Monday, December 17, 2018

Holiday Etiquette and Privacy

When visiting this holiday season, remember some basic rules of etiquette. Respect closed doors, and don’t eavesdrop or pry into the personal belongings of others.

Privacy Vital To Everyone

“The world is too much with us,” grumbled Wordsworth 150 years ago. You can imagine how the poet would feel today, with Science bringing outer space into our very living rooms. Today's world, in fact, is more ‘with us’ in every respect. People are more with us. They have more ways to be with us. They can “drop in” by land sea or air – and pay later. They have more time to drop in – the 40-hour week provides loads of it. They have more incentive to drop in – “Togetherness” is extolled from every quarter. The result is an invasion of privacy on a monumental scale. 

While many people invite and enjoy the invasion, respect for privacy is still a cornerstone of etiquette. So don't just walk into a person's house. Knock. Better still, call first. This permits your victims to vamoose gracefully or at least tidy up the place before you arrive. If you walk into a family squabble or find they have guests already, explain you “can't stay but a second” and avoid being a nosy guest. Keep your paws out of desk drawers, medicine cabinets, record collections. Avoid asking the cost of anything. The man with the diamond stickpin may have $30 in the bank, so don't pry into finances. Beware of stirring up conversations with strangers on train, plane or bus. Some people read while traveling, others think long thoughts; neither relishes intrusions. 

Privacy is like love and freedom – it’s unimportant only when you have it. Any man who has lived in an army barracks can vouch for this fact. So will members of large families. As houses become smaller and families bigger (both are present trends), a respect for privacy becomes increasingly important. So don’t read Sister’s love letters. Don’t snoop in Dad’s den. Let Junior retire to his cubicle and mope in peace. Respect closed doors. Don’t eavesdrop or pry in personal belongings. It takes a heap of manners to make a house a home.  –Don Goodwin’s Male Polish, December, 1958

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

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