Dress modestly and conservatively. Remove your shoes before entering a house.
  • Politely turn down the first offer of snacks, tea or coffee. You will be asked again and again. Your saying "no" to the first invitation to eat or drink, is part of your visit's protocol.  
  • Be aware that India has some diverse religious dietary restrictions. These restrictions greatly affect the foods that your are served. Sikhs do not eat beef. Hindus do not eat beef either. Many are vegetarians. Muslims do not drink alcohol, nor do they eat pork. Many hosts and hostesses serve foods to avoid the meat restrictions of the various religious groups. Chicken, lamb and fish are the most commonly served main courses at non-vegetarian meals. 
  • Wait to be told where you should sit.  
  • You may be asked to wash your hands before and after sitting down to a meal, as much Indian food is eaten with one's fingers. Always use your right hand to eat, whether you are using utensils or your fingers.
  • If utensils are used, they are generally a fork and a tablespoon. Table manners can feel somewhat formal, based on the religious beliefs of the various groups. 
  • Guests are often served in a particular order: the guest of honour is served first, followed by the men, and the children are served last. Women will typically serve the men and then eat later. 
  • In some situations, you may be allowed to serve yourself from a communal bowl. In others, the food may be put on your plate for you. 
  • If you leave a small amount of food on your plate, it is an indication that you are satisfied. If you finish all of the food served to you, it appears that you are still hungry, and is an insult to one's host. 

How To Do a High Tea in India

"If you thought throwing a high tea was just another regular affair, think again. We give you a dummy's guide on how to host the perfect high tea.
Every second soiree or intimate gathering in the city is themed on a high tea. And although hosts call it high tea, more often than not they end up serving the regular Hyderabadi fare — chai, biscuits and crisp samosas. Like every party, the high tea too calls for certain dos and don'ts. Socialite Vinita Pittie, who is known for throwing some of the best high teas in the P3 circuit, gives you a lowdown on the basic high tea etiquette. 
To begin with, the correct timings for a high tea is between 5 pm to 7 pm, anytime before or after that is considered a low tea. Also, it's not elegant to call someone home for a high tea and serve them regular chai with just 'two' biscuits on the plate. If that's what you plan on serving, then don't call it a high tea. Just say a tea and cracker session. 
One common mistake which everyone tends to make during a high tea is serving dishes that are appropriate for dinner. Many hosts like to serve chola bhatura and samosas for high tea. While there is no rule that this doesn't fit in the menu, but it would make sense to keep the portions bite-sized. 
Some of them even tend to have live cooking sessions. This is a terrible idea. Nobody likes waiting for food, so by the time you fry your hot vada or even make a quick bhel puri, guests are tired of waiting and simply skip it. 
Three Tier Stand for Afternoon Tea at the Taj Mahal Hotel ~ For a High Tea, "Keep the menu simple with half the items that compliment each other. For example, don't serve a Lebanese spread with jelabis for dessert or an English spread with Italian pasta." 
Ladies usually focus on serving a lavish spread. The general misconception is 'more, the merrier'. But this is where they tend to overdo it. You don't need 20 items with contrasting flavours on the menu. Instead, keep the menu simple with half the items that compliment each other. For example, don't serve a Lebanese spread with jelabis for dessert or an English spread with Italian pasta. Some people like having fruits in the evening, so it's good to keep a bowl of fresh fruits for them. 
The best platter of refreshments would be two or three varieties of finger foods (spicy chips, cutlets, nachos, cookies), two varieties of light but filling savoury snacks (sandwiches, pakoras) and a sweet (cupcakes, kalakand, barfis). Heavier fare like pulav, curd-rice and rasmalai are a strict no-no. Salads and tea are not a good pairing. 
Never-ever serve fizzy drinks as a welcome drink, unless someone requests for one. Apart from the regular tea, one should include at least three varieties of teas — green, oolong and fruit. Remember, not everyone likes hot drinks, and hence, it's always a good idea to stock up on cold drinks like sherbets and squashes. You can even serve a fancy sorbet with fruity flavours.
The hostess should not invite more than she can chew. Every invitee should know at least two people in the group. Dainty china is the best crockery. Serve food on tiny, delicate dessert plates. Light music, aroma candles and fresh flowers add to a perfect ambiance. 
If you are a guest, don't slurp your tea or sip your tea from a spoon. Swallow your food before you sip your tea. Never swirl the tea around in the cup as if it were a wine glass. Don't use your napkin to blow your nose. Finally, it's all about good food, good people and good conversations. The success depends on how good a time you've had." As told to Dipika Pillay for The Times of India

Darjeeling, "The Champagne of Tea" 

A rock garden in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
"Flying to a remote corner of India and braving the long drive into the Himalayas may seem like an awful lot of effort for a good cup of tea, but Darjeeling tea isn't simply good. It's about the best in the world, fetching record prices at auctions in Calcutta and Shanghai, and kick-starting the salivary glands of tea lovers from London to Manhattan.

In fact, Darjeeling is so synonymous with high-quality black tea that few non-connoisseurs realize it's not one beverage but many: 87 tea estates operate in the Darjeeling district, a region that sprawls across several towns (including its namesake) in a mountainous corner of India that sticks up between Nepal and Bhutan, with Tibet not far to the north.

Each has its own approach to growing tea, and in a nod to increasingly savvy and adventurous consumers, a few have converted bungalows into tourist lodging, while others are accepting day visitors keen to learn the production process, compare styles and improve their palates — a teetotaler's version of a Napa Valley wine tour, but with no crowds."
NY Times, 2007

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Italian Business and Dining Etiquette

Food and business go hand in hand in Italy, and in "Little Italy."
Congratulations, you’ve just been offered the role of your dreams in an Italian company.

Now for the hard part: adjusting to a new form of business etiquette.

To help you along the way, The Local spoke to Alberto Presutti, a Florence-based Italian etiquette expert who offers courses on anything etiquette-related from doing business to dining.

Throughout his career Presutti – who is also a poet – has made numerous television appearances on RAI and Sky and is often interviewed by the Italian press.

Ever since the Italian writer Monsignor Giovanni Della Casa published his treatise on polite behavior in the 16th century, etiquette has become an important part of Italian society.

Centuries later, Presutti is convinced that etiquette still holds the key to "an effective communication between each one of us".
"Table manners in Italy are formal; rarely do Italians share food from their plates. In a restaurant, be formal and polite with your waiter—no calling across the room for attention. Italians do not have a culture of sipping cocktails or chugging pitchers of beer. Wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks are almost always consumed as part of a meal. Public drunkenness is abhorred. Smoking has been banned in all public establishments, much like in the United States. Wiping your bowl clean with a (small) piece of bread is usually considered a sign of appreciation, not bad manners. Spaghetti should be eaten with a fork only, although a little help from a spoon won't horrify locals the way cutting spaghetti into little pieces might. Order your espresso (Italians don't usually drink cappuccino after breakfast time) after dessert, not with it. Don't ask for a doggy bag. In self-service bars and cafés it's good manners to clean your table before you leave." From Fodors

6 Tips for Italian Business Etiquette:

1. Punctuality. While Presutti accepts that being on time is one of the first rules of global business etiquette he admits that Italy has fallen victim to a “slapdash attitude” towards punctuality, even among professionals. “Meetings begin punctually late: they start late and they finish late,” he says.

2. Watch your language. In Italy it’s very important to use the right language with your superiors, warns Presutti. Above all, you should remember the difference between the polite you (“Lei”) and the informal “Tu”. “There are very precise rules, according to hierarchical relationships, and in business etiquette, the rule of ‘Lei’ applies.” However, he acknowledges that there are moments and situations in business when these rules are relaxed.

3. Kiss or handshake? You may be used to greeting your Italian chums with a traditional peck on both cheeks but in the workplace this kind of behaviour should be strictly avoided. “In terms of business etiquette at a place of work, mawkishness, hugs and kisses are anything but acceptable,” warns Presutti. Business etiquette provides a code of behaviour that recalls the correct rules of an honest and genuine professional relationship." A good old-fashioned handshake will do just fine, he says.
“Dining with a client or a supplier is the best way to make their acquaintance and strike up a fruitful and useful business relationship.” Alberto Presutti

4. It's all about the food. It will probably come as no surprise that food and business go hand in hand in Italy. “Often in Italy the most important business is concluded at table over a glass of wine or good food,” says Presutti. “Dining with a client or a supplier is the best way to make their acquaintance and strike up a fruitful and useful business relationship.”

5. Be spontaneous. While in England, formality and following protocol are paramount, in Italy business meetings are more spontaneous and emotions tend to come to the fore, according to Presutti. “In Italian business meetings, space is also given to improvisation and to ideas that are formed on the spot.”

6. Dress to impress. “L’abito non farebbe il monaco” (The habit doesn’t make the priest), according to an Italian proverb – but this is incorrect, according to Presutti. “Because whoever is equipped with a good knowledge of manners and business etiquette knows that elegance and style are fundamental elements."

From an article originally published in The Local

Friday, July 25, 2014

Etiquette in Switzerland

Don’t ask for chocolate fondue in Switzerland. It is not a traditional Swiss dish.

From punctuality and personal space to food and kids, a look at some of the fondues and don'ts of living in Switzerland.

Switzerland is a tiny country of some 7.7 million people surrounded by four far-larger neighbours: France, Germany, Italy and Austria. Yet despite its small size, it seems everyone has an opinion about what life is like in Switzerland. For some the mountainous country is a beautiful, pristine paradise. For others it’s uptight, conservative and downright boring.

Switzerland is most famous for its mountains, cheese, chocolate, cows, and watches. Of course these things are part of everyday life: check out the mouth-watering display of chocolate bars at any grocery store. But the Swiss and their country are far more complex.

The biggest challenge is pinning down who exactly typifies the average Swiss: there are four different cultures and languages. Some 64 per cent of Swiss speak German. (They actually use Swiss German dialects when chatting and High German for writing). About 20 per cent speak French, seven per cent speak Italian, and less than one per cent speak Romansh.

Only by living here does one learn the customs and etiquette that make the country so much more than its stereotypical image. The Swiss, for example, pursue a policy of neutrality but also have a large army to defend the country. It’s not unusual to phone up a business acquaintance and find they have left for military service for a few weeks.

And while the Swiss love their rules and order, you still find places where chaos reigns. Try figuring out when to cross the road at the crosswalks known here as “zebra stripes”, as the cars ignore the pedestrians and fly by.

In the spirit of trying to get to know the Swiss better, here’s a cultural guide focused on the German-speaking part of the country.

The orderly Swiss do not believe in lining up?


This is an area you should try to get right or things could get uncomfortable. The Swiss, while not the most outgoing individuals on the planet, still like their formal greetings.

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, stretch out your hand and say grüezi (hello). If you meet a friend, then you kiss them three times: offering first your right cheek, then left, then right again. The latter exchange is for women greeting women and men greeting women. The boys stick with a handshake or maybe a man hug. Remember to not actually plant a big smacker on someone’s cheeks: think air kiss instead.

When you go into a store say grüezi to the sales people, and when you leave say adieu (goodbye). People may also greet strangers with a grüezi when passing in the street, and always on hiking trails. Bitte (please) and merci or danke (thank you) are also appreciated here.


Personal Space

This may be the hardest thing for North Americans and Brits to accept: the orderly Swiss do not believe in lining up. Whether it’s the cheese counter at the supermarket, the bus stop, or the ski lift, it’s every man for himself. Do not expect that the Swiss will honour or even acknowledge a line up. Instead be prepared to speak up and tell others that it’s your time to buy bread, and don’t be shy about using a little elbow to get ahead when there are hordes of people.

The Swiss also aren’t fussed about bumping into each other. Maybe it’s because there are so many people packed into a small country. If you find yourself bumped, don’t make a dirty face but instead say scho guet (that’s okay) to the bumper and move on. If you do the bumping, say sorry or äxgüsi (excuse me).

The Swiss tend to take a more arms-length approach when it comes to their personal lives. They tend to be quiet and discreet when they first meet you so don’t tell them your whole life story or ask probing questions about their family or job. It will probably require a lot of work and time before you are upgraded from an acquaintance to a friend.

“It is best to approach new people carefully and not be too forward,” according to a Canton of Zurich website, aimed at promoting integration.

This can be frustrating for foreigners who are used to making instant friends, but it’s no reason to quit and only hang out with expats. “We take friendships quite seriously once they are established,” the Canton of Zurich website says.

Keep Swiss reticence in mind if you need help, whether it’s finding an address or getting help lifting your stroller onto the train. The Swiss are usually very happy to assist someone, but often wait until they are asked before springing into action.

Rules for Everyday Life

The Swiss live up to their reputation when it comes to the area of punctuality. Here being late is not a way of life: it’s just rude. Going to a business meeting? Show up early so you look organized, competent and respectful.

The same goes with play-dates in the sandbox: meeting up with your friend and her child an hour after the agreed time likely won’t go down well.
Be punctual! If the trains and buses can run on time, why can’t you?
People are also expected to show up on time for social outings, whether it’s dinner at someone’s house, drinks at a bar, or a party. The Swiss aren’t asking a lot: if the trains and buses can run on time, why can’t you?

When meeting friends for a drink, there are strict rules when it comes to how the toasting unfolds. Wait until everyone has their beverage, look your toasting partner in the eye, clink your glasses, and say zum Wohl or prost (cheers). Repeat the same ritual with everyone in the group. Then let the drinking begin.

You don’t get this squeaky clean and organized without rules, and the Swiss have many to ensure life keeps running smoothly. For example, you can’t just throw your trash into any old bag: instead you must pay for special garbage bags. There are also strict rules for recycling: paper must be bound with a string and put out in a special collection spot on the anointed day. Glass and aluminum are taken to a recycling depot, though it’s forbidden to do so during the evenings and on weekends. Plastic bottles are returned to the store, along with coffee capsules.

Another area abiding by the rules is crucial is the laundry room, according to the Zurich website. Many Swiss live in apartments, sharing their washers and dryers. Each unit is typically given a certain day when they may use the laundry facilities. Straying from the plan can get you into hot water.

“You should stick to the day and leave everything clean when you leave, otherwise you have to face the wrath of irritable neighbours,” the website advises.

Singing in a circle at a forest kindergarten


The Swiss take a decidedly hands-off approach when it comes to raising kids. No helicopter dads and moms here. Instead, toddlers are encouraged to zoom around on balance bikes (without pedals), go to playgroups in the forest, and climb to their hearts' content in the playground. School-age kids are encouraged to walk or bike to school by themselves, and play outside with friends on their own.

Switzerland has a unique education system. Children typically enter kindergarten at the age of 4 or 5. After grade 6 or 9, they can try an exam to enter Gymnasium, the school that allows them to go on to university.

Many Swiss children, however, go through a stream that incorporates education with vocational training. Don’t be alarmed if you have an extremely young nurse, mechanic or childcare worker: they have been training for years.


If there’s one dish the Swiss are most famous for, it’s cheese fondue. They have their own rituals for this rich and indulgent dish that must be observed.

When at a restaurant or visiting Swiss friends, you will be offered the following drinks to accompany fondue: wine, schnapps or tea. Beer is definitely frowned upon as a friend of mine learned when his waitress refused to serve him a lager with his fondue. The Swiss aren’t being difficult: they just believe that some drinks help you digest the melted cheese better.

When eating fondue, diners are not supposed to take a dainty little swirl with their fork to avoid germs (as recommended by a US website). Instead, start stirring vigorously as soon as the fondue pot is put on the heater to prevent the cheese from burning.

The Swiss tend to be pretty traditional with their fondue, sticking with domestic favourites like Emmentaler, Gruyère and Vacherin rather than mixing things up with foreign varieties like cheddar. And don’t throw the fondue pot into the sink as soon as all the melted cheese is consumed: the Swiss like to eat the crust that forms at the bottom, which they call the religieuse.

The last tip for fondue etiquette: don’t ask for chocolate fondue here. This is not a traditional Swiss dish, but a modern invention from New York (albeit reportedly from a Swiss restaurant).

Peeling orange with a knife and fork
Traditional finishing schools in Switzerland may be a thing of the past, but one is holding out successfully - and has a controversial plan to expand its recruitment.

The Swiss Finishing School That Refuses to be Finished

In an elegant villa high above Lake Geneva, a dozen or so young women are painstakingly learning to eat an orange - with a knife and fork. The trick is to section the orange carefully, removing the peel so that it ends up looking like a flower, leaving behind a perfect orange ready for eating. There should be no sound from the cutlery or the plates. And all the while, says teacher Rosemary McCallum, "you should continue making polite conversation with your neighbour".
These are the eager students at what school principal Viviane Neri describes as "Switzerland's, and possibly Europe's, last finishing school". The formidable Madame Neri inherited the Institute Villa Pierrefeu from her mother, and over the decades has seen her school continue to thrive, while nearly all the other traditional finishing schools - once so common in Switzerland - gradually closed. "We were never the kind of school where girls practised walking downstairs with books on their heads," explains Mme Neri. "They don't just go skiing all winter and learn a bit of typing here." Instead, Mme Neri's curriculum is primarily "international protocol and etiquette". "We teach mainly etiquette, what we call hostessing - which is really the French 'art de recevoir': how to be a good hostess, table service, table decoration, floral art, home management, cooking and so on."
The women at the Villa Pierrefeu range in age from 18 to over 50, and come from many different countries, including India, the United States, Saudi Arabia, China, and Lebanon. Sonom from India describes herself as a businesswoman and adds: "I'm going to be very successful". She believes the lessons from the Villa Pierrefeu will help her achieve that success. Najate is a 30-year-old university lecturer from Lebanon. She wants to expand her existing courses in business studies to include elements of protocol and etiquette, and is hoping the Villa Pierrefeu curriculum will give her some tips. And Carol, from the United States, wants to support her husband, who has a successful business career which involves a great deal of entertaining.
Their day begins with a lecture from Mme Neri on protocol. It soon becomes clear that, for some people, seating your guests at dinner can be a worryingly complicated affair. Where should you put the second son of a duke, for example? Is he more important than a daughter? Which country's ambassador takes precedence? (And the answer to that is not, in fact, the ambassador with which your country enjoys the best relations, but the ambassador who has been longest in the post.)
Later, the girls head for a "tricky foods" lesson with etiquette teacher Rosemary McCallum. Here, again, what seems obvious is often not so. "You eat hard cheese with a knife and fork," explains Ms Mc Callum. "You must never put a piece of hard cheese on a slice of bread and make a sandwich out of it. Soft cheese you can spread, but just break off a small piece of bread - oh, and mozzarella's a soft cheese, but that you eat with a knife and fork. "It's really not all that complicated."

'Polite conversation'

And once they have mastered the cheese etiquette, along with other skills such as flower arranging, and dressing for a formal dinner, the girls put it all into practice at a mock dinner in which half take the roles of men, and half of women. Each has a profile, and those playing the women, in particular, are expected to make conversation.
Institute Villa Pierrefeu
The institute caters for some of the world's wealthiest families
"Steer clear of the taboo subjects," reminds Ms McCallum. And what are they? "Religion, politics, sex - and money is usually a difficult one, too." Those who imagine that such a list of forbidden topics might lead to a tedious conversation would be right. The girls themselves clearly believe they are learning something useful. "We've been taught how to dress appropriately," says Jessica, from London. "And how to eat correctly, how to have polite conversation. It's a good experience, to know how to behave better." So was her behaviour bad before? "No, but you can just hold yourself better, and if you're at a dinner party you know what you should and shouldn't be saying."

$20,000 bargain

Some might argue that these are not things most people need to pay good money for. But of course, these girls are not most people: they come from the world's wealthiest families, and it is clear many of them believe the institute's fee of $20,000 (£12,860) to spend six weeks in one of the most beautiful regions of Switzerland, and acquire a little social polish at the same time, is a bargain.
Table manners are important soft skills
Etiquette and table manners are important "soft skills"
"Etiquette and table manners, these are the soft skills that are important," insists Sonom. "Everyone has a degree these days but to have that extra knowledge is helpful, I think."
Meanwhile, Mme Neri, staying true to her goal of keeping her school open and thriving while those around her close their doors, has grand plans for the future. In the 21st Century, she reveals, good manners need not be a uniquely feminine skill. "I think soon, we'll probably open up to men also," she announces. "The men used to learn these things in officer school, and we have been asked by many men why we don't give courses for them also, so I think yes, we will probably do that in the near future." So, perhaps as soon as next year, Switzerland's last traditional finishing school will take the radical step of becoming co-educational. Meanwhile, the girls are still struggling with those oranges. "It's hard work," says Sonom. "But you get used to it." 2012, Imogen Foulkes, Geneva for BBC News

Originally published in The Local, by Catherine McLean and portions of an article for BBC News by By Imogen Foulkes, Geneva