Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Etiquette and "Good Form"

Among the notable guests at the Constitutional Centennial banquet in the Philadelphia Academy of Music, in September were the Chinese envoys who accompanied Count Mitkiewicz to this country...

What is Good Form? Differing Customs In Different Countries—Etiquette Among Various Peoples

That etiquette is sometimes arbitrary and not covered by the definition of common sense set to rule, is shown by the widely varying customs in different parts of the world. An American going up or down stairs in a public hotel  does not feel it incumbent on him to remove his hat if a lady should see him on the stairs. In Europe it would be considered very rude if a man did not uncover under such circumstance. An American, entering a parlor, expects the lady of the house to rise and greet him. 

In Spain, a lady would seem to forfeit her self-respect should she exhibit so much forwardness. No one ever saw a man and a woman arm in arm in the streets of a Spanish city without knowing they were foreigners. A Spanish husband never takes his wife's arm in public. Nor would a Spanish woman receive a male visitor alone. Such is the system of protection exercised over women by Hidalgo, grandee, tradesman and peasant in the sunny land of romance. 

Among the notable guests at the Constitutional Centennial banquet in the Philadelphia Academy of Music, in September were the Chinese envoys who accompanied Count Mitkiewicz to this country in connection with the concessions to a Philadelphia syndicate. During the evening a note was handed to the chief envoy, a grave looking. elderly man. He was troubled for a moment, and then made an elaborate apology in French for the rudeness of which he was compelled to be guilty, namely, the wearing of his spectacles in company long enough to read the note. It is a gross breach of etiquette for a Chinaman to wear eyeglasses or spectacles in company, and it is equally impolite to enter a room with the hat off. A gentleman of the Celestial Kingdom always remains covered to show his respect.

 Another piece of Chinese etiquette noticeable at the banquet was that, although the evening was fine, the envoys wore rubber overshoes until they readied the Academy cloakroom, and removed them prior to entering the amphitheater. Chinese etiquette forbids a man to enter a room with soiled shoes, and consequently, overshoes are worn until arriving at the house. 

An American would never think of removing his hat prior to speaking to any man on the street. In Holland, before speaking in the most humble individual out of doors a male uncovers. In Holland, too, men and women rarely purchase at the same stores, but in case where they do, if a woman discovers that men are assembled inside, she retires until they leave. A live American store-keeper would probably soon change this feature of Dutch etiquette. 

The Americans, English, Germans and Russians shake hands with a man bidding him welcome. An Arab’s greeting is to rub his cheek against that of the person he salutes and kisses him. A Frenchman welcomes a friend by embracing and kissing him, though by slow degrees this custom is being superseded. The Japanese customs are similar to those of China. It is not an unusual sight to see a number of Japanese remove their sandals, cross their hands and cry “Spare me!” when a great man passes, but the custom is rapidly going out of vogue since the leaven of enlightenment has been spreading through the land. 

A peculiar mark of esteem in Burma is to ask permission to smell a person's face, and then declare the perfume to be as sweet as some choice flower. The custom is confined to Burma and is not likely to spread. In America, politeness goes, as it should, before all else. One rule can be laid down for general observance where a person’s ideas of the proper thing to do are unsettled: let him make himself at home. He should do so in a manner to create some respect for home, unlike a young man who called at the office of a noted Philadelphian, somewhat famous for his straightforward utterances. “Make yourself at home for a few minutes," said the owner of the office to his visitor. The young man, having seated himself somewhat comfortably, but mistaking a table for a footstool, responded cheerfully; “I always make himself at home." “Then I pity the people at home," was the quick response.   –The Coronado mercury, 1890

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