Posts Tagged 'civility'

The Etiquette of Valentine’s Day

Getting Valentine’s day right isn’t hard – it just takes a little bit of forethought and planning to ensure that the 14th February is a properly romantic affair rather than a tacky experiment.

Rules for Men

Red rosesGood old-fashioned chivalry may well be becoming a thing of the past, and some would argue it’s long dead and buried, but its survival has not been helped by feminism – which has caught men between a rock and a hard place over how they should treat the opposite sex. Yet, men are also to blame somewhat for letting it become so much of a tightrope.

It’s fair to say that even though there are some women who would recoil if a gentleman held a door open for her, in 2011, a lot of ladies have realized that they actually do like a bit of chivalry, even if they won’t necessarily admit it out-loud.

So if you are in the market for a bit of courtly love, here are the basics!

- Have an umbrella handy so you can shield your date from the rain, if needs be

- Hold doors open for women and let them go through first. (There is an etiquette for revolving doors, which, I think is a little long-winded: the man enters the revolving door first, pushes it round for the woman but emerges after her, thus going round twice!)

- Offer your coat if it gets cold

- The gentleman always pays the bill on the first date

That’ll be the dahlia

Giving flowers can be something of a minefield. People have definite opinions about flowers – some hate chrysanthemums, others think carnations are cheap. Whichever bloom you choose, it’s probably best to find out before which flowers your loved one actually likes, and stick to that.

When buying flowers, do remember the following.

- Make sure your chose a good florist – ideally once you choose your florist you should stay with them as this will ensure a relationship is built up and they will learn what suits you best

- The cost of the bouquet will vary on how generous you feel and how deeply you are in love. £40 is the average a typical man would spend on flowers for Valentine’s Day, but remember that a beautiful hand-tired posy may mean just as much as a grand, no-expense-spared display

- If your lover is at work, it would be thoughtful to send them to her place of work – others will spy her carrying the bunch and she’ll get the chance to show off how much she’s loved by her admirer

- If you sent flowers last year, make sure you match your previous gift this year – if the bunch looks cheaper than last time then brace yourself for a bumpy ride

- For all things floral, The English Manner suggests Pulbrook and Gould in central London, or Judith Blacklock Flower Designs.  For those out of town, take a look at John Lewis and M&S – always great value and innovative designs.

Suits You

No one wants to be courted by someone with bad breath or dirty nails – your image and persona is vital for success. You don’t have to be dressed from top to toe in Savile Row, but cleanliness and style will pay dividends. When dressing yourself, remember there are sartorial rules for a reason. Break them at your peril!

Food of Love

Going out for a romantic meal for two, however unimaginative, is also a good step. There are plenty of excellent restaurants but eating out will mean that you share your special moments with the other diners.

It’s worth remembering that 14th February is one of the busiest nights of the year for the restaurant trade; make sure you get a good table by booking in advance at a restaurant she likes and be prepared for two sittings and indifferent service.

However delicious food in a high-class restaurant may be, nothing will impress your date more than a home-cooked meal. It speaks volumes if you can cook and take the time to make something special.

Rules for Ladies

The most important thing to remember is that men are different from women. Give men some space so they can reflect on what a catch you are. Relationships where you spend every second together don’t tend to last. In general, men may be more laid back whilst the girls have a tendency to worry. Celebrate the differences rather then fretting over them.

Remember to keep in mind what your dress says about your intentions – people can dress to reflection their mood subconsciously (i.e. – a black low-cut neck means you’re interested; a black nun’s habit means anything but!).

If your partner starts to flirt with another woman – let him! You’ll look better for not reacting to it and he’ll probably realize you’re more attractive. A lot of men (and women) like to hear compliments about themselves; it makes us feel good.

If your partner does over-step the mark with another lady then don’t make a scene in public. Arguing about anything for all to see is the height of bad form. Have your argument behind closed doors – don’t ruin other people’s night.

Dress to Impress

When going out with your partner, whether it be to an event or just out-and-about, try to co-ordinate what you’re wearing. The earring rule is generally short earrings during the day, and longer at night.

One final point to remember is that the man’s dress should never out-shine the woman’s.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Oh We Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside

Holiday time is here again and it is time to pick up the bucket and spade, pack up the suitcases with clothes that won’t be worn, and load up the car to the gills… a stressful time at best, compounded by a typical summer of downpours, sea mist and cool winds.

But, this summer so far has shown that there is a glimmer of hope and temperatures have been warmer and sunnier than the last few years at least.  My family and I have just returned from the delightful Devon coastal town of ‘Chelsea on Sea’ aka Salcombe, and it struck us that a word on the etiquette of English travel might be topical.

Salcombe Panorama

The Englishman Abroad is easily spotted – very pale skin with patches caught by the sun after months of cashmere cover-ups – a battered straw panama hat and trousers somewhere just below the knee which can make the wearer look like a sack of potatoes. As one would expect in Salcombe, there were degrees of Jack Wills (its original home town) preppy chic; Abercombie & Fitch copy-cat versions and a degree of the White Stuff surf brigade, though on the wrong coast.  Not just for the teens, there were plenty of parents sporting the same looks, with additional gravitas added by Henry Lloyd and the occasional spotting of some Ralph Lauren here and there.  All this added up to a glorious technicolour of fairly smart and expensive gear, entirely in keeping with the now astronomical prices being charged for a sandwich and a latte (£8.50 for a cheese sandwich in one popular water-view pub!).

What was apparent, thankfully, was a complete lack of the popular recent look of men of certain post-teenage years wearing a singlet vest with knee length shorts – not a good look, even in the Caribbean.  We were pleased to note that not only was the trend absent, but the unthinking, rude and uncaring behaviour which seems to accompany this fashion was also absent.  People queued politely and in line for the ferries to and from East Portlemouth and South Sands; there was no pushing in the ice cream melee and guests chatted jovially at the bars.  What a marked contrast to Oxford Street yesterday in the sweltering heat, when so many tourists (more than 70% of which appeared to be European) jostled, shoved and on occasion just barged through the throng.  Doors shut in faces, hot sweaty bodies dressed more for the beach at Blackpool than one of central London’s premier shopping areas, and a great deal of what our friends in the USA term ‘jaywalking’.

Not everyone has the ability, financial or otherwise to make it to Salcombe, Rock or Cap Ferrat this year, but wherever one’s holiday and business travels take you to, do remember some common courtesy and basic good manners.  Be polite, be friendly, be patient and dress for the occasion.  And take an umbrella!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

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The English Manner has some wonderful English made umbrellas and will shortly have a range of travel products available for our travellers.  Do get in touch for details, and in the meantime we are pleased to recommend some ‘must haves’ for travel this year.

Some of our best loved travel essentials include ‘Travel Pak’; a comprehensive set of anti-bacterial gel, wipes, tissues, body wash and tissues, with a fantastic added bonus of disposable loo seat covers.  Available from Amazon at around £16 rrp, and some good chemists.  We also recommend a failsafe pashmina in a neutral colour, our favourites are from Pure Cashmere and come in a range of colours with some glorious pastels and hotter shades for cooler nights.  Check out a good eye mask and ear plugs for air travel, and arm yourself with an indulgent set of bath time essentials from Jo Malone – we love the lime and basil shampoo and the grapefruit fragrance.  For cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing, look no further than the mini La Prairie set, which comes complete with a hanging wash-bag and make up pouch, perfect for any location.

For those heading to South Devon, check out supper at Dick & Wills, a new waterside brasserie in Salcombe with a fabulous view.  Not cheap, but the best food we ate during our recent stay; and a latte at the Wardroom with or after breakfast is a treat – cheerful fast service, nicely presented home cooked food and a full frontal view.  Further afield, try the Oyster Shack at Bigbury-on-Sea and the Sloop Inn at Bantham, just beside a brilliant beach.

Fit for a King: Etiquette in the Gym

William working out in the gym

Working out with a smile

The summer is here and many people will probably want to tone up their bodies for the warmer weather. Admirable, but do remember that gyms, like everything else, have an un-written (until now) etiquette that people should follow and respect.

Here are my tips for working out politely.

Good gym kit Make sure your gym kit is clean and presentable. Men should not go bare chested either

Mirrors They are there for you to check your technique and not for preening

Music As with public transport, keep your personal music devices turned down so only you can hear them

Grunting, etc Not allowed, ever! There’s no need for others to be acutely aware that you are working out

Equipment hogging Don’t use a piece of equipment for longer than 15 minutes if there are others in the gym. There may not be a visible queue, but it’s not to say that others won’t be wanting to use your machine

Saving machines Don’t go and drape a towel over a machine you want to use next until you are ready to use it

Gym bores Don’t bore other people (inside or outside of the gym) about how well you are doing with your workout regime, or how your new diet is going. Only tell if they ask – too many people can become boorish when discussing fitness

Not a competition If the person on the machine next to you is doing a higher speed than you, do not worry that you are not as fit as them. Exercise should be taken at your own pace and not dictated by others – you can actually do yourself harm if you try to match others’ speeds

Wipe up! After use, make sure you give sweaty machines a wipe down so they are ready to be used by the next person.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Blowing Your Own Trumpet: Vuvuzela Etiquette

‘Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand.
They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuo-
Sos, the cream of ev’ry famous band’ (
76 Trombones from ‘The Music Man’)

Vuvuzelas

The start of the 2010 World Cup has brought a new and unexpected celebrity to the world’s attention: the vuvuzela. This South African trumpet-esque instrument is blown at matches (in England we’d have a claxon) by the spectators. It’s caused television viewers to complain, as they’ve been unable to concentrate on matches due to the din of thousands of vuvuzelas; when all blown in one constant stream they do sound like a swarm of wasps.

The argument for not banning the vuvuzelas has been that people have free will and as they are not harming anyone then why should football’s governing body, Fifa, intervene? Then of course there is the ‘when in Rome’ argument: the vuvuzelas are a native instrument to South Africa and by banning their use would be a snub to the host country.

So what to do? Utilitarianism would say that we should worry about the greatest good for the greatest number, and so the opinions of the worldwide television audience would take priority over the spectators at the stadiums, and thus the vuvuzelas be banned. However, the ‘when in Rome’ counter-argument is, in my opinion, equally as worthwhile. When we are visiting other countries we should respect their customs and cultures and not just march in and expect it to be England abroad: we have to adapt. But then of course the TV audience is not in South Africa, they are in their own homes… it’s a tough one, but the tournament only goes on for a month (I never thought that I’d ever say ‘only goes on for a month’) and so we should probably just put up with it for the time being… or do what I’m doing… and not watch any of the matches at all!

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Royal Ascot: Dress & Wardrobe

2010 Royal Ascot is just under a month away. Last year, our post on Ascot proved very popular, gaining the most reads out of all of our entries. This is probably because Ascot is a melting pot and people from all different walks of life can be found here.

Next week we will talk about how to picnic in style at Royal Ascot. This week, we recap on what should and should not be worn when at the races.

Alexandra Messervy, Founder, The English Manner: “Morning suits and top hats are de-rigeur, as of course are the most fabulous hats.  Trousers for ladies are now permitted, but skirts must not be far above the knee, and if you are hoping to enter the Royal Enclosure you will need to apply for a sponsored badge many months in advance, with a reference from a member of the Royal Enclosure.  Top hats should always be black silk, and morning suits can be grey or black – my own preference is grey.  Ladies’ Day is the traditional one to ‘be seen’, when even the more conservative hat-wearer can really push the boat out.  A word of caution though:  if you are not used to wearing a hat, practice putting it on and off and wearing it around the house several times before the big day, and learn to relax – otherwise you will have severe neck strain and a bad headache before you go near the champagne!

William Hanson, Tutor, The English Manner: “In 2008 Royal Ascot was in the news as ladies were turning with too much fake-tan applied and in some extreme cases, they deemed it appropriate to go without knickers. This is never acceptable. Anywhere. For women, it is advisable that cocktail dresses are avoided. Having too much flesh open to the elements at a predominantly outdoor event will only cause goose pimples.  Dress colours that work well are pastels, bright colours, neutrals such as cream and fawn, although fashion changes and each year will see a different colour or shade in vogue. As for materials, linen creases easily and for an event where you may be sitting to picnic (smart race-goers do this in Number One car park), this is not a good idea. Lightweight wool and silk are preferable. Dresses and jackets that can be removed easily if you get too hot are canny choices. Skirts that ride up when you sit down are not, however. The Queen often wears one main colour all the way up (including the hat) which accentuates height and can make shorter people look taller. Umbrellas may be a nuisance but are worth it if it begins to rain. They can be left in the cloakroom if needs be: parasols are naff.”

For further advice on Royal Ascot, please see last year’s (very popular) entry, or feel free to contact us.

Maybe This Time: Facebook Invitations

All things considered, Facebook is a wonderful innovation. Like it or loathe it, it will certainly be around for quite some time yet. It has set itself up as a social hub: we can see photos of ourselves and our friends, we can email our friends, we can play games with them, we can instant-message them, we can send them gifts (although if any friend of mine ever sent an electronic gift – or e-card, for that matter – I’d strike them out of my address book), and we can organise events through Facebook. It’s this last one that can easily rile me.

For the benefit of non-Facebook users, let me quickly explain what exactly happens. Any user can invite friends to an event; on the event page they can list the time, place, date, and any other instructions for guests. Invited guests will see the invitation to said event when they log into their Facebook profile. Guests are then given three options as to how they wish to reply: Attending, Not Attending, or Maybe Attending. It is this last one that drives me mad.

I used to send out nice stiff white card invitations to my guests for my parties, but due to the cost of doing them for every party and the fact that a majority of modern guests wouldn’t know what on earth to do with such an invitation, I decided to concede and use Facebook to invite people to my events. To be fair, it works a treat. But when I have guests that respond that they ‘maybe attending’ I hit the roof. In my opinion, you are either attending or you are not. Called me old fashioned but when I am invited to an event I get out my diary, see if I am doing anything already on that date and if I am not, then I respond saying I can do; if I am busy, I respond saying I unfortunately cannot. This conditional clause of ‘maybe’ seems to be designed for the socially far-too-busy. Some of my guests (who have subsequently been struck off my party guest-list) put ‘maybe’ because they are clearly thinking ‘well, I shall go if I don’t have anything else better to do that night’, which is just rude.

People should make the effort, and decide whether they are going or not instead of floundering around in this new middle ground. If a host were going to the effort of putting on a party (probably with food and drink) for guests then said host would quite like to know for how many people they are catering.

You can see this clearly winds me up, and I do wish Facebook would remove the function. It is intrinsically bad mannered.

I am off for a lie down now.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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