Basic Etiquette

Part 1

Dave: Hi. Can I help you with that?
Marissa: Oh, thank you, thank you. These bags are killing my arms.
Dave: No problem. Oh, let me get the door too.
Marissa: That’s very kind of you. I guess chivalry isn’t dead. You’re a good man.
Dave: I try. So, where can I take these for you?
Marissa: Just to my car please. It’s only a couple of minutes away. I’m sorry to inconvenience you like this. I’m sure you have better things to be doing with your time.
Dave: Not at all. Honestly, it’s no problem. I’m very happy to lend a hand.

1. killing = really hurting; damaging
These shoes are killing my feet.
Working late is killing my social life.
2. let me… = I’ll do that for you (when being polite)
Let me show you around
Let me get that for you.
3. get the door = open the door (also = answer the door)
4. I try = I try to be (but I’m not sure if I succeed). Sometimes used as a response if someone says you do something well.
You’re a good doctor.
Well, I try.

5. ‘Just’ is used to emphasise a distance is not far
My house is just around the corner.
My car is parked just there.
6. lend a hand = help
Could you lend me a hand?
The cases were heavy. Luckily, there was a young gentleman walking his dog who lent me a hand.


Part 2

Philip: I’m a bit worried about your hospital’s charity dinner this weekend. I haven’t been to many fancy dos before, I don’t want to make a bad impression and embarrass you.
Anna: Oh, don’t worry, you won’t. I’m sure they’ll find you handsome and charming.
Philip: Nonetheless, can you give me any tips?
Anna: Well, the first part is the reception. That’s just a simple meet-and-greet, so shake hands and hand out a few business cards.
Philip: I’m not too worried about that. It’s the formal dinner afterwards that scares me.
Anna: Ok. There will be a seating chart, so don’t just sit anywhere. Introduce yourself to the people at the table, and offer the bread, or to pour drinks, before you take any for yourself.
Philip: Right, I can do that. Anything else I should remember?
Anna: The cutlery goes from the outside in. If you need to wipe your mouth, just use the corner of the napkin, keeping it neatly folded as you use it. Oh, and put the napkin on your lap. Don’t wear it like a baby’s bib.
Philip: Oh dear, I know I’m going to forget all of this.
Anna: You’ll be fine. Just watch what other people do. And I’ll be there to help you.

1. do = a formal party (casual English)
I’ll be late home tomorrow night. There is some awful work do I have to go to.
2. meet-and-greet = a simple event for people to meet people, often before another event or doing business together
There’s a meet-and-greet to welcome the new staff this Friday, so please be there.
3. cutlery = knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks. At formal events the cutlery on the outside is used first.
Where is the can-opener?
It’s in the cutlery drawer.

4. bib = thing babies wear to stop spilling food on their clothes


Part 3

I think there are different levels of politeness: everyday manners, and formal etiquette. Everyday manners are things that people should always do in their everyday lives, such as holding the door open for others, offering a hand if somebody is struggling with something, remembering to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and turning requests into questions (for example ‘Could I have…?’, not ‘I want…’). These are small actions that take little effort but make society a far nicer place, and if you do these for others, they will do them for you in return.
Formal etiquette is more difficult because some of it is unnatural. Instead, this etiquette shows that you are educated and belong in this situation. Formal etiquette includes things like dressing up for special events, using cutlery in the right way at dinners, pulling out chairs for people, and knowing how to be a good host or guest. Luckily I don’t get invited to many fancy occasions, so I haven’t embarrassed myself yet.

1. ‘manners’ relate to being polite; ‘etiquette’ is a social code used for certain occasions
2. unnatural = not how a person naturally behaves
Some of the yoga positions she showed me just seem unnatural.
The way he turns down women, well, it’s almost unnatural.
3. dress up = putting on good (or unusual) clothes
I hate having to dress up for these stupid company dos.


Part 4

English society has long been famous for its etiquette, especially for the upper-classes. In past eras being a good gentleman or lady was seen as incredibly important, and took a lot of knowledge and training. Although etiquette has been taught for a long time, it is perhaps the Victorians who are the most famous for it.
There may have been hundreds of little rules, but the basics of Victorian etiquette were simple: be good to others before yourself, no matter if it is regarding the smallest matter, and do not impose yourself on others (therefore, always apologise if you need to say something, and remember silence is often better than speaking). Nearly all Victorian manners aimed to make society more comfortable, which meant doing things to make life better for other people. The idea was to be civil, not fun.
Upper-class Victorians might think modern society terribly rude. People push and shove, skip queues, talk loudly, and are less likely to wait. They do things without asking for permission from others. When people go shopping they touch products, complain about things, and do not wait for the shopkeeper to finish with other customers. The Victorians might conclude that personal freedom has killed social manners.
Of course, the upper-class Victorians were polite, but often only to certain groups. There was a lot of prejudice against poor people, and foreigners. In short, upper-class Victorians made life easier for other upper-class Victorians.

More on Victorian etiquette can be learnt at:

1. The traditional classes: upper-class (wealthy, ‘well-bred’); middle-class (comfortable, but working); working-class (does blue-collar work, has to work hard to manage); lower-class (less common, arguably insulting, word for working-class)
2. be civil = act like a proper civilian; i.e. be polite to others
If you can’t be civil to each other, then we’re going home.
3. personal freedom = the freedom to do as one wants
4. social manners = manners in society i.e. manners when around other people
5. prejudice = undeserved meanness or bad-feeling towards a person/people
Immigrants have to deal with poor working conditions and local prejudice.