Monday, July 27, 2015

German Etiquette Rules

Some of the Rules that Americans are Forever Disregarding

German gent with one hand in his pocket, and cigar in other hand.

German etiquette is very minute says the New York Sun. It does not stop with the ordinary rules for eating, drinking, calling, and receiving. It prescribes mazes of trivial details which would fill so many fat volumes that even Germans have not had the courage to write them.

It directs a man what to say just before beginning to drink a glass of beer and just before finishing it. It tells him the exact words he must use in insulting a stranger. It graduates nicely the depths of the bows that are due the privy councilor, the court councilor, the tutor, the judge, the tradesmen, the barber, and the restaurateur.

It explains why the clergymen should bow first to Herr Baron and last to Herr Bankier. It describes just how the man must kiss a woman's hand in the drawing-room and just why he need not give her his seat in a horse-car. It even describes the circles in which a man may wahltz at a ball.

Perhaps the best criterion of the minuteness of German etiquette is the little unwritten code on pocket manners. German good form is shocked by the helter-skelter condition of the American pocket. A well bred German never allows his keys and his jack-knife, his small change, his shoe buttoner, and his cigar-cutter to jingle about loosely in his trousers pocket.

A naked cigar protruding from the waist coat pocket shocks the modesty of German good form much more than a dozen or more of Rubens' strapping Dutch goddesses. The greatest offense against German pocket manners is to carry small silver coins loose in the pocket. A German Lieutenant may have only half a dollar to his name, but he carries as big a purse as if he owned all the notes of the Imperial Reichsbank.

In paying for 5 cents' worth of beer, he goes down into his trousers and draws out his flabby pocket-book with dignity, thanking heaven he is a mannerly, high-born Prussian, and not a vulgar tradesmen like the American at his side, who has just slapped down on the table a mess of gold, silver, keys and manicure apparatus. The small German school-boy is not even allowed to carry his car fare without a purse. The servant girl, who earns but $40 a year, would not carry the price of a loaf of black bread through the street in her hand.

Every reputable smoker in Germany has his "cigar-etuis." He prepares his smoke by emptying out all his 3-cent cigars on the table before him and laying the case aside. Then he draws a little cigar-clipper from another case, removes the tip of the least offensive looking cigar, and drops the small bit of tobacco into a tiny box which he carries in his waistcoat pocket.

At the end of each smoker's year he sends all these cigar tips to a charitable institution in his province. (Two years ago, the asylums in the little province of Brunswick received 400 marks' worth of tobacco in this wise.) After stowing away the "orphans' share" of the cigar, the smoker takes a knife from its chamois-skin bag and finishes the job which the clipper began.

A case containing a cigarette holder and a leather match-safe are the last articles which the well-bred German about to smoke, adds to the collection of small bags and cases on the table before him. Of course, all this elaborate preparation to smoke one 3-cent cigar strikes the American tourist as a trifle ridiculous. A German, however, regards it as indicative of the breeding of the smoker. He looks upon the rough-and-ready manner in which an American carries his cigars, matches and knife much as an American looks upon a man who travels without a toothbrush and night-shirt.

The little code of pocket manners is enforced just as tyrannically by German public opinion as other branches of German etiquette. Americans who consider such minute matters all bosh, and say so, are apt to be roughly corrected or altogether abandoned by their more fastidious friends.– Marin Journal, 1899

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia