Saturday, July 15, 2017

Table Seating Etiquette

The reason seating arrangements is worth thinking about in advance, is that you'll be asked the question, "Is there any place in particular you'd like us to sit?" and your mind will have a hard time switching gears. 

Diplomatic careers have foundered on bad decisions about who should sit where, but with six people you've got nothing to worry about. Because couples often go through life welded together at the hip, it might make for a more interesting dynamic not to have the same two people who breakfast together every morning of their mortal lives seated together at a dinner, as well. 

Convention likes to have a man seated next to a woman seated next to a man seated next to a woman. But since couples no longer come exclusively in those pairings and since your table might not conform to three of one, three of the other, best to seat people for conversational possibility rather than atavistic allegiance.

The reason it's worth thinking about in advance, is that you'll be asked the question, "Is there any place in particular you'd like us to sit?" just as you're draining the pasta or taking the muffins out of there tin, and your mind will have a hard time switching gears.

You want the talkers and the listeners fairly evenly distributed around the table. You probably don't want the three men who were college roommates absorbed in a tête to tête to tête, at one end of the table. Nor do you want the shy cousin who invited you to dinner when you first moved to town, to have only you to talk to throughout the meal, the cocktail hour having pretty much exhausted your news of the family. So say firmly, "Yes, I'd like Marjorie on my right, Fritz on my left, and if Betty would go to the other end of the table, the rest of you can sit where you like." — From 1993's "Rising to the Occasion"

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Washington Centenary Etiquette

William Henry Harrison was the 9th President of the United States. The last president born as a British subject, Harrison died of pneumonia merely 31 days into his term, thereby serving the shortest tenure in United States presidential history. He was the first president to die in office. Harrison's death briefly sparked a constitutional crisis, leaving unsettled Constitutional questions as to the presidential line of succession. 

If we could be carried back into the 18th century we should behold a country totally unfamiliar to us, and the material transformation which the progress of a hundred years has wrought, but measures a corresponding change in the national attitude. Though only the Chief Magistrate of a Government which was viewed with scant respect abroad, and composed of a few factious states that offered many intricate puzzles in statecraft, and sharply checked any extension of the executives power, nevertheless the Republican Court was hedged in by much more formality than is now permitted, to rule the White House.

Were we to apply the principle of evolution to social forms, we could see how well they have been demonstrated in the changes wrought in the etiquette of the Federal Capital. Washington's attendance, upon Congress in a cream-colored coach, drawn by six white horses, with outriders and postilions, escorted by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury, savored of Kingly state. His receptions were chillingly formal, but in strict accordance with his sense of Presidential propriety, which forbade the ceremonial of hand-shaking as too familiar. England's yoke had been thrown off, but her influence was still apparent in the aristocratic tinge of society and the imitation of her form.

As the notion of the Republic has been developed, these remaining traces of Royal ceremonies have disappeared, until now. President Harrison steps from the ranks of private citizenship into the executive chair of a nation great in extent and influence without any essential change in the etiquette of his intercourse with his fellow-citizens, and now Americans see nothing derogatory to the indignity of the high position when our President serves his guests to refreshments or assists them in the cloakroom. 

These changes have deep seated causes. The cheers which will re-echo for President Harrison on his progress to New York will have a widely different keynote from those that greeted Washington. The pulse of the nation, then struggling to its feet, beat high with hope and with fear for their new Government. Under the Confederation, the United States were hopelessly drifting toward anarchy, and the terrors of the French revolution filled American elites with forebodings for their own future. 

The Federal Government seemed to offer a remedy, but might not the President become an absolute Monarch, and the Senate arrogate to itself aristocratic privileges and relentlessly crush the liberty of the States. Thus it was that a deep undercurrent of anxious emotion surged through the hearts of the citizens who greeted Washington, while the cheers which will resound for Harrison as he follows in his predecessor's footsteps will arise from hearts full of proud satisfaction in their President, and trusting with perfect confidence in the form of Government that has so well stood the test of the century, and under which the country has achieved such unparalleled progress. — Pacific Rural Press, 1889

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Etiquette and Travel

Learn the culture, what's acceptable and unacceptable. For example, "almost half of all Japanese hotels ban tourists with tattoos from public bathing areas due to tattoos being common among yakuza crime organizations, although these bans are being reconsidered by Japan’s tourism agencies in an effort to boost tourism. However, they’re not the only country with tattoo bans. Thailand and Sri Lanka are cracking down on tourists getting Buddha tattoos while visiting due to cultural insensitivity." — From 

Choose the Right Destination 

Make informed choices when picking destinations. Learning about a country or area before you go, will help you decide whether it's the right destination for you. It will hopefully prevent unpleasant surprises, too. What will the weather be like? What foods are commonly available? Unexpected extreme poverty, political policies, and even hygiene practices of the locals, can leave some travelers shocked, baffled or stunned. 

Do Some Homework

Travel isn't just about the sites, but the people, too. Aside from the usual guidebooks, government websites are good places to start researching a country's people or destination, and h
undreds of foreign news sites can be found at online. Not surprisingly, personal blogs and vlogs from expats, can give you a really unique window into your chosen destination.

Respect Local Customs 

Study up on what's appropriate in terms of behavior and clothing. Visiting holy sites without wearing the proper attire and exhibiting appropriate behavior, can be extremely difficult. Knowledge of local customs will make you more at ease. It's also much less disruptive to the locals. 

Queue jumping is acceptable in some countries and unacceptable in others. A little research on your part, can go a long way in easing the frustrations of waiting in line.

Respect the environment around you, as more often than not, resources are scarce in developing countries, and may not be what you are expecting. Don't exhaust local supplies by overusing water or leaving excessive amounts of garbage in your wake. Locals will only be annoyed by what will be perceived as selfish behavior on your part.

Always bargain politely. Haggling over prices is seen as a fun type of "sport" in many foreign marketplaces and shops. It is even expected in others. Don't take your dickering too far though. In developing nations, a dollar or two will usually mean far more to the seller, than it ever will to you. 

Tipping can be expected in some places, while seen as an insult in other locales. Check beforehand to find out whether tipping is desired or expected. If tipping is required or encouraged, ask a guide for the typical amounts to give.

Watch Your Hand Gestures 

As insignificant as they may seem, one needs to use caution when gesturing with hands. When it comes to body language, err on the side of caution. Avoid gesturing with your hands and even pointing, if you're not sure what you are silently conveying. 


Remember, you are representing the country that you are from. Don't spoil a place for other visitors and tourists from your home country, by exhibiting any ignorance of acceptable behavior when abroad.

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Diplomatic Etiquette Faux Pas

Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between the differing representatives of international states. It is the conducting of international relations through the intercession of professional diplomats with regard to a full range of topical issues. Reflections upon the personal character of another country's President, Prime Minister or Royals, are not regarded as proper, according to official etiquette.

He Talked Too Much — Broke Diplomatic Etiquette

Washington, April 12.—The various interviews ascribed to Minister Loomis at San Juan have attracted much attention here and the minister probably will be invited to explain some of his utterances if he is not able to enter a broad denial of the accuracy of the interviews. Reflections upon the personal character of the president of Venezuela are not regarded as proper, according to official etiquette, and it is confidently hoped that the minister will be able to repudiate these. Otherwise it will be manifestly impossible for him to return to Venezuela, even in the event that the issues which led to his departure were satisfactorily composed. The prevalent idea is that no matter how these personal questions are settled, it will be a long time before a United States Minister resumes the post at Caracas. — Press Democrat, 1901

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Etiquette and Employee Reprimands

Point out the error or incorrect behavior. Then reaffirm them, by telling them they're okay in your book. It's just their actions that need to be modified.

When reprimanding, what you "do" is often not as important as what you "don't do." Since no one really enjoys a reprimand, it's easy for people to be put on the defensive when receiving criticism. I suggest remembering these "don'ts" when you must reprimand an individual. By not observing these points, you'll find that people become less concerned with listening to you and more concerned with fighting you off.

1. Don't attack someone personally. Never begin a reprimand with a statement such as, "Listen Fred, you idiot, ... " Address the problem at hand. Be specific about what it was that was incorrect. However, there is no need to insult a person just because you're upset.

2. Don't store up reprimands. By this I mean don't wait "for good time," to deliver one or more reprimands. The best time to give a reprimand is immediately after the incorrect behavior or action has occurred. If you wait a week or so to discuss the problem with the individual, and throw in some other problems you've observed over the past months, your impact on a person's behavior will not be very effective.

Accumulated griefs and problems will only make you feel bad. When you do finally "dump" on the person, there will be so much to digest, and the error so far removed from the actual event, you'll just end up blowing off a lot of steam which will have little or no impact on behavior.

3. Don't threaten people. Such threats will either immobilize them with fear or cause considerable resentment. Stick to the point. Point out the error or incorrect behavior. Then reaffirm them, by telling them they're okay in your book. It's just their actions that need to be modified.

4. Don't reprimand people in public. Public fireworks, such as chewing out an employee in front of a customer, is a technique only used by bullies. It's thoughtless, damaging and embarrassing for everyone around. Before you give a reprimand, think! If someone has done something wrong you must ask yourself, "Should he or she have known better?"

If the answer is "No," then the person is obviously still unfamiliar with his or her assigned responsibilities or tasks. In this case, do not reprimand. Never reprimand a beginner — be it an experienced hand, working in a new position, or your own child learning to tie shoelaces. It will only cause confusion and outright discouragement.

In this instance, your role is a manager is to help or redirect the person who is having a problem. However, if a person should have known better, then you must ask yourself, "Did they make the mistake deliberately? Or because they lacked confidence?" If the problem revolves around confidence, do not reprimand.

You need to determine the reason for the problem causing this lack of confidence. It could be that there is a new situation which is unsettling to an experienced worker. For example, perhaps a long-time sales clerk makes many errors on the new cash register. If so, the reason is probably a lack of confidence with the new buttons and new routine required when ringing up sales.

In such a situation, the managerial style required is "supportive." No one needs to reprimand this clerk. Rather, the clerk needs some training and some practice on the new register coupled with support from an understanding boss. Remember that you reprimand only deliberate, regressive performance or behavior. — Dr. Ken Blanchard in Inland Empire Magazine, 1989

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tudor Etiquette and Henry VII

Dining with Henry VIII ~ If you were wealthy, your cakes would be decorated with marzipan, and after dinner there would be nuts, thin and delicate wafers, and sweets made with aniseed and ginger to help digestion.

In the days of Henry VIII., the ways of society differed from our own more in observance than in spirit. Though the gay world danced and gambled very late, they rose very early. Their conversation was coarse and lacked reserve. The ladies cursed freely. Outward show and ceremony were considered of the utmost importance. Hats were worn by the men in church and at meals, and only removed in the presence of the King and Cardinal.

Kissing was far more prevalent as a mode of salutation. The Court society spent the greater part of their income on clothes. To those in the King's set, a thousand pounds was nothing out of the way to spend on a suit of clothes.

The predominant colours at Court were crimson and green; the Tudor colours were green and white. It was an age of magnificent plate, and the possession and display of masses of gold and silver plate was considered as a sign of power. Later on in Shakespeare's time, not only the Nobles, but also the better class citizens boasted collections of plate.

A quaint instance of the recognition of distinctions of rank is afforded by certain “Ordinances” that went forth as the “Bouche of Court.” Thus a Duke or Duchess was allowed in the morning one chet loaf, one manchet and a gallon of ale; in the afternoon one manchet and one gallon of ale; and for after supper one chet loaf, one manchet, one gallon of ale and a pitcher of wine, besides torches, etc.

A Countess, however, was allowed nothing at all after supper, and a gentleman usher had no allowance for morning or afternoon. These class distinctions must have weighed heavily upon humbler beings, such as Countesses; but perhaps they consumed more at table to make up for these after−meal deficiencies.

Table manners were a luxury as yet undreamed of. The use of the fork was a new fashion just being introduced from France and Spain. — Herbert Beerbohm Tree , 1911

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Etiquette for Caviar

Antique flatware for caviar: a rare, individual, sterling caviar spade in the Versailles flatware pattern, a bone caviar spoon, and a sterling handled, horn bowled, caviar server 
~ The flavor of caviar is often referred to as an acquired taste, but those who enjoy it say it is "an intense explosion of complex flavors." Caviar is a delicacy. It is the unfertilized eggs (roe) of sturgeon brined with a salt solution. The brining solution contributes a little to the overall palate, but caviar enthusiasts often savor the luxurious texture and indescribably rich taste of the caviar berries themselves.

The eating of caviar has its own set of rituals. Caviar is a "finger food" when eaten as an hors d'oeuvre, and
 served on toast points, or thin, round slices of bread- usually dry, since good in quality caviar, there should be enough fat in the eggs to moisten the bread.  Purists do not alter the flavor of the caviar with such garnishes as sour cream, chopped egg or onion. As with most finger foods, caviar on toast points, crackers or other small sliced breads, should be eaten in one or two bites.

The following are some considerations:
Caviar should be served from a non-metal spoon. Caviar spoons are widely available in bone, horn, tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl. Any metals, including silver, will impart a metallic flavor to the granules. 

Depending on the grade of caviar, the flavor of lesser grades can be enhanced with a dab of fresh lemon juice. 

If you don't have a caviar server, place the caviar in a small glass or porcelain bowl, inside of a larger bowl filled with crushed ice. Make sure that the water does not enter the caviar bowl as the ice melts. 

If serving caviar on crackers, use bland, unsalted crackers.

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia