Once it was an integral part of the British psyche, but new research reveals that Britain’s once famed hospitality has taken a nose-dive in recent years, with the younger generation in particular failing to observe basic etiquette when it comes to entertaining.
Fox’s biscuits – who carried out the study – have identified the following manners as missing in tea time action:
1) Turning off the TV: Almost half of Brits (45%) don’t bother to turn off the TV when visitors arrive, and the younger the host, the less likely they are to do so. Only a third of 25-34 year olds (33%) switch off their favourite shows, compared to the majority of the over 55s
2) Twitter chatter: Four out of five under 25s (78%) tweet at the table, or carry on surfing the net from their phones or PCs when their friends come round to visit
3) Taking the coats: the tradition of taking guests’ coats and putting them on the bed or stashing them out of sight is dying out. While more than 80% of the over 55s take their guests’ coats on arrival, this drops to just over 50% of the under 35s, who prefer to leave their visitors to sweat it out on the sofa.
4) Tea time treats: Whilst most of us manage to rustle up a mug of tea or coffee, tummies in Britain’s homes are frequently left rumbling, with almost half of Brits failing to offer their guests so much as a biscuit, despite this being identified as one of the best ways to make visitors feel at home
5) Bring out the best china: Only 8% of under 35s bring out the best china, compared to a third of the over 65s (31%)
Instead, in true Hyacinth Bucket style, Brits today are more interested in keeping up appearances than being polite, with houseproud hosts focusing most of their time and energy on making their homes (84%) or themselves (71%) look good in advance of a visit, rather than making their guests feel welcome.
The research also identified the top tea-time crimes that an inhospitable host can commit. These are:
- Having a row with your partner in front of your guests (70%)
- Making your guests feel like they’re in the way (69%)
- Continuing to read or watch TV once your guests have arrived (60%)
- Letting your kids run riot or behave badly (53%)
- Nodding off while guests are still there (52%)
- Not offering your guest something to drink (37%)
- Having badly behaved pets (29%)
- Giving guests something horrible to eat or drink (26%)
Guests beware however, as there a few things you shouldn’t do if you want to be invited back, and the most annoying are:
- Running your fingers over surfaces to check for dust (64%)
- Criticising your host’s house in any way (58%)
- Leaving without saying thanks (54%)
- Making a mess (38%)
- Being fussy or difficult about the food or drink on offer (33%)
- Turning up late or early (27%)
- Asking your host to remove pets from the room (25%)
- If they insist on trying to help with cooking or clearing (15%)
Rachel Moffatt, Brands Sector Director for Fox’s, says: “We were disappointed to discover that tea time etiquette seems to be dying out amongst younger generations. Our survey respondents were unanimous that attentiveness and great conversation are the key to good entertaining, yet so many young adults fail to give guests their undivided attention when they drop by, despite this being one of our biggest gripes when we’re on the receiving end.
As for not feeding guests, for a nation that’s practically been built on tea and biscuits, it surprised us to learn that giving guests something to snack on, however small, isn’t always on the menu. We hope this is one tradition that doesn’t die out completely.”
International manners and etiquette consultant William Hanson [tutor at The English Manner], says “Manners and etiquette have always been at the core of what makes us proud to be British. Offering a biscuit with a cup of tea, turning off the TV when your guests arrive, and taking someone’s coat on arrival are all basic British manners. It is truly a sad day when these everyday etiquette essentials are ignored, and guests are left feeling unwanted and neglected.”
Re-printed from the press release with kind permission from Clarion Communications.