Monday, 11 May 2015

May on National Etiquette Week

be nice or leave photoI read in a magazine recently that this week is National Etiquette Week. I think that may be in the United States only, but it did get me thinking about what etiquette means to us today. Is it the stuff of Debretts and the like, or is it something that should be ingrained in all of us as a matter of common courtesy?
I'd love to know your views on the subject. What does etiquette mean to you? Do you see good manners more often than bad? Do you think the younger generation is better or worse than their elders?
Like many, I am a stickler for good manners. My 'pet peeves' are mostly manners related. Litterbugs and pavement hoggers drive me mad!

Here are a couple of my thoughts on the subject...
What is etiquette?
When we think of etiquette, are we right to think of fancy finishing schools (Ladette to Lady, anyone?!) and stuffy upper classes forcing out-dated social customs on everyone?

Dictionary definitions point to phrases such as 'conventional requirements' and 'codes of practice'. None of those sound particularly exciting, or something that I want to worry about as I go about my life on a daily basis. Maybe if I am attending an event with a certain dress code I'll check what exactly that covers, and I certainly remember being told by my parents not use a fork like a shovel or lick my knife, but who says we have to follow these rules, and why?

I won't pretend that I have the answer to that, except that it's just 'how it is done'. I'm generally quite accepting of such things, but it would be fascinating to question them all and think about which of these 'rules' were actually worth keeping.

Some things are much more obviously a question of respecting other people and being courteous towards them - saying please and thank you, not being late, etc - which has to be a good thing, right? Those are the things which seem more important to me, and which there shouldn't be any excuse for getting wrong.
What about chivalry?
Chivalry is etiquette which derives from military origins and, if I'm not mistaken, is based on men protecting women due to them being the physically stronger sex and being armed.
Is this still relevant? Seen in that light it would seem to have almost no place in modern society.

Is chivalry contrary to feminism and equality? Perhaps so in some circumstances although I'm sure that not all 'chivalrous acts' are meant in that way.  If a man opens a door for me, does that mean that he sees me as too weak to do it myself? Should I be offended or should I just accept it as an act of kindness?
Public transport is definitely a goldmine for studying chivalry. I travel to and from work on the train 5 days a week, and am frequently barged out of the way by people (male and female) desperate for the last seat. That said, should I really be complaining?  If I want equal rights and equal pay (which of course I do), should I accept equal risks of missing out on the last seat? I am, after all, quite capable of standing on a train for 20 minutes, even if I don't usually particularly want to.

Unless the situation particularly calls for physical strength, maybe we shouldn't expect men to be bound by any other 'etiquette' rules than we are.

Where are our manners?
I promise not to rant for long, but I can't let you go without mentioning just a couple of things which really wind me up. If you think similarly, leave me a comment!
  • pavement hoggers - why do people think that having 2 friends gives them the right to take up the entire width of the pavement so that they can have a chat? Leave us some room to come past you!
  • litterbugs - why do people think it is OK to throw litter in the street? And that includes cigarette butts. There's bound to be a bin nearby, or just take it home so that other people don't have to tidy up after you!

Let us know your views!

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