Last week I posed a question to the ladies of The Darling Academy, and enquired of them “what seemingly lost traditional values and matters of etiquette would they like to see returned or revived”? Every single answer had me nodding in agreement. It would appear that though many of us are young, we still hold dear the good manners of the past and would not like to see them forgotten.
Some standards of behaviour and “ways” have diminished in even our relatively short lifetimes thus far, and many of us are concerned that certain manners will be forever lost.
We live in a progressive and increasingly inclusive society, with a growing equal rights movement (a thousand cheers for that), but there are some behaviours of “the past” that we’d still like to keep. You know, the good and wholesome ones! Manners aren’t just for us traditionalists, they actually help to oil the cogs of daily life for everyone, and in many instances, they make people smile!
If you’re a long time reader, you know I’m not exactly a fan of “snobbish” etiquette, or even care too much about laying the table like an utter perfectionist because I personally believe that good manners and etiquette are a matter of the heart. Nice manners and the ability to be kind and considerate in the face of awkward encounters, and even on your “off days” makes up the character of a person. They make up the character of a good person. The kind of person we should all endeavour to be, despite our level of education, socio-economic background, or our personal taste in lifestyle.
A stunning revival of good manners and etiquette is something we need more than ever with our busy lives, especially considering these matters are no longer taught in schools. It’s up to us! I receive lots of emails about the work we are doing here with The Darling Academy, and how much people wish that we could return to a gentler, and kinder time. Perhaps it’s why so many of us, myself included, are quite nostalgic for the better standards of behaviour of past eras.
Regardless, I think we are all in agreement with the following quandary…“What good is an academic education if we’ve forgotten how to teach the young ones how to be decent human beings”? How to be a good human being is of the utmost importance, and living by example is not something to take lightly.
“What good is an academic education if we’ve forgotten how to teach the young ones how to be decent human beings”? The Darling Academy
It’s always up to society to make positive changes and shape this life on Earth and how we wish to experience it. What better way than starting with oneself, and perhaps by being a glowing example of kindness and grace to those you share your life with, to those whom you are raising, and those you meet on a daily basis?
This list comes courtesy of my favourite community on the internet, the ladies of our Traditional Housewives family.
A return to Traditional Values, Good Manners & Etiquette
Greetings. It’s polite to say good morning, even to strangers.
Somehow, we have forgotten to be neighbourly. The surest way to foster healthy relationships with those in your immediate neighbourhood is to simply greet them!
Despite what you have been told, or may think, it’s not weird to say Good Morning/Good Afternoon to those you pass by on the way to pick up some bread and milk. It’s good manners! It doesn’t mean you have to stop for conversation every time, but the day that you do wish to stop, or are stopped, you have broken the ice with that simple hello. Even if it’s just having a chat with the neighbour over the fence while you hang out the laundry, it all brightens someone’s day, as well as yours!
There may also be many ageing neighbours living alone in your area, imagine if not one person in your community said hello on a given day. With the current pandemic going on, you may be the only person to acknowledge them that day! People need to feel ‘seen’ to feel happy and valued. Be the one who sees people, and greet them in a friendly manner. A community and a friendly neighbourhood cannot be built on a foundation of silence!
Calling people by their married name or surnames.
Perhaps this would seem like too much of a formality for modern times, but we ladies think that the loss of this respectful way of greeting a married woman is a shame. Many of us are very proud of our marital status, and it’s nice to be referred to by our married names!
We have noticed in recent years that even Doctors surgeries, Dentists, and Offices call us in by our first names. Perhaps we don’t wish for everyone to know our full name? In the age of the internet, this is also a good way of safeguarding our information and our privacy when out in public places. It’s also nice for young children to call you Mrs. X, as a sign of respect. To turn this around, you might introduce yourself as Mrs. Smith, and not offer your first name until you feel comfortable to do so. You may also teach your children to call strangers/acquaintances by their married names until that person suggests you call them by their preferred name. It’s only polite!
The etiquette of writing thank you notes.
Texts and emails are no match for the loveliness of receiving a thank you note. In fact, it’s become a rather lazy way of showing thanks. When it comes to the writing of a note, it doesn’t have to be pages and pages long, but a few sentences sent in a simple mailed (or hand-delivered) thank you note, is a gracious way to extend gratitude.
Many housewives like to couple, or replace this with some baked goods, or a bunch of flowers - whatever the recipient may prefer. If someone does you a good deed, it’s only appropriate to sit down and write them a little note.
Keeping a set of Basildon Bond, a nice pen, and a book of postage stamps to hand is hardly taxing, and the act of sitting down somewhere quiet can in itself be a lovely break from the demands of housework. Don’t forget the tea!
Never turn up to someone’s home unannounced.
Call ahead. It’s as simple as that. You just don’t know what the household have planned, or indeed, what they are up to! You might be “in the neighbourhood”, or “around the corner”, but it is polite to call ahead, and offer them “an out”.
A conversation might go like this;
“Hello Heidi, it’s Martha. I am just in the neighbourhood and was thinking about you. Are you free for a cup of tea, or perhaps I can treat you to a visit to the tea room. Only if you are free of course? Otherwise perhaps we can do something another day”?
You’ve extended an invitation to either visit, or take your friend out for a while, but also understood they may be busy, and you offered an alternative. She may jump at the chance, but you’ve also given her a polite excuse to say no. Dropping by unannounced makes it harder to Heidi to turn you away. As much as she likes you, you might not be welcome at that exact hour.
Hosting people last minute - always be prepared.
Now, with it being said that you should never turn up unannounced, that’s not to say you won’t be as lucky. You may find friends or family at your door on a whim.
For last minute guests - invited or not - always keep tea and biscuits on hand!
Of course, it’s always lovely to have something homemade or home baked, (some hostesses like to have frozen part-baked cookies or scones to hand that they can pop in the oven to defrost and bake). However a simple digestive biscuit always offers a satisfactory snack alongside a cup of tea or coffee! It doesn’t have to be “fancy” to make someone feel welcome.
Let it be said - though it shouldn’t have to be - never host someone in your home unless you are fully dressed in day clothes. Pyjamas, unless you are convalescing, are not appropriate hosting attire. If you do find yourself suddenly hosting, it’s more than ok to excuse yourself for a minute or two to change. Pop the kettle on to boil, seat your guest somewhere comfortable, and dash off to do a quick-change that would rival any magician’s assistant.
Never turn up to someone’s home empty handed.
When invited to someone’s home for the very first time, never turn up empty handed. It is good manners to bring flowers, a houseplant, or baked goods. For secondary casual and last-minute meetings, this rule can slide, but if more planning has gone into the event (invited for afternoon tea, or a BBQ etc), please take something as an offering of gratitude!
For a dinner party, bring wine (more than you plan to drink - you should intend to leave it with the hosts to enjoy themselves), or a gift for the host.
A nice idea is to ask what you can contribute, an appetiser, or a dessert. Buy a pretty baking or serving dish in a neutral colour and gift that, along with the food.
Follow up with a thank you note!
Removing hats when indoors.
Long gone are the days of daily hat wearing, where women would keep their hat on indoors, and it would be the height of rudeness for a man not to remove his. However, we all seem to have forgotten that these days, it is considered rude - unless at a formal religious event - to keep your hat on indoors!
For weddings, ceremonial events, and funerals, by all means keep it on until sundown - but for everything else, whether you’ve donned a straw sunhat, bowler, or baseball. Take that chapeau off!
Dressing well for an event.
It’s time to use those pretty handbags, shoes and dresses you always thought you had “nowhere to wear” them! Weddings, Church, even going shopping. It is the height of good manners to dress appropriately for the event in which you are attending. Even dress up a little for your every day errands! It’s always nice to see someone who has made an effort with their appearance - and it’s a good boost for the self-esteem. There are varying degrees of formality of course, but never, NEVER, are pyjamas appropriate for wearing on the school run, or to the supermarket. For a break down on the rules and to de-code “what to wear where”, let a copy of ‘English Etiquette’ be your guide.
A return to proper customer service and shopping local.
It’s hard enough not being able to see our friends and family at the moment, but a total lack of face to face communication in all aspects of our lives is soul destroying. I’ll never understand the sentiment of “profit over people”, and I do wish those self-service counters at supermarkets would be banned. Not only do they put people out of jobs but they are so cold and uninviting.
Our children are no longer learning by-proxy of how to communicate in these settings, and the personable nature of shopping and customer service is being destroyed, if not at great risk of extinction.
Those in these customer facing roles and service have a sense of pride in their job when you utilise them! They really know their job and are happy to help. So let them! While you’re at it, shop local when you can to truly get a great service. Those vacuum sealed packages of produce can’t ask you about your day, or tell you what’s good in season, or let you know how to best cook something like your local Butcher, Baker and Grocer can! No more clicking buttons and self-serve, please? We need to preserve and restore community - one that centres around the high street or village store!
Learning to queue properly, and waiting your turn.
Queueing etiquette is perhaps a very English thing. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to it in ‘English Etiquette’, but the amount of comments I receive about this is astounding, highlighting that it is an etiquette issue we face daily. Read up on what you should be doing, and steel yourself agains the injustice in the moment of those that don’t.
No mobile phones in restaurants.
This goes without saying really, it’s rude! This is the time to talk and be present in the moment, not sat slumped over scrolling with your face a’glow by blue light. If you really must check on the arrival of your friend, or give them last minute directions etc, either step outside, or be discreet and quiet while you use the telephone. If you have company sat with you, do excuse yourself before you use the phone - yes, even if it’s family you are sat with! Let it be said, that the phone should also be set to silent, or the very least on vibrate, and NEVER left on the table. You may take it out to take a picture, but return it to your handbag or pocket right away. Instagram and Facebook can wait for your update, trust me.
Men offering their seat to a lady on public transport.
A man should offer his seat to any lady, but the oldest or clearly pregnant women should be clearly offered first. Even women and young adults should give up their seat to someone senior to them, unless they are pregnant or infirm themselves.
Matters of romance - opening doors and rising from seats.
There were plenty of comments from our ladies about the matter of romantic gestures, chivalry, and men behaving like gentlemen. This also extends to general politeness men show towards women in a social setting.
- Traditional ladies love it when you open doors for them - even if you aren’t romantically interested in each other.
- Traditional ladies love it when you pull out a chair for them!
- Traditional ladies love it when you help her in and out of the car, or public transport.
- Traditional ladies love it when you help them on, or off, with their coat.
- Traditional ladies love with when you rise from your seat (in a formal setting such as a restaurant) when she leaves, and returns to the table.
- Traditional ladies love it when you make sure to walk on the side of the street closest to the traffic.
- Traditional ladies love it when you offer them your sweater or jacket when it’s cold.
- Traditional ladies love it when you offer to carry heavy goods to their car, or into the house.
- Traditional ladies love it when you offer to do the “dirty jobs” for them, such as taking out the rubbish, or cleaning gutters.
- Traditional ladies love it when you order for her (ask what she would like first, of course).
- Traditional ladies love it when you top up her glass, or make her a cup of tea.
- Traditional ladies love it when you introduce her to people before yourself.
- Traditional ladies love it when you compliment her on anything, from her cooking, to her dress, her children, and especially her personal achievements - even if they’re only ones performed “at home”.
Now remember gentlemen, us ladies are more than capable of doing all of these things ourselves of course, but the fact is we like it when you do it for us. It’s the same as how dinner tastes better when your wife or mother cooks it. Having a gentleman make these little gestures of kindness, courtesy, and romance are wonderful.
You may get shouted at by strangers on occasion (for instance opening a door for a strange lady who won’t take kindly to it), but she is not the majority. Don’t let chivalry die! It’s in your hands guys.
Ladies, remember to teach your boys these lessons too!
Would you like to see a return to traditional values and manners?
If you do, I have only one thing to say - it’s up to you!
All of these suggestions and more can be found in my book ‘English Etiquette’.
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