Posts Tagged 'manners'



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

Ya Boo Sucks: Please Don’t Boo JEdward!

John and Edward perform on 'The X Factor'

I do not like The X Factor, but during the series that has just passed I found reason to watch it (or at least some of it). Their names: John and Edward (‘JEdward’). The young Irish brothers were not the best of singers, but they were performers. They danced their socks off (sometimes not in time to the music or each other) but it was clear to see that they were having great fun doing what they clearly enjoyed. However, every time they came on stage during the live shows the studio audience would boo and hiss as if Hitler had risen from the dead just to come on to perform ‘I Did It My Way’.

John and Edward coped magnificently during their ritual humiliation each week. They did not once acknowledge the blood-hungry mob of an audience; they just smiled, soldiered on and did what they liked doing best. Even now (they are currently promoting their debut single ‘Under Pressure’) some people have the audacity to boo them. But why do people feel the need to boo?

There are always going to be people in life that we do not like, wish to associate with, or want to support. Yet this does not give us carte blanche right to berate them. If we do not wish to encourage or acknowledge someone, then we just do not clap (or clap less). There is no need to boo, hiss and shout insults. In doing this it does not make the booer more superior than the person they are booing. If anything, it makes the booed look vastly better and more righteous.

It must be something about the mentality of a crowd. Humans obviously feel that when en masse we can get away with doing things we would never dream of if we were on our own. Look at the proposed video the UK’s Football Association (FA) were going to launch this week to combat homophobia at matches. The video uses the shock tactics of showing a businessman walking around his office shouting pejorative words at his homosexual colleagues. The caption reads ‘this sort of behaviour is not acceptable here…’ The action then switches to the same man in a crowd at the football match shouting similar words to players on the opposition and the referee. The caption changes to: ‘so why should it be acceptable here?’

Presumably this mentality can be linked to the JEdward/X Factor situation. If we saw the pop stars walking down the street, we would not boo them as we passed, but if there are 400 other faces around us, we obviously feel like we won’t get caught. Not only is this the height of cowardice, but also is it rude. If we do not agree with someone’s view, believes, lifestyle or performance, then we should just be quiet and learn to deal with it. No one is asking anyone to convert to being a JEdward fan (for the record, I am) or switch their opinion on a certain matter, but just to respect other people’s rights. There’s something just not cricket about it all, if you ask me.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Customs of Chopsticks

Later in the week it is Chinese New Year (14th February). This year it is the year of the tiger. As such, we thought now may be a good time to enlighten you on some of the etiquette and background that surrounds chopsticks.

The word ‘chopsticks’ is thought to have been discovered in the 1800s, when foreigners heard Chinese boatmen referring to cooking utensils as ‘kuai-tzu’. Pidgin English transformed this into ‘chop-chop’.

Chopsticks are thought to improve dexterity and memory. This is especially good for wannabe painters, apparently.

In Chinese cuisine, chopsticks are used to eat everything except: soup (a porcelain spoon is used), Peking duck (the hands are employed here), and puddings (which uses either the hands or a spoon).

Hold your chopsticks a third of the way down, leaving the thicker ends clean. This is because the top of the chopsticks are used to take food from communal serving dishes to your bowl, whereas the narrower ends are used to bring food from your bowl to your mouth. In China the higher you hold your chopsticks, the more sophisticated you supposedly are.

It is considered the height of rudeness to beat the side of your bowl with chopsticks: this is what beggars used to do. It is also ill advised to drop your sticks as this is thought to bring bad luck; similarly, leaving your chopstick upright in rice evokes death.

Chopsticks are more than just eating utensils. During the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) chopsticks were made from gold and silver. Silver was thought to detect poison: but, as a lot of diners found out, this was not the case.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Happy Chinese New Year!)

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Compliments: Harder Than They May Seem

The British are notoriously bad at accepting compliments the correct way. Whilst it can be seen as an endearing quality, we Brits often use self-deprecation when it comes to receiving compliments. When someone admires our work we’ll say, “Oh well, it was nothing, no trouble at all” or perhaps expresses a like of our clothes, “This old thing? No, I worn this many times before”. But correct form says that when on the receiving end of a compliment, we should just accept it with a gracious, ‘thank you’ and move on. There’s no need to waffle on and argue with the complimenter: that wastes time. Just say thank you and make a note to return the compliment to them in the near future: complimenting them back straight after looks silly.

Then there’s the art of men complimenting women. More often than not, men will sound like a bit of a leach when doing this. The important thing to remember is maintain eye-contact with the woman when giving the compliment. Don’t go for the obvious compliments, such as ‘Nice shoes’ or ‘Nice colour’, show your softer side with, ‘that’s a nice neckline on the dress’.

But there’s also etiquette when it comes to replying to compliments, don’t ever say ‘Well, thank you, yes I love this top too, it’s good, isn’t it?’. We should never actually brag following a compliment, even though we may wish to inside.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Etiquette of the New Year Diet

As we start the year, many of us are considering how on earth to get rid of the mountains of mince pies, chocolates and brandy that have passed from lips to hips over the last few weeks.

Every newspaper and magazine is full of top tips on how to lose pounds fast, and we find it easy to get swept away in the euphoria of becoming a sylph or Adonis in ten days.  Beware, however!  If you are like this household, there will still be outstanding invitations to shooting, supper or drinks parties lingering over January and early February, and whilst you will be keen to stay on the wagon, you must not impose your new fad diet of cabbage tea and pine kernel wraps on an unwitting hostess.

As a host, it is always politic to ask your guests if they have any special dietary requirements by way of ‘is there anything you cannot eat?’, but it would be taking it far too far if a guest responded with a long list of the diet menu components, or even mentioned that they were following any form of regime whatsoever.

The only exception is for breakfast, where if you are staying in someone’s home and they ask what you like for breakfast, it is perfectly acceptable at that stage to mention one or two options, as long as they are easily obtainable and likely breakfast foods, and you do not get your hostess to start trawling the shelves of Selfridges Food Hall for Himalayan ‘yugi’ berries or the like!

If your hostess forgets to ask, or worse, you do not inform of any genuine dietary issues, then you must eat what is put in front of you.  It is acceptable not to finish, and if the items on your plate are going to make you mentally quake, then you can push them around a bit and have a few mouthfuls, but remember:  never over-burden a hostess, friend or a lover with details of your dieting regime.  Never inflict your diets on others, and save your new-found ways to skeletal happiness for conversations over coffee with your best friend.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner



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