Archive for March, 2010

That’s Gratitude for You: Thank-you letters DO still matter

My colleague John Robertson had to be forcibly restrained one day when we were teaching at a business school in Italy where the majority of the students said that they agreed with everything we said but could not see any point in writing a thank you letter. And this is the trouble, many people, sadly, think that such letters are a waste of time. But they are missing the point.

If anything, I would argue that a well-penned, hand-written thank you letter carries more gravitas than in previous generations, only because they are becoming a rare breed. We live in an age of instant communication, but this is no excuse for letting standards of civility slip, although it is, for many, an easy excuse.

Thank you letters should be written (by hand) after you have received either hospitality or a present. If someone has thrown a party and you were one of the guests, the reasoning of ‘I’ll be the only guest who does write a thank you letter so I won’t bother’ is ludicrous to say the least. If others aren’t writing letters, it does not mean to say we have to copy them – try not to be a sheep.

When I was younger, my parents used to say to me that if I didn’t write someone a thank you letter for a present then I would find that the giver would stop giving me presents. Being young, naive and slightly materialistic, this would not do at all and so I duly wrote my letters on my parents’ writing paper.

These thank you letters do not have to be lengthy essays with bibliographies and academic references: one page on A5 writing paper (letterhead optional) will suffice. If someone has put in the effort of cooking for you or taken the time to buy you a present then it is common sense (and courtesy) to show them that you are grateful.

Many people say to me that they find it a chore writing such letters and they struggle with finding the right words, but once a winning formula is learned then they become second-nature. Again, these letters do not need to be the next Harry Potter, or match the mellifluous prose of Oscar Wilde. And to avoid confusion, I shall post a mock-up thank you letter on this blog next week.

One final word, please just don’t thank someone over Facebook or a similar site; a telephone call is the best option for the lazy individual.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

This annual event is seen as a prelude to the British Season and this year takes place on 3rd April; it has taken place every year with exception of the two world wars. The course is four-and-a-quarter miles long and is held on the Thames river from Putney Bridge to Mortlake. The sporting event, which lasts around 20 minutes, is a race between two crews: one from Oxford University, referred to as ‘the Dark Blues’; the other from Cambridge University (‘the Light Blues’)..

The event never fails to draw large crowds, often with alumni from both Universities turning up to support their alma mater. Savvy spectators station themselves at rowing clubs along the course, or, the slightly more keen will get on a launch and follow the race for the duration.

Unlike other sporting events in the Season, spectator dress is casual (sometimes very casual) although past and present students of either Oxford of Cambridge University tend to turn up wearing varsity colours.

It is one of those very English occasions where everyone watches, either on the television from their armchair, or cheering on the river banks, whether or not they follow rowing for the rest of the year!  The weather is usually cold and windy, and by the time the boats have lined up the 20 minute race lasts for some considerable time.  Because of that, dress, which is casual (sometimes very casual) needs to take into account warmth and practicality as well as correct form.  We suggest a good warm scarf, blazer and possibly waterproofs, sturdy shoes, and warm layers.  Avoid taking umbrellas so as not to impair the view of your fellow spectators, and do remember to cheer without bawling, and to be a good sport.

Sporting etiquette is at its peak at this event, with the losing team leading the applause and congratulations for the winning crew.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Protocol for the Formula One Season

It is the world’s richest, most extravagant sport, but protocol is not be forgotten as the 2010 Formula One season begins in Bahrain this month. Unlike many other sporting events, the Formula One world championship does not take place over a number of days or weeks in one location. Instead, there are 19 Grand Prix in 18 different countries, spanning 5 different continents, each taking place over the course of one weekend at some point between March and November.

The most important detail for spectators to consider when attending a Grand Prix in a foreign country is that the culture, customs and rules of protocol may be different to their native land. For instance, in a devoutly Islamic state such as Abu Dhabi, the everyday rules of etiquette may be completely opposite to what we are used to. It is therefore of the utmost importance that before travelling to a foreign Grand Prix destination, spectators are aware of the customs to which they will be expected to adhere, and should plan their trip suitably. Planning should involve special attention to clothing. Although there is no strict dress code for Grand Prix, both sexes should be wary of showing too much flesh in Islamic countries, even if temperatures are high and such actions would be considered permissible in one’s home country.

More generally, behaviour around the circuit should be tailored to the individual safety requirements of the tracks. All motorsport is potentially dangerous and even spectators are not completely free from danger. For instance, spectators should be wary of standing too close to crash barriers as fatalities have been known when a car collides into a tyre wall and causes high-speed impact with onlookers. Therefore, it is vital that observance and responsibility are displayed at all times.

Formula One is also, understandably, a very noisy event. Earplugs are advisable, and if spectators are planning on using klaxons to show support, it is courteous to ask the permission of any nearby spectators, who may not be prepared for such loud noises at such close proximity.

James Hanson

Afternoon Tea: A Very British Past Time

In our busy, time-poor lives, what is nicer than momentarily stopping for a scone and a pot of tea? Afternoon tea gives us a break in the rush of modern life. It does so now, just like it did back in the nineteenth century, when it was invented.

In 1840, Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, asked for a tea tray and cakes at four o’clock, as she found she was hungry at this time and also had nothing to do. She found this new pastime hard to break and soon invited other ladies in society to join her. The Duchess’s guests went back to their houses and instigated the ritual, thus spreading the new custom.

Queen Victoria liked the idea so much she started Garden Parties – the first of which was in 1868 and are still held to this day.

In the 1880s, ladies began to wear tea-gowns, which were soft dresses with a lot of lace, which came in at the middle. Edwardian society altered the time that Afternoon tea was taken: it moved back an hour to five o’clock.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

The middle and lower classes soon heard about this new ‘meal’ in the day and so the teashop flourished, offering people the chance to break with their day for tea and cakes. For the first time, respectable women could eat out unaccompanied.

Actor and writer Noel Coward commented that it be “dreadful to live in a country without tea”. The Royal Family today will pause at five o’clock for their helping: they always drink Earl Grey Tea.

As with everything, there comes etiquette with Afternoon tea.

Scones are always broken; never cut. They should be served with jam and clotted cream, or butter. Crumpets should be buttered whole and then cut. Cakes and pastries should be made so the use of a pastry fork is not needed, although if that is not the case, the use of such an implement is perfectly acceptable.

If you take milk with your tea, then this is poured in after the tea itself. This is because in the Victorian era when Afternoon tea was introduced, the best households would have fine bone china cups, which could withstand high temperatures: milk could be poured in after the scalding water, whereas the lower echelons of the household would have pottery cups and mugs and milk poured in first would prevent the cups from cracking.

Afternoon tea continues to carry on in 2010 the world over, with The Ritz hotel and Claridges, both in London, offering one of the best.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


Our Twitter Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new entries by email.

Join 60 other followers


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers