Western Culture

Learning Materials for Students


What is Etiquette?

Etiquette is the code that governs the expectations of social behavior and the conventional norm. Etiquette is an unwritten code, which evolves from written rules, for the Greek equivalent of "etiquette" is protocol, the written formula for ceremonial. It usually reflects a theory of conduct that society or tradition has invested heavily in. Like "culture", it is a word that has gradually grown plural, especially in a multi-ethnic society with many clashing expectations. Thus, it is now possible to refer to "an etiquette" or "a culture", realizing that these may not be universal. Etiquette fundamentally prescribes and restricts the ways in which people interact with each other, and show their respect for other people by conforming to the norms of society. As prehistoric people began to interact with one another, they learned to behave in ways that made life easier and more pleasant. Manners had a practical purpose. Then early civilizations developed rules for proper social conduct. Etiquette is dependent on culture; what is excellent etiquette in one society may shock in another. Etiquette evolves within culture.

Etiquette originated in the French royal court during the 1600-1700's. The nobles who lived at court did not work, and so they developed elaborate social customs mostly to avoid becoming bored. The nobles drew up a list of proper social behavior and called it etiquette. This word came from an old French word meaning ticket. This code of behavior soon spread to other European courts and eventually was adopted by the upper classes throughout the Western world.

Western Etiquette

In the West, the notion of etiquette, being of French origin and arising from practices at the court of Louis XIV, is occasionally disparaged as old-fashioned or elite, a code concerned only with "which fork to use". Some people consider etiquette to be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of personal expression. Others consider such people to be unmannerly and rude. For instance, wearing pajamas to a wedding in a cathedral may be an expression of the guest's freedom, and may also cause the bride and groom to suspect that the guest in pajamas is expressing amusement or disparagement towards them and their wedding. Etiquette may be enforced in pragmatic ways: "No shoes, no shirt, no service." Others feel that a single, basic code shared by all makes life simpler and more pleasant by removing many chances for misunderstandings.

Basic Table Manners in Western Culture


Manners in every country are different. What is polite in China may not be polite in the USA, Australia, UK, Germany, France, Canada, or New Zealand.

We must know the following basic rules.

1. Put the napkin on your lap.

2. Wait until everyone has been served to begin eating.

3. Everyone begins eating at the same time.

4. Do not make sounds when eating.

5. Sit up straight at the table and bring the food to your mouth: do not lean down to your plate.

6. Do not lean on your arm or elbow while eating (as well as before or after eating): you may rest only your hand and wrist on the edge of the table.

7. Try to be friendly with others. If you are a man, you should pay attention to ladies sitting closest to you. Pass the dishes to them, serve them, etc. Equal attention must be paid to children.

8. Hold the knife in your right hand, and fork – in your left hand.

9. Cut large pieces of meat, potatoes and vegetables into bite-size pieces; eat the pieces one at a time.

10. Each time you cut a small piece with the knife, put it into your mouth with a fork.

11. When eating spaghetti, hold your fork in the right hand. Wind the noodles up on your fork: the spaghetti on your fork should be eaten in one bite. It is very impolite to eat half your noodles and allow the other half to fall back on your plate.

12. While eating, remember not to talk with your mouth full of food.

13. When the hostess/host offers you food, give her/him a direct answer; if you refuse the first time, she might not ask you again.

14. At the table, ask others to pass you dishes that are out of your reach. Good _expression to know is: “Please pass me the___________.”

15. When you have finished your meal, place your knife and fork side by side on the plate.

16. Never use toothpick at the table: it is impolite.

17. Before you leave the table, refold your napkin and put it beside your plate.

18. When you are unsure what to do, observe the way your western friends eat in order to avoid mistakes.




How do I introduce people?


Always remember to introduce the person of lesser importance to the person of higher importance. How one decides on importance is totally left to one’s discretion, but here are a few guidelines that could ease the matter.

• It is rank, not gender that is important in a business setting.
• Age, experience, job level and public recognition are the key factors while determining importance. So, introduce a younger person to an older person, a co-worker to boss, boss to a client (the client ranks higher in importance than anyone else in the company!) and lay person to an official.
• Whilst being introduced, stand up, or at least make an attempt to rise. Smile and greet the person before shaking hands.

How do I make my presence felt?


Attending a business/social event is just 80 per cent of the job done. The rest of the 20 per cent involves singing for your supper, i.e. contributing to the event in the most positive manner!

• Be prepared: Get information about your sponsors/hosts or fellow guests before the event. You need to present yourself and your business organization in the most professional manner.
• Make your presence known to your hosts and to peer.
• Circulate and meet as many people as possible. This is not the time for you to stand on formalities and wait to be introduced, nor is this the place for you to slink into a corner with an old acquaintance.

Avoid making a beeline for the buffet or bar. It’s not easy to eat and make conversation at the same time, and there’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and realising that last evening’s alcohol-induced wit was just hot air!


Go On, Introduce Yourself


Picture this. You’re at a party where you don’t know a soul. The set is hobnobbing and you’re watching all the action. You ask yourself if you should be walking up to complete strangers and introducing yourself and the truth is yes. It can be intimidating but then, the corporate world is not one for the faint of heart. Make your presence felt by introducing yourself.

• Take the initiative at a cocktail party or a large gathering where the host maybe too busy to do the honours. At a meeting or at the dinning table, you could be the first to start the introductions. In case someone is already doing this and forgets your name or to introduce you, just volunteer the information yourself!
• Remember to give your full name when introducing yourself.
• Provide some information about yourself and avoid the honorific. So, while it is not quite alright for you to say you are ‘Dr. Rahul George’ go right ahead and say ‘Hello, I’m Rahul George. I specialize in treating phobias in children.’

Be Sensitive To The Disabled


We may ooze confidence in the boardroom or while meeting a new client and even while telling a lie. But most of us feel awkward while interacting with people who may be physically or even mentally challenged.

• It is important that we learn to be sensitive to their condition while striking a balance between rushing to help, and pretending that the disability doesn't exist. A small tip-- absorb the person and not the disability.
• You can also keep these pointers in mind during your interactions:
• Before offering help, ask. If your offer is refused, don't insist.
• Don't substitute volume for slower or clearer speech.
• Keep away from external aids like a guide dogs, wheelchairs, cane, or crutches, unless you have been specifically asked to help with it.
• Don't identify people by their disabilities. Manish is “Manish” and NOT “Manish, the deaf and dumb guy”.
• A physical impairment is distinctly different from a mental one, so pay attention to what the disability.

Be Sensitive Whilst Smoking


Smoking, once considered the symbol of being ‘cool’, is today, a sign that you are uncaring not only of your own health, but also of the effect of your toxic fumes on others! If you have to smoke, remember to check for no smoking signs, and to ask those sitting in close proximity to you if they mind, before you light up

• In an office, ‘no smoking’ is often an unwritten code. Be considerate of others. Those in cubicles next to you should not have to be subjected to your second hand smoke. Even if you are lucky enough to have your own cabin, give a thought to your visitors, and open a window occasionally to clear the haze.
• When in someone’s home, look out for ashtrays. If they are absent, it’s a clear indication that smoking is not welcome there. Don’t embarrass your host by asking whether they mind if you smoke, and don’t cloud up the bathroom by smoking in there. Go out into a balcony or garden.
• If you are a non-smoker, don’t react violently to someone who lights up in your vicinity. Ask them politely to put out their cigarette. There are very few who will not oblige, or at least move away from you.


party etiquette


The festive season is the time to unwind, meet with business associates outside of office, get together with friends, and celebrate. Surprisingly, this is also a time when people are so stressed out, they don’t enjoy the get-togethers, and festivities. Here are some tips that will help you get over the holiday-entertainment blues.

• Plan your parties, and send the invitations well in advance. With so many events happening, your guests will appreciate having enough notice to plan their evenings.
• Send in your RSVPs within three days of receiving the invitation. If you promise to attend, do attend.
• Never ever foist extra guests onto your unsuspecting hosts.
• Cramming too many events into too little time is a major contributor to stress. Prioritise; plan your evenings realistically.
• Exercise restraint with alcohol, off-colour humour, gossip, and physical demonstrations of appreciation.



Business lunch etiquette


As schedules become more hectic, the business lunch continues to grow in popularity. Make sure to do things right when meeting over lunch with a prospective client or important associate. The last thing you want is for your encounter to be the final one.

Avoid extravagance. Pick a quality restaurant noted for its good food and reliable services.
Book a table that is in a quiet corner where business can be discussed without too many noisy disturbances.
Leave instructions at the counter to usher in your guests to your table.
You need to stand up when someone arrives and wait for them to be seated before you sit down.
If the client has a cocktail, follow his lead. If they order alcohol, you can too, but limit your drinks to one or two light ones. If they don't drink, you don't.
Enter gracefully, don’t be late. People typically have a limited amount of time for lunch.
Take time to chat. Don’t delve into business until you’ve placed your order. Instead, make conversation, and try to get beyond the weather. Most people love to talk about themselves, so ask thoughtful questions that aren’t too personal in nature, and actively listen to your dining companions’ responses.
Despite all of your preparation, you may make a faux pas during a business lunch - remain calm. A fork could slip out of your hand, or a piece of food could get stuck in your throat. Pardon yourself, smile and continue the conversation. Your ability to handle a glitch with grace will make a far deeper impression than any minor blunder could.
The most important people are the ones sitting in front of you. Remember to turn off all cell phones. If you answer a phone call and discuss other business in front of them, the meeting may be over before it began.
Order with care: Ignore your craving for the barbecue pork sandwich or any other potentially messy dish. By sticking to easy-to-eat items, you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of sauce dripping down your shirt. Also, don’t order the most pricey entrée if you’re not paying, and follow the lead of your host when it comes to appetizers, desserts and other extras.

Making A Client Wait


An urgent and unexpected task may lead to unavoidable delays at times. The situation becomes even more critical when one has a client waiting in the office wondering about the appointment that had been fixed well in advance! So, how does one avoid alienating a customer who has been inadvertently placed in such an awkward situation?

• First, take the trouble to make apologies in person. Tell your client how long you are likely to be delayed. If you are away from office, have your secretary or a colleague do this for you.
• Offer refreshments and reading material. This is definitely an occasion to pamper him.
• Don't keep him waiting longer than 15 or 20 minutes. If you can't get away from the urgent task delaying you, explain the situation, apologise and schedule another meeting.
• Call to express regret for wasting his time. Making amends and restoring goodwill should be your top priority.

Learn About The Art Of Gifting


The act of gifting is a symbolic way of marking special occasions, impressing another, expressing thanks, and sometimes offering a bribe! Your reason for gifting is your business, but here are some tips on how to do it graciously.

• Ensure that your choice of gift is appropriate for the occasion, and for receiver. For instance, a chocolate cake given to a friend on a diet would be a little thoughtless!
• Sometimes very expensive gifts could embarrass the receiver, especially if he is not in a position to reciprocate with one of similar value. Be sensitive to this issue.
• Certain companies have strict policies about their employees NOT accepting expensive gifts or any gifts from business associates. Take note.
• Be careful when considering your choice of gift, by keeping the nationality of the person in mind. Certain items may signify mourning, or be considered a bad omen and the last thing you need to do is upset a foreign business associate, whom you’re trying very hard to impress.

Express Yourself Through Your Business Card


Business stationery is the first step in building a corporate identity. It allows a free expression of one’s true personality in a smart, 'business’ sort of way. If you are an artist, or employed ‘in the media’ you can give your imagination free rein. For most other kinds of business, it is best to be conservative and project an image of practicality.

The finer print…
The purpose a business card is to introduce you. It is also an invitation to establish and retain communication.
• Your card should bear your name, position and responsibility in the organization, the name of the business, address, a scaled down logo (if any) and information about how you can be contacted.
• Use a standard sized business card. If your card is too large to fit into a card holder or wallet, it will end up in the back of a drawer or thrown in a dustbin, and it’s of no use to anyone there!
• The standard business card measures 31/2 inches by 2inches. The most appropriate font size for a business card is 8-10 point for name and business name and 6.5-8 point for address and other information.

(Avoid) Running Errands For Your Boss



In an ideal case scenario, the boss would never ask a subordinate to run personal errands for him/her. Reality, however, is very different, but when handled with deft and poise can turn a no win situation to a win win one.

• When asked to run a personal errand by your senior, tell him/her that it is beyond the limits. Citing pressing office work as reason also works. These reasons are good enough to put off even some of the most pressing seniors.
• Another method is to avoid running personal errands for boss would be to tell him/her in a casual manner, preferably away from the office that official work doesn't give you time to run personal chores. S/He might not be thrilled about it but a mixture of diplomacy and firmness should be convincing.

As a senior executive, don't ask juniors to run errands for you. You know they have a right to refuse, but chances are that they will not. Resentment doesn't make for the best work environment!


How Do I Meet A Customer Over A Meal?



Meeting a customer or prospective client over a meal has become a common practice today. The meal may be as casual as a sandwich in a fast food joint or an elaborate lunch or dinner at a more formal restaurant. Whatever be the case and setting, one must follow certain rules to make the conversation and meeting effective:

• Ask for food preference, but don’t leave the responsibility of choosing the restaurant to your guest. Keep in mind his preference, the location of his office and of course your budget while making the choice.
• Be specific about the time and place. You don’t want to be sitting at a restaurant called ‘The Residency’ while your guest is waiting at the foyer of the `Residency Hotel’, wondering why you haven’t turned up.
• Confirm your reservation at the restaurant, and confirm the meeting with your guest.


How Do I Decline An Invitation To A Meal?



A ‘working’ lunch or dinner is common corporate practice in most business houses. Once an invitation has been extended to you, it is your choice to accept or decline it, but it is your obligation to follow through with it once you accept.

• Give your response as soon as possible. Confirm the exact time and place if you have accepted the invitation.
• If you are a vegetarian or have particular food preference/allergies, let your host know well in advance.

Once you accept an invitation and you are forced to cancel it for some reason, inform your host at the earliest, apologize profusely, and try to reschedule the appointment.



How Do I Design My Business Stationery?



Business stationery is the first step in building a corporate identity. It reflects upon the person, the institution and the values they profess. If you are an artist, or employed in the 'media' you can give a free reign to your imagination. However for the rest who are forced to adhere to dapper standards here are a few basic guidelines:

• Do not compromise on the quality of paper. Select smooth, thick paper in white and off white shades.
• Use dark coloured inks like royal blues and blacks for printing.
• Avoid fancy fonts. Stick to routine ones like Times New Roman or Arial in 10 point size which makes reading easy.

Ensure that the card contains basic and relevant information including name of business, address and a scaled down logo.



Personal Calls At Work



Most companies frown upon personal calls being made in the office, but it happens anyway, sometimes with unpleasant consequences. If you are going to make personal calls at work, find out what the company policy on this is.

• Find out if personal calls are allowed, and if there is a charge for this. Even if you are allowed to make free calls, don’t push your luck by sitting on the phone, exchanging gossip or discussing cricket scores!
• Long distance love is expensive; don’t fund it from your company telephone kitty. Most companies keep detailed accounts of numbers dialed, and you could be in for a reprimand, as well as a big bill at the end of the month.
• When receiving personal calls in the office, keep them short. You get paid to work!
• Your colleagues need not be a part of your telephonic conversation. Keep your voice as low as possible.

Please click here to learn about email etiquette. You will also find useful information about email etiquette here.



Choose The Right Restaurant To Dine Your Client



A leading gastronome once said, “My favourite restaurant is the one where I’m known best.” Business entertaining is fraught with enough dangers without you having the additional worry about the quality of food or service! Always ask your guest for a food preference. If the details are left up to you, the choice should be swift and sure.

• Favoritism is the best policy sometimes. Patronise a restaurant known for its central location, good food and service. It pays to familiarise yourself with the waiters, staff and management.
• Make sure the restaurant is not too trendy or popular. You should not have to jostle with crowds or shout above the loud lunchtime conversation to make yourself heard.
• The management will be more inclined to give you the best tables at short notice if you are courteous, tip well and dine there often enough.

Remember that your guest is observing you every minute, so take that extra precaution to set the stage for a successful business exchange!


Should You Refuse Alcohol At A Biz Meeting?



You are at dinner, at a business associates house, and have just been served a helping of delicious looking, and painstakingly stuffed, mushrooms. Unfortunately, you are allergic to them! Should you refuse to eat them and risk Would you refuse to eat them and risk upsetting your host, or swallow them bravely and pray that bagging the contract is worth the suffering? The golden rule is: as far as possible, avoid making a fuss and embarrassing anyone.

• If you have any food allergy or preference, if for example, you are a vegetarian, inform your host when you accept the invitation. You don’t want to keel over at the table, at the sight of a rare steak!

• At a buffet or large gathering, it is easy enough to avoid taking the food you don’t eat. However, in some situations it would be very awkward if you refused to eat or drink something that was offered to you. Use your discretion. If a polite refusal is not possible and it’s not a life-threatening allergy, don’t fuss. Swallow it with a smile!

• If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t hesitate to say so. It is perfectly acceptable to refuse wine or any other alcoholic drink and equally possible to have a great evening drinking fruit juice or water!







Of Handbags & Briefcases



Ever been to lunch or a meeting, and wondered where to keep your handbag or briefcase?
Avoid fidgeting. Use these guidelines:

• At a meeting, place on the table only those writing materials, documents or folders that are essential. Samples, etc. can be produced at an appropriate time.

• At a social meal, nothing other than your food, your crockery and cutlery, and table decorations go n the table. If it’s a business meal, you may keep essential papers on the table, but remember this is not your office, and avoid a paper-spill over.

• Handbags and briefcases go on the floor, by the side of your chair. Cell-phones, which should either be shut off, or put in a silent/vibrator mode, should be in your bag or pocket, out of sight.


Getting Your Fax Right



Yes, there is faxing etiquette as well, which is a very important aspect of business communication.

• When sending a fax, always include a cover sheet specifying whom the message is meant for.
• Type your message whenever possible. If you have to write it out, use capital letters.

• Corrections made using correction fluid show up as dark blotches, so make a photocopy, and use this to send the message.

• Many people receive their faxes on a computer, so make sure the paper is inserted the right side up. If it isn’t, the message can’t be read unless it’s printed out!

• Remember fax paper is expensive; don’t send out unnecessary or needlessly long messages. Also, call and check if the timing is convenient before sending out very long fax messages.

• Don’t fax personal or confidential messages unless you intend it to be office gossip. If such information has to be sent, do call ahead and inform the recipient so that he can personally retrieve it.


Cards And Gifts


During the festive season an integral part of the fun and frolic is exchanging greeting cards and gifts while celebrating. Here are a few tips on card and gift exchange protocol for business purposes.

• Your office will most certainly have rules covering gifts. Find out what they are. If protocol forbids the giving or receiving of gifts above a certain monetary value, follow it strictly.
• Avoid sending intimate gifts. If you are sent anything inappropriate, promptly return it with a polite but firm note of refusal.
• Include a small line of greeting, good wishes, or appreciation when you send out cards. If your greeting card list runs into hundreds or thousands of names, sort them into ‘personal note’ and ‘signature only’ categories. If you can’t sign the card, don’t send it.
• Always acknowledge greeting cards and gifts sent to you. Write your thank you notes, and make those calls of appreciation promptly

Are You Contributing to The Spam Menace?


Would you give strangers personal information about your friends? No? Now stop and think how often you might have done exactly that every time you sent out or forwarded emails.

• If you send forwards, don't splash the recipients' addresses all over the page for all and sundry to see; you never know where an email will end up! Type your own name in the 'to' field, or leave it empty. Enter your recipients' names in the BCC (blind carbon copy) field.
• When you receive an email, it might come with a long list of email addresses already in it. Clean up the mail before you hit 'forward'. The easiest way to do this is to cut and paste just the message.

Handling Errant Colleagues


If something can go wrong, it will! (Murphy’s Law) Unfortunately, faulty services and products are an inescapable part of life, and the best way to deal with them is not to pretend they don’t exist, but to complain, in an effective manner.

• Making a complaint about a person, especially someone you interact with on a regular basis, is a sensitive issue, so be careful how you handle this.
• Target the behaviour, not the person. Discuss the issue with him first. If there is no change or clarification, then go to the appropriate higher authority.
• At a restaurant, if sending back food, do so while there is more than just a spoonful left in the dish! If you have to complain about inedible objects in your food, or about poor service, do it quietly and discreetly, away from your guests.
• Make complaints promptly. Keep records of letters, of whom you speak to and what kind of action is promised. Be firm and follow up on them patiently. If nothing works, find out who the highest authority in the organization is, get his contact information, and threaten to complain to him. This always gets results!

Awkward At An Office Party? Exercise These Rules


Many offices organize annual spouses-included get-togethers, towards the end of the calendar year. Here are some tips to make the occasion memorable for all the right reasons.

• Dress appropriately - this means you dress a little more formally and discretely than you would at a similar social event.
• The invisible other? Don’t treat your spouse or the spouses/companions of your colleagues as if they were invisible. Include them in your conversation which should not revolve around just talking shop.
• Circulate – don’t spend all evening with your office lunch clique. Work the room; introduce yourself, and talk to others in different departments, at levels above and below you.
• Letting spirits, festive or otherwise, go to your head has an annoying way of rebounding on you. Keep your hands and overly appreciative comments to yourself, and remember the food and alcohol are just props in this evening’s drama, not the main event!





Pre interview preparation


How prepared are you to attend an interview and make a good impression? Here are some tips that will give you an advantage over your competition.

• Find out all you can about your prospective employer. The Internet has huge amounts of information, and anything you can’t find here can be obtained from your local Chamber of Commerce.
• Confirm when, and where the interview is to be held, and find out how long it will take you to get there from where ever you are. Make allowances for road blocks and breakdowns.
• Rehearse answers to technical and personal questions, and also to queries about your career, and why you want this particular job.
• Have extra copies of your CV and any other certificates you may be carrying with you.
• Visit the rest room, check your appearance, and take a few quiet moments to calm yourself down.

Interview manners


Here are some tips to conduct yourself with utmost grace and confidence, at an interview.

• Shake hands, introduce yourself, and wait to be invited to sit down.
• Don’t put your nervousness on display by sitting on the edge of your chair, swinging your legs or fiddling with your clothes.
• Your pre-interview rehearsals will help you deal with the interviewers’ questions. Smile, and speak of your achievements with confidence. This is not the time or place for modesty!
• If you are overcome with stage fright, look at just one interviewer, and pretend this is a one-on-one interview.
• Remember the interview is a dialogue. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. However, don’t dominate the conversation, or allow your questioning to turn into an interrogation.
• Don’t smoke, talk ill of your previous employer, or tell obvious lies about your work experience, achievements, and salary.

Finally, smile and thank the interviewers for their time, and express definite interest in the job.

Post interview manners


Once your interview is over, comes the hardest part, waiting for a response from the company. Use this interval in the most productive manner.

• Always write a note to the interviewer to thank them for their time.
• Without gushing, reiterate your eagerness to work with the company.
• If you have used any of your contacts as a reference, regardless of whether you get the job or not, write to them also, and thank them for their time and effort.

At the appropriate time, you may call the company back, and enquire about their hiring decision.



The interview is over, and you’re quite sure the job is yours, but then again, maybe you’re not! How do you go about making polite enquiries?

• At the interview, you will be told when the hiring decision will be made. You can call at that time and ask about your chances.
• If no such mention has been made, it is customary to wait up to two weeks before you call. Be patient, flooding the interviewer with information about yourself in a bid to impress, rarely helps.
• If you haven’t got the job, it is perfectly acceptable to ask why. You may get a response, but you may not like the reply. At least you will know. This is not the occasion to throw a tantrum or declare that they have passed up an opportunity to hire the perfect candidate. Rather, learn from the feedback, and let it go!

Dress right for an interview


When you are called for an interview, you often have enough to be nervous of, without having to worry about your appearance too. Here are some tips to take the uncertainty out of dressing for an interview.

• Your first priority should be a neat and clean appearance. Your clothes should be washed, ironed and free from tears, stains, and missing buttons. Make sure they fit comfortably too.
• Always err on the side of formality. That you are being interviewed by a dot-com known for its casual dressing is not reason enough for you to wear your favourite t-shirt and denims!
• For men, a plain, or very mildly patterned shirt with a buttoned-down collar, and dark trousers is a safe bet. Wear dark socks to match the colour of your trousers. Your polished shoes should be the same colour as your belt.
• For women, non-fussy Indian attire always creates a good impression. Remove all extra jewellery, and go easy on your fragrance.



Run through this list quickly before you go in for an interview- Make sure

• Your clothes are neat, clean and stain free; your shoes are polished.
• You have several unsoiled copies of all relevant documents with you, in a briefcase or folder, not a plastic shopping bag.
• You have a fair amount of knowledge of the organization you are being interviewed by.
• You are not reeking of paan, or smoke; this is definitely not the time to top up on your fragrance either.
• You have gone to the loo one last time.

Finally, you have a few minutes in which to take a deep breath and calm yourself down.

Is It Cool To Smoke During An Interview?


It’s not enough to be well-versed in your subject, dress strappingly and be punctual for that interview. Don’t forget to mind your manners--or you might get barbecued at the final grill!

• Shake hands, introduce yourself, and wait to be invited to sit down.
• Don’t put your nervousness on display by sitting on the edge of your chair, swinging your legs or fiddling with your clothes.
• Your pre-interview rehearsals will help you deal with the interviewers’ questions. Smile, and speak of your achievements with confidence. This is not the time or place for modesty!
• If you want to overcome with stage fright, look at just one interviewer, and pretend this is a one-on-one interview.
• Remember the interview is a dialogue. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. However, don’t dominate the conversation, or allow your questioning to turn into an interrogation.
• So—is it cool to smoke during your interview? The answer is…NO! Don’t smoke, speak ill of your previous employer, or tell obvious lies about your work experience, achievements, and salary.
• Finally, smile and thank the interviewers for their time, and express definite interest in the job.




There is a general consensus among writers of etiquette manuals that too many people are afraid they will fail to choose the proper utensil for the appropriate stage of the meal. Book after book provides reassurance on this point: use the outermost utensil or utensils, as necessary, one set for each course, and you can't go wrong (unless the table has been improperly laid to start out with). For a formal place setting, you will receive exactly as much silverware as you will need, arranged in precisely the right order. Good etiquette requires you to assume (and this ought to ease most people's worries) that the host has correctly assigned each utensil to its task, rather than attempt to point out that a fish fork is improperly being supplied for your salad. As each course is finished, the silverware will be removed with the dish, leaving you with a clean slate, all ready for the next item to arrive. Common sense forbids arranging battalions of forks and knives at the sides of the plate, so on the extremely rare occasions that more than three or four courses are planned, new silverware will be brought to you after all of the original setting has been used.

In this 1902 photograph from Mrs. Seely's Cook-Book (with Chapters on Domestic Servants, their Rights and Duties), the proper place setting shown is little different from the examples provided in Judith Martin's "Miss Manners" etiquette books, in spite of the fact that it is nearly a century old. The plate in this setting is known as a "service plate," and is never actually eaten from. It will either be removed when the first course is brought, or the dish will be set on top of it. A person faced with this array can expect to dine on:

Oysters, as appetizer

Use the small fork angled into the soupspoon at right. This is the one exception to the rule of placing forks to the left of the plate.


The soupspoon is commonly the only spoon provided for the initial place setting.


Note the thicker tine at the left of the fork, which strengthens the tool -- for right handed people -- for use in cutting large salad greens without having to resort to the knife.


Both a fork and a knife are provided for fish. Sometimes the fish knife has a silver blade, because fish, which is often served with lemon, reacts with the steel in old knife blades, causing an unpleasant taste (the invention of stainless steel in the 1920s made this problem obsolete). The fish fork is usually shorter than the meat fork.


The inner fork and knife are provided for the meat course of the meal.


In this case, the dessert utensils will be brought in with the dessert. However, you may encounter the dessert spoon -- and fork, if needed -- as part of the initial place setting. They would be placed horizontally over the plate and parallel to each other, with the bowl of the spoon pointing to the left and the tines of the fork pointing right. When coffee and tea are served, a teaspoon will be provided; it is brought in on the saucer.



("Elbows, elbows, if you're able -- keep your elbows off the table!")
Proper posture at the table is very important. Sit up straight, with your arms held near your body. You should neither lean on the back of the chair nor bend forward to place the elbows on the table. It is permissible to lean forward slightly every now and then and press the elbows very lightly against the edge of the table, if it is obvious that you are not using them for support.


Holding a knife and a fork

In general use, both spoon and fork are held horizontally by balancing them between the first knuckle of the middle finger and the tip of the index finger while the thumb steadies the handle. The knife is used with the tip of the index finger gently pressing out over the top of the blade to guide as you cut.



Serving and Being Served, a Few Pointers


Serving Order

At a formal restaurant or banquet, food should be presented to guests in the following order: guest of honor, female guests, male guests, hostess, host. After the guest of honor, first the women, then the men, are served in one of two ways: (1) dishes can be presented to guests in the order of their seating, starting at the host's right; (2) dishes may be presented in order of seniority, starting with the most influential and proceeding down to the least prominent guest. Clearly, using the latter system requires the hosts to furnish information regarding the order of service ahead of time. In restaurants, most groups include neither guest of honor nor hosts, so the meals will simply be served first to the women, then to the men.

From the Left

In general, the diner is approached from the left for three purposes: (1) to present platters of food (from which the waiter will serve or the diner will help herself); (2) to place side dishes such as vegetables or dinner rolls; (3) to clear the side dishes that were placed from the left. The reason most often given for this is most people are right handed. So, for example, when a waiter must use his right hand to serve from a platter, it is least intrusive if he stands to the left. This way, the platter can be held safely away from the guest as the waiter leans forward (slightly) to reach her plate. And, in the case of placing side dishes, it makes most sense to put them to the side which is less in focus, leaving the right side free for the main dish.

And from the Right

(1) These days it is nearly universal practice, even in very formal circumstances, for food to arrive already arranged on the plate (rather than to be presented on a platter). Preplated food (except for side dishes), as well as empty plates and clean utensils brought in preparation for upcoming courses, are always placed from the guest's right side. At the end of the course, these plates are also cleared from the right.

(2) Wine (and all beverages) are presented and poured from the right. This is a logical approach, since glassware is set above and to the right of the guest's plate, and trying to pour from the left would force the server to reach in front of the diner.

Clearing Order

Just as the ideal of service is to present each course to the entire party at once, it is best to clear the plates at the same time, too. It has become common for waiters to remove plates as each guest finishes, in violation of this rule of serving etiquette, perhaps because it can be interpreted as extreme attentiveness on the part of the waiter. Nevertheless, the rule holds firm. The most elegant service facilitates the progress of a synchronized meal for the whole table.


Formal Dinning Must Dos (Eating Soup)


Soup, usually the first course, shows you off as a savvy diner or someone whose manners could do with polishing! Soup is served either in a wide, shallow dish, or a smaller bowl, resting on an under-plate.

• Spoon the soup away from you, towards the centre of the bowl.

•  Sip from the side of the spoon. Never put the whole spoon in your mouth or slurp. Noisy eating is better placed in the farmyard, rather than the dining table!

• Tip the bowl away from you and spoon the soup across the bowl to get at the last bits.

• After finishing the soup, place the spoon in the under-plate, or in the soup plate at a 10:20 position.

Eating Soup

Dip the spoon into the soup, moving it away from the body, until it is about two-thirds full, then sip the liquid (without slurping) from the side of the spoon (without inserting the whole bowl of the spoon into the mouth). The theory behind this is that a diner who scoops the spoon toward himself is more likely to slosh soup onto his lap, although it is difficult to imagine what sort of eater would stroke the spoon so forcefully through the liquid that he creates waves. It is perfectly fine to tilt the bowl slightly -- again away from the body -- to get the last spoonful or two of soup.

Eating Bouillon

It is not very well known, undoubtedly because it is no longer in fashion to serve it, that if you are given bouillon in a soup cup with a handle, you may pick up the cup and sip the broth directly from it, even if a soupspoon has been provided. If there are any bits of vegetables or meat in the bouillon, they should be eaten with the spoon before you begin sipping.


Formal Dinning Must Dos (Placing The Dinner Napkin)


Most of us are still ignorant about the proper use of a dinner napkin. One thing is for certain, the napkin should NEVER be tucked under the chin, unless of course one is 5 years old or younger!

• Lift the napkin soon after you are seated and place it on your lap. However, at more formal occasions wait for a signal from the host before doing so.

• Use the napkin throughout the meal to dab your lips. This prevents greasy lip marks from being transferred to the glass and of course removes unsightly food residue from lips!

• The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Place the napkin in loose folds to the left of your plate. If you have to leave the table during the meal, leave the napkin on your chair.

• Don't clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!

Formal Dinning Must Dos (Breaking Bread)


Bread is usually the first food served at all, but the most formal of meals. Help yourself to as much bread as you want, but remember that this is just the beginning of the meal and not the meal itself. Good manners also demand that a piece of bread be left back in the basket.

• Bread is served either in a basket, which is placed in the centre of the table, or served individually. Take a piece and place it on the bread dish, which is to the left of the dinner plate. Wait for everyone to be served before you start eating.

• Break off just a bite sized piece of the bread. Don't cut the bread, don't butter the entire slice, and most important, don't dunk it in your soup!

• Butter is usually placed in an individual container, just above the bread plate. Take some butter, using the butter knife, if there is one, or the meat knife, and place it at the edge of the bread dish. Butter only a single, bite-sized piece of bread at a time.

• If butter is served in a bowl, which is kept in the centre of the table, a separate butter knife always accompanies it. Use this, and not your knife to help yourself. Other diners will certainly not appreciate having to share crumbs from your bread!

Formal Dinning Must Dos (Eating Tricky Foods)

Have you tried eating corn on the cob with a knife and fork? How about chicken wings? Yes, it can be done, but is devilishly difficult and does not cut a pretty picture! So how does one decide when to use the cutlery and when to abandon it for the comfort of eating with one's hand?

Here's a short list of food one can pick and eat without cutlery:

• Artichokes, asparagus, cheese and crackers, chicken and other small fiddly bits of fowl, corn on the cob, escargots (snails), some fresh fruit, French fries, shellfish like shrimp, lobster and crabs claws, mussels, clams and oysters on the half shell, pizza and sandwiches.

• It goes without saying that even for these foods, there are rules. Don't pick up chicken, squab, or asparagus that is drenched with sauce; go easy with the butter on the corn and after cracking shellfish, eat the meat with a fork. The whole idea is to be comfortable but neat!

• When you have finished, resist the temptation to lick your fingers; use a finger bowl or napkin to get rid of the greasy bit.


Which Is The Best Way To Eat Spaghetti?

Some food is exceedingly difficult to handle and seems to rest in the plate only to make life difficult while eating it. Spaghetti strands drape themselves on our chin, artichokes baffle us, and peas bring back childhood memories of 'No, I won't eat them, I hate vegetables!' Here are some tips to make eating difficult foods easier.

French onion soup
Anyone who has eaten French onion soup will think twice before ordering for it when in the company of someone they want to impress the cheese ends up all over the face or clothes! To avoid this, take some of the stretchy cheese in your spoon and cut it against the edge of the soup bowl. Eat this along with the soup. The bread can then be cut, again with your soupspoon, and eaten with the soup.

Some pasta like linguine, fettuccine, and spaghetti can be a bit troublesome to eat. Use a fork to eat your pasta, and not the fork and spoon combination. Twirl the strands of pasta around till it is neatly wrapped around the fork and nothing is dangling down. In case some of it unravels, bite off (don't suck in) what ever you can't fit into your mouth comfortably.

How Do I Handle Artichokes?

Artichokes are served whole, in a plate, with a bowl of butter or sauce on the side. Peel out the outer leaves one by one, dip the meaty base of the leaf in butter and pull it through your teeth to remove the edible bits. Discard the leaf. When you get to the heart, scrape away the thistle with a knife and fork cut the heart into bits and eat with a fork.

There are two commonly used methods for eating peas. The first involves the use of a knife and fork. Holding the knife in your right hand, and the fork, prongs turned down, in your left, push some peas onto the fork. This works better if you already have some meat or larger vegetable to serve as a support for the peas. You may also spear the peas with the prongs of the fork. Alternately, hold the fork prongs turned up in your right hand and scoop up the peas. Don’t ever mash and eat peas!

Skillfully Managing Kebabs And Shellfish

Ethnic foods like satay and kebabs are often served on skewers. There's no way you can eat them off the skewer, without doing yourself damage, so don't try it. Hold the skewer in your left hand and using the tines of the fork, gently ease the kebabs, one piece at a time onto your plate. Don't wrench wildly! A bit of steady pressure works wonders on the stubborn pieces.

Shellfish, like lobster and crab, is messy to eat, and is probably best enjoyed at home or in informal company. However, if you have to eat it in polite society, this is how it's done. Hold onto the claw or shell with your hand, and crack with a nutcracker. Extract the meat using a fork and dip in butter or sauce. Eat with a knife and fork. The small claws can be cleaned and the meat sucked out, as if through a straw. Soft shell crab is cut and eaten as it is, with a knife and fork.


Try Reasoning While Seasoning!

Some like it bland. And some like it spicy. So what’s your poison? Only you can be the judge of that. But here are some general rules on how (and whether) to pile on the seasoning. You need to enjoy your meal as well as keep your host happy!

• Rule No. 1. Don’t just pile it all on. You’ll end up with a gooey, inedible mess. You may even manage to upset the chef for insinuating that the food is bland!

• Never ask for seasonings to spice up your meal whilst dining at someone’s home or when you are fine dining. Even at your regular fast food joint, go easy with the ketchup and mustard.

• Don’t drown your food, in condiments by pouring it directly on top. Instead place it on the side of your plate, like a dip.

• It’s okay to sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper or salt from a salt mill, directly over food.

Using A Fingerbowl

The anecdote about the person who, when presented with a fingerbowl, squeezed the lime in it and drank the water! Now you know that's definitely not the way to do it, but then how exactly does one use a fingerbowl? When you have finished a delicious dish of butter chicken it might be wiser to use the washroom facilities to clean up. At other times follow these:

• At a formal meal, just before dessert, the fingerbowl may be brought to you on a doily on a dessert plate. Pick up the bowl and doily and place them on the upper left hand corner of your place setting.

• This is not the time for a thorough wash and wipe session. Dip fingertips of one hand and then the other in the bowl and wipe discreetly on your napkin.

• Don't try to clean your mouth at the dining table. Dab your lips with a napkin and save the rest for the washroom.

Should I slink or stalk into a formal dinner?

Does the thought of going to a business/social event where you might not know too many people, make you wish you had not been invited? Never mind; walking into a room full of strangers is not a favourite past time with most of us. However, once the first step, that is, making an entrance and striking up a conversation has been taken, most people overcome their anxiety.

Almost everyone watches the entrance to a room, so be conscious of the way you make an entry. Maintain a good posture; it gives you an appearance of confidence.

Walk into the room, take time to look around and spot people of importance as also those who you know. This gives others time to notice that you have arrived.

Forget about trying to slink in, hoping that nobody will notice you and then disappear as soon as you have marked your attendance. Work the room before heading for the food and drink. The point is to make your presence felt!  



The Top Five Worst Breaches of Table Etiquette


Here is my list of the Top Five things you should never do while eating.


1. Blowing your nose.

I can't list enough reasons why this is repulsive but I'll list one: This can cause germs to land on the other diners’ food. Just last month, I had a really bad cold, but I still wanted to go to a birthday dinner with friends. I waited until we were in the parking lot and blew my nose there, explaining to my friend that I'd needed to do that but didn't want to do it at the table. She then looked me in the eye and appreciatively said, "Thank you"! If you have to blow your nose, please excuse yourself and go to the restroom.

2. Picking your teeth.

Okay, I'm not talking the discreet kind of picking your teeth. I'm talking about the blatant kind. Where you have to pull out your mirror just to make sure you've taken care of everything. This is just gross! And I beg you: Don't do it! If you have to do this, please do this in the bathroom. There's even a mirror big enough to help you in your search.

3. Belching.

In some countries, belching is a sign of appreciation for a good meal. But in most Western countries this is a sign of bad manners. Now, I know that this is a natural thing that sometimes just happens. So if it does, please say excuse me. And then mean it. There's almost nothing worse (except the previous two on the list) then hearing someone belching from across the room.

4. Tucking your napkin into your shirt.

Yes, I still spill food on my shirt. And this occurs at least once a week, if not more. However, putting your napkin into your shirt is similar to addressing to the world one of the following two ideas: 1) that I still like wearing a bib and 2) I'm about to go hog-wild at this meal and don't have time to make sure my food makes it to my mouth.

Two weeks ago, I went to dinner with some ladies from my church and as we were sitting down, a woman came out of the bathroom carrying a long piece of brown paper napkin (the kind they put in the bathroom for you to dry your hands with) and she proceeded to tuck this napkin into her collar, where it billowed down her dress to hang at her knees. Not the best fashion statement.

5. Eating food that dropped on your shirt.

If this happens when you're alone, no one will know, right??? Just like if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, how do you know that if fell? Nevertheless, if you are out in public, please use a napkin to take the food off of your shirt and have a waiter throw it away for you. .

These are just a few instances that I’ve noticed feel are the most significant, but I’m sure there are others that could be on this list. Many times we are so consumed with what you should know about the table setting that we forget the simple things that you should never do.


Foods You Can Eat with Your Fingers



When bacon is cooked until it is very crisp, and there is no danger of getting the fingers wet with grease, it is okay to pick it up to eat it. This is an instance of practicality winning out over decorum, since trying to cut a crisp piece of bacon usually results in crushing it into shards that are quite difficult to round up onto a fork.


Bread must always be broken, never cut with a knife. Tear off a piece that is no bigger than two bites worth and eat that before tearing off another. If butter is provided (and at formal events it customarily is not), butter the small piece just before eating it. There is an exception to this rule: if you are served a hot roll, it is permissible to tear (not cut) the whole roll lengthwise down the middle and place a pat of butter inside to melt.


It is never necessary to try to eat the cookie that comes as a garnish to your dessert with a spoon. Unless it has fallen so far into the chocolate sauce that there isn't a clean corner by which to pick it up.

Corn on the Cob

It is unlikely that it will be served at a formal event, but if you encounter corn on the cob, it may be picked up and eaten. The approved method of doing so is to butter one or two rows at a time and to eat across the cob cleanly.

Chips, French Fries, Fried Chicken, and Hamburgers

All these items (which could also probably be classified as "fast foods") simply will not be served in a formal setting. Most are intended to be eaten with the hands, although a particularly messy hamburger could be approached with fork and knife, and steak fries (the thick-cut, less crispy variety) may be best eaten with a fork.

Hors d'Oeuvres, Canapes, Crudités

Almost everything that is served at a cocktail party or during a pre-meal cocktail hour is intended to be eaten with the fingers. Some of these foods make appearances at regular meals as well (although not often very formal ones). When they do, it is still permissible to use the fingers to eat them. This includes olives, pickles, nuts, deviled eggs, and chips.


The straightforward sandwich -- that is, any sandwich that is not open-faced, not too tall to fit in the mouth, not saturated with dripping sauces or loaded with mushy fillings -- is intended to be picked up and eaten. Otherwise use fork and knife.

Small Fruits and Berries on the Stem

If you are served strawberries with the hulls on, cherries with stems, or grapes in bunches, then it is okay to eat them with your fingers. Otherwise, as with all berries, the utensil of choice is a spoon. In the case of grapes, you may encounter a special scissors, to be used to cut off a small cluster from the bunch. If not, tear a portion from the whole, rather than plucking off single grapes, which leaves a cluster of unattractive bare stems on the serving platter.



Audience Etiquette




    1. Go easy with atomizer; many people are highly allergic to perfume and cologne.

      2. If you bring a child, make sure etiquette is part of the experience. Children love learning new things.

      3. Unwrap all candies and cough drops before the curtain goes up or the concert begins.

      4. Make sure beepers, cell phones and watch alarms are OFF. And don't jangle the bangles.

      5. The overture is part of the performance. Please cease talking at this point.

      6. Note to lovebirds: When you lean your heads together, you block the view of the person behind you. Leaning forward also blocks the view.

      7. THOU SHALT NOT TALK, or hum, or sing along, or beat time with a body part.

      8. Force yourself to wait for a pause or intermission before rifling through a purse, backpack, or shopping bag.

      9. Yes, the parking lot gets busy and public transportation is tricky, but leaving while the show is in progress is discourteous.

      10. The old standby: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

At the Theater

When attending a theatre performance, audience members should, most importantly, be considerate of others at all times. Here are some rules to follow.

1. Be on time. Getting to a performance at least fifteen minutes early will allow you to get seated and look over the playbill. When people arrive late, they inconvenience the other audience members and are a distraction to the actors. In some theatres, the ushers will not seat you until an act ends, if you are tardy.

2. Dress appropriately. If you are going to a nice theatre, dress up a bit. Don't wear jeans. Live theatre is much different than going to the movies.

3. Turn your cell phone off or on mute. Never take a call in the theatre. If you must answer a call, go out into the lobby.

4. Whisper, if you need to talk. Try not to make too many comments.

5. Don't put your head together with your companion's. Avoid constantly moving your head back and forth.

6. If you have *refreshments, take care of the litter. Do not put it on the floor. Do not make a lot of noise with wrappers. Dispose of them, when you leave. *Note: Some Broadway theatres are now selling refreshments in the lobby and allow audience members to eat and drink during a play.

7. If you bring a child to a performance, go over the rules before you get to the theatre. Do not allow a child to rock in the seat or push the seat in front with his or her knees. If your child begins to cry, please leave the theatre for a while.

8. Avoid wearing a lot perfume or cologne. You are in a confined area. If your scent is overpowering, you are forcing others to breathe in too much perfume. A very small amount goes a very long way.

9. Be considerate of others' right to be able to watch and listen to the performance.

10. Do not leave the theatre until after the curtain call. It is very distracting and rude to the actors and other audience members to have people exiting, while the performers are still on stage and taking their bows.






Staring At A Person When Speaking With Him



It is not for nothing that the eyes are called the windows to a person’s soul. Eye contact creates a strong connection between two people and also creates an impression of sincerity and trustworthiness.

• Look at a person when being introduced to him/her, maintain the eye contact even while speaking. Eye contact with another person shows your interest in him/her. It also forces you to pay attention to what s/he is saying.
• Make soft eye contact, i.e. look into the other person’s eyes, and then shift your gaze to other parts of the person’s face occasionally.
• While speaking with a group of people, look at one person for a few seconds and then shift your gaze to another.
• Making eye contact does not mean that you try and stare a person down with an intense pupil-to-pupil gaze. Staring at a person is the quickest way of making him uncomfortable and so, putting him on the defensive.


Is Shaking Hands An Accepted Norm?



A handshake is a universally accepted way of greeting people, as also a universal source of worry! While everybody has their own theory about the correct way to shake hands, the general rule is to keep the handshake firm, brief and as far as possible, dry.

• On being introduced, offer your right hand. Smile and make eye contact. Offer a greeting.
• Keep the handshake firm and brief. This is not a show of strength, so don’t try and cripple the other person. At the same time don’t let the handshake be a half-handed, limp, wet fish sort of grip.
• Do not attempt to hold hands till introduction is over. A good handshake lasts for about 3 to 4 seconds.

If you offer a handshake and it is refused, just withdraw your hand. Under most circumstances you have followed protocol while the other person has been ungracious in refusing to respond.


Are Your Listening Skills Up To The Mark?


How often have you found yourself talking to somebody who was not interested in listening to you or was more interested in getting his point across? How do you avoid falling into the same trap?

• First of all, listen actively. Maintain eye contact with the speaker. Remind yourself that you have something to gain from this.
• Participate enthusiastically! Ask questions, and pay attention to the answers. Clarify doubts, but don't overwhelm the speaker with the force of your voice and opinion.
• Wait for the other person to finish speaking. Avoid interrupting unnecessarily, and don't consider every conversation as a forum for airing your views!

If the speaker is rambling, and cutting into time you cannot possibly spare, make your excuses politely. After all, you just might be in his shoes tomorrow!



Maintaining An Arm's Length


Have you ever had someone stand so close to you that you could feel their breath on your face? And did you move back, only to find the other person move in closer? That was an invasion of your personal space!

• Personal space is the area around the physical self that a person considers his. Moving in too close or standing too far away can create discomfort. Be alert for signs that a person is uncomfortable with how close you are standing to him/her.
• In urban
India and in most Western countries, an arm's length, or about 3 feet is an accepted norm.
• In some European countries like
Italy and Spain and in most South American countries, people tend to stand much closer. In most Arab countries too personal space is less than the accepted Western norm. In Japan
however, people prefer to stand further away.

Personal space is not only a 'personal' but often a cultural issue too. Respect it!


Royal Manners That Matter



Punctuality Is The Politeness Of Kings. - Louis XVIII

There’s no excuse for lateness, not in a social situation, and definitely not in a business environment. Nobody likes to be kept waiting, and it reflects very badly not only on your organization, but also on you, personally, if you make a habit of being late.

• Apologize first, and then take the appropriate action. You have made someone wait, and you might have caused a colleague to take on your work in addition to his own.
• When you are delayed, try, as soon as is possible, to inform the person expecting you that you cannot make your appointment on time. Tell them how long you are going to be delayed, and if they cannot wait, reschedule your appointment.
• When giving an excuse for being late, make sure that it is plausible, and as far as possible, truthful. However, there’s no need to go into the fascinating details of how, and why, you were delayed.
• Be on time or just a few minutes early. That you happened to be free, or in the neighbourhood, is no reason to drop in on someone way ahead of schedule. Most people work on tight schedules and cannot be expected to drop everything and entertain you.


The Art Of Conversation



If you think that conversation is about competition, then you’re talking about a debate. If you think it’s about interesting gossip, then you’re thinking kitty party. And if you like the sound of your own voice…then you should be reading this! Good conversation is an art that can value add to your personality everyday, provided you keep the following pointers in mind:

• Never thrust your opinion on another person.
• If you are as important as you think you are, your actions will speak for you. Don’t boast.
• People will gossip. However, think twice before you speak about anyone. Don’t be critical or insulting of someone who is not there and when the gossip turns mean or malicious, don’t do it.
• Avoid talking about salaries and commissions, and promotions you feel should have been rightfully yours.
• Sex – whether it is about your sex life or another’s, about a colleagues sexual orientation or about office affairs, don’t discuss it.


Manners Speak Louder Than Words



“Your manners are always under examination, and by committees little suspected, awarding or denying you very high prizes when you least think of it."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, the least suspected committee may well turn out to be your next employer and the prize, your ideal job! You just never know. So, if you happen to travel a lot, hobnob with clients and visit other offices as part of your work schedule, ensure that your manners are impeccable and your visiting etiquette, intact.
So, how good is your visitor etiquette? Evaluate yourself by going through these simple but effective rules.

• Be punctual. If you are 5 minutes early, even better. This indicates that you respect other people’s time.
• Don't stroll into a place as if it’s your own.
• Be polite to everyone you meet irrespective if it’s the receptionist or the CEO.
• If the office that you are visiting needs you to sign in, and take a visitor card, comply with the protocol. You could supply the receptionist with your visiting card.
• While waiting, don't try to chat up the receptionist, in case your feeling bored!
• While waiting in someone's office, don't touch anything on his desk or around his room. Similarly, his reading material is his own, and is not there for you to kill time with.
• Carry your own pens and note pads; it looks very unprofessional when you ask to borrow these.
• Get your work done and leave. This is not a social visit so don’t grab every opportunity to chitchat.
• On your way out, remember to thank the receptionist!  



Smarten The Way You Speak



Your voice and the way you use your words, plays a large role in the kind of impression you make upon a person. Your speech patterns are very revealing, not only of your social and educational background, but also of your mood and confidence levels. It helps to have a deep and attractive voice, or a sweet and clear one, but even if you don’t, you can cultivate a very pleasant manner of speaking.

• Pay attention to the pitch and volume of your voice. To get a good idea of how you sound to others, tape your own message in an answering machine and play it back. If you sound loud enough or shrill enough to give a bagpipe competition, consciously.
• As long as your speech is clear, and your grammar correct, don’t worry too much about accents. If, however, your speech carries very strong local influences, you could easily be misunderstood, and so, it definitely pays to soften a pronounced regional accent!

Infuse your voice with enthusiasm. Watch out for bad language and sarcasm. It’s not impressive or funny to anybody other than you.



First Impressions



Every single person you meet, every single day of your life, sizes you up in the first few minutes of meeting you and it is true that you are judged by the way you look. A business environment is no different. While ability is the deciding factor, no doubt, the first impression is formed on the basis of appearance, speech and demeanour. And it's usually long lasting! Use these tips...

• Give enough importance good grooming. You don't need to be a slave to fashion, but being neat, clean and smartly dressed goes a long way in creating good impressions. While your personal sense of style may be exotic and eye-catching, office dress codes usually demand a more subdued look. Choose clothes that can weather the corporate climate in your office and industry.
• Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Forget trying to ape the voice a radio broadcaster, but you can definitely infuse some enthusiasm in your voice and speech. Avoid swearing and be aware of when your voice gets shrill, your attitude gets naggy and your tone aggressive.
• Carry yourself with confidence. Be pleasant and positive in your dealings with others. It’s the little things that add up.
• A little time and energy spent on personal hygiene, diet and exercise, is the quickest and most effective way of increasing your attractiveness quotient.

Pay attention to body language. Fidgeting, picking at your face and clothes, and crossing and uncrossing of your legs are some of the most common and obvious signs of nervousness. Consciously eliminate them from your behavior pattern.









Everybody loves a compliment. Sometimes however, if you are insincere or effusive, this simple act can go very wrong. Perfect the art of giving and receiving compliments gracefully.

• Don’t hesitate to show your appreciation of people or of jobs done well. Praise a specific task, quality, or look; it sounds insincere if you shower praise continuously and indiscriminately. If a colleague sports a hairstyle you wouldn’t force on your dog, don’t pretend it is the best look he’s ever had.
• Accept a compliment graciously. A smile and a ‘Thank you, I really worked hard on the project’, is a far better response than acting extremely humble and brushing off praise. At the same time, don’t behave as if everything you say or do is outstanding, and a compliment is merely your due!
• Use discretion while making comments. You never know when they could be used against you. Like for instance, it’s not appropriate to comment upon a colleague's physical attributes, even if you think she can give your favourite pin-up a run for her money. This could amount to sexual harassment in someone else’s eyes!


How Good is Your Hello?



Answering a phone call is as easy as picking up the phone and saying "Hello"… or is it?! In spite of the telephone being a very frequently used means of communication today, many people still struggle to use it in an effective manner.

• Pick up the phone within the first few rings.
• A 'Yes', is probably the rudest way of answering a call, and simply saying ‘Hello’, doesn’t help the caller in any way. Identify yourself, and your company, and offer to help.
• Always have pen and paper at your desk so that you don’t have to scramble for them when you have to take down information.
• Be aware of background noise, like music for instance. If it is within your control, shut it off.
• Be courteous. End the call on a positive note, or at the very least, by thanking the person for his time. Don’t slam the phone down on the unsuspecting caller, just because you have said all you wanted to!


Memorising Names



Are you one of those people who have a fantastic memory for faces, yet can’t recollect a name to save your life? Have you ever greeted someone you know, carried on a conversation with them, and heaved a sigh of relief when you escaped without having to admit that you couldn’t remember their names? Try these tips, and you may just never be in that kind of situation ever again!

• Make an effort to maintain eye contact and listen carefully when being introduced. Focus on them, and not on the familiar or interesting face you can see over their shoulder! Repeat the name when responding to the introduction.
• Use the name at least once within the first few minutes of having heard it; ask the person to spell the name or ask for its meaning or origin.
• If you have been given a business card, later, make a note on it about any distinguishing characteristic that reminds you of the person.

However, exercise caution while doing this. You don’t want everybody in your office having access to the information that the Chairman of ‘Obstrucks
India’ had spinach caught in his teeth when you first met him!


Know How To Make Intelligent Small Talk?



Introductions have been made; you’ve made eye contact, smiled, said ‘Hello’, and smiled again. This gives way to a pregnant pause. You feel awkward. Someone in the group clears his throat and then everybody rushes in, desperate to say something. There is embarrassed laughter! Sounds familiar? So, what do you say after you say hello! Plenty, if only you make an attempt.

• The easiest way to start and keep a conversation going is to get people to talk about themselves. Ask how they know the host, or what they do. Just make sure you’re not asking your host, or your boss, this question!
• Be well informed. Everyone has access to newspapers and magazines. Keep yourself up to date on political and social events.
• Relax, and show a genuine interest in those around you. Don’t worry too much about pronunciation or accents or vocabulary. More can be achieved by you being your natural self than by your best attempts to impress the other person.



Is A Thank You Note Important?




The road to etiquette hell is paved by good intentions and a lack of action! How often have you promised yourself that you would thank someone for their hospitality or for a lovely gift, and have promptly forgotten about it, till you saw them again? Remember that a thank you note can go a long way. You will be remembered well, it can lead to new opportunities, and you never know when you will need the contact, the friendship and the assistance from this person again.

Be prompt in sending a thank you note. It should go out the next day or, if you are travelling, as soon as you reach your home or office.

Invest some time in writing your note of thanks. If that is not possible, at the very least, sign a typed note. Include a comment saying how much you enjoyed the stay, meal, or gift, but don’t be effusive in your praise.

Remember however that it is not necessary to write thank you notes to a friend for an informal dinner at his house, to a prospective client for meeting with you for coffee and discussions, or to your colleagues for every day courtesies. Anything more than a simple ‘thank you’ or phone call of appreciation, would seem pretentious in this case.



Chinese Etiquette and Protocol


Confucius, China's greatest sage established a system of ethics, morals, hierarchy and behavior, setting the rules for people dealing with other people, and establishing each person's proper place in society.


Key concepts in understanding Chinese culture:


Guanxi - Throughout much of Chinese history, the fundamental glue that has held society together is the concept of guanxi, relationships between people.

Mianxi - Face - Losing face, saving face and giving face is very important and should be taken into consideration at all times.

Li - Originally li meant to sacrifice, but today it is translated as the art of being polite and courteous. Proper etiquette preserves harmony and face.

Keqi - Ke means guest and qi means behavior. It not only means considerate, polite, and well mannered, but also represents humbleness and modesty.


Getting to Know Each Other

  • The Chinese usually do not like to do business with strangers, and will make frequent use of go-betweens. Whenever possible, try to use established relationships, or an intermediary known by both sides, to make the first contact
  • Chinese prefer to be formally introduced to someone new. This applies to both Chinese and foreigners.
  • The Chinese may seem unfriendly when being introduced. They are taught not to show excessive emotion, thus the reference to Chinese and other Asians as inscrutable.
  • Always stand up when being introduced and remain standing throughout the introductions.
  • When being introduced to Chinese, the accepted form of greeting is the handshake, even among Chinese. Chinese may also nod or slightly bow (Unlike the Japanese, the Chinese bow from the shoulders rather than the waist). One would then present a business card.

Business Card Etiquette

  • Use both hands when presenting business cards and be sure the writing faces the person to whom you are presenting your card. Cards should also be received with both hands. Do not immediately put the card in a pocket or bag-this is considered rude.
  • Follow with the standard "I am pleased to meet you, or "ni hao" in Chinese.
  • When seated, place cards on the table. This shows respect and is also an excellent way to remember names.
  • Business cards should be printed in English on one side and Chinese on the other.
  • Be sure to use simplified Chinese characters for China, not the classical characters used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. If traveling to China and Taiwan or Hong Kong, it is a good idea to put the different cards in separate boxes to avoid mix-ups.
  • Remember that China is the People's Republic of China and Taiwan is the Republic of China

Titles & Forms of Address

  • The Chinese will state their last name first followed by the given name (may be one or two syllables). For example, Liu Jianguo, in Chinese would be Mr. Jianguo Liu using the Western style.
  • Never call someone by only his or her last name. Unless specifically asked, do not call someone by his or her first name.
  • Addressing someone by his or her courtesy or professional title and last name conveys respect. In Chinese the name precedes the title. For example, Liu Xiansheng for Mr. Liu, and Liu Jingli for Manager Liu.
  • Women's names cannot be distinguished from men's names. Chinese women use their maiden names even after marriage, but may indicate marital status by using Mrs., Ms., Miss, or Madam. Mrs. Wang might be married to Mr. Liu.
  • Chinese who frequently deal with foreigners or travel abroad on business may adopt a Western first name, such as David Liu. They may request that they be referred to as David, once a relationship has been established.
  • Do not use the term "comrade" in China

Personal Questions & Compliments

  • Do not be surprised when asked personal questions regarding age, marital status, children, family, income, job, etc. This is done to seek common ground.
  • On the other hand, the Chinese will be uncomfortable with American familiarity, particularly early in a relationship. The arm around the shoulder or pat on the back with "just call me Bob" approach should be left at home.
  • Unlike the Western custom, compliments are not graciously accepted with a "thank you," but rather with "not at all or it was nothing." Accepting and giving direct praise is considered poor etiquette. Do not be gushy with thank you.

Social distance, Touching & Gestures

  • Every culture defines proper distance. Westerners, particularly Americans, find that the Chinese comfort zone regarding distance is a bit to close for their comfort.
  • Instinctively Westerners may back up when others invade their space. Do not be surprised to find that the Chinese will simply step closer.
  • The Chinese do not like to be touched, particularly by strangers. Do not hug, back slap or put an arm around someone's shoulder.
  • Do not be offended if you are pushed and shoved in a line. The Chinese do not practice the art of lining up and courtesy to strangers in public places is not required.
  • People of the same sex may walk hand-in-hand as a gesture of friendship in China.
  • Western gestures that are taboo in China include:
    • Pointing the index finger--use the open hand instead.
    • Using the index finger to call someone-use the hand with fingers motioning downward as in waving.
    • Finger snapping
    • Showing the soles of shoes.
    • Whistling is considered rude.
  • Chinese customs that are annoying to Westerners:
    • Belching or spitting on the street
    • Lack of consideration when smoking and failure to ask permission to smoke
    • Slurping food
    • Talking while eating

Dining and Entertainment Etiquette & Protocol

  • Entertaining guests at a Chinese banquet is an important way of establishing guanxi.
  • For more formal banquets, invitations will be sent and place cards will be at the table.
  • Guests should sample all of the dishes and leave something on the plate at the end of the meal. A clean plate indicates you are still hungry and it is the host's responsibility to see that you are continually served food and drink.
  • Under no circumstances should chopsticks be placed in the rice standing up. This symbolizes death.
  • There are no firm rules regarding dinner conversation. Depending on the closeness of the relationship, business may or may not be discussed. Follow host's lead.
  • Drinking is an important part of Chinese entertaining and is considered a social lubricant. The drinking officially begins after the host offers a short toast to the group.
  • It is always a good idea for the guest to return the toast either right away or after a few courses have been served.
  • Safe topics for toasts are friendship, pledges for cooperation, the desire to reciprocate the hospitality, and mutual benefit.
  • The Chinese understand if you are unable to drink alcohol. Stating medical reasons is always a good way to get out of drinking alcohol.
  • The most common expression for toasting is Gan bei, meaning "dry cup", or bottoms up.
  • The Chinese are not as understanding of tipsy guests as are the Japanese or Koreans. If you feel you have had enough, smile and politely indicate this to your host.
  • Do not pour your own drink. It shows a lack of protocol.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of participating in dining and after-dinner entertainment. It is an excellent way to build guanxi.

Gift Giving

  • Gifts are an important way of creating and building guanxi in China.
  • Chinese etiquette requires that a person decline a gift, invitation, and other offerings two or three times before accepting. It is expected that the giver will persist, gently, until the gift is accepted. Be sensitive to genuine refusals.
  • Chinese and Westerners differ in the approach to gifts. In the West, a sincere thank you or a thank you note is an acceptable way to extend appreciation. In China, a more tangible form, or gift, is preferred.
  • Never give a gift that would make it impossible for the Chinese to reciprocate-this would cause a loss of face and place them in a very difficult position.
  • The Chinese usually do not open gifts at the time they receive them.
  • When receiving gifts from the Chinese, do not open them unless they insist.

Suggested Gifts & Gift-giving Taboos

  • Gifts should reflect the giver and the recipient.
  • Consider gifts from your area. Gifts with a company logo are fine as long as they do not include things that are considered taboo and are not too showy.
  • Gifts of foreign cigarettes, cognac, fine whisky, quality wines are acceptable.
  • Do not give anything in sets of four or gifts that carry the association of death or funerals such as clocks, cut flowers, white objects. Do not give scissors or anything sharp as it symbolizes severing relations
  • Be cautious when giving food items-it can suggest poverty.
  • Always wrap gifts, but do not use white paper-it symbolizes death. Red and gold are the best. Avoid elaborately wrapping gifts.
  • Never write anything in red ink.

It is often said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Taking time to learn something about Chinese culture and customs can only pay dividends.



Home Assignment


Please study the following websites and prepare to speak about etiquette.


Email etiquette



International etiquette



Guide to Finnish customs and manners







Travel etiquette








English Language Teaching Resources for English Teachers