British etiquette from the 1900s is a rare find in today’s modern society. As said by Sir Patrick Moore, the height of Englishness is ‘good manners’. Many would like to think they are quite polite: holding the door open for others, and veiling one’s uvula whilst yawning. Yet, still, with the ushering in of the technological era, the British etiquette we find in films such as Brief Encounter and Breakfast at Tiffany’s has long deteriorated.
According to a survey carried out by Future Inns, 41% of British businesspeople consider it to be acceptable to regularly use their phone whilst in a meeting. Despite this, 70% of them surprisingly believe it to be rude when others do the same. Another survey found that a third of Britons think it is acceptable to eat with their fingers.
Society is lackadaisical when it comes to etiquette. Too lazy to show some manners, and yet too busy ‘blackberry-ing’. Is it really too much to put your phone away when with a friend? ‘It’s called multitasking. Look, I’m not even looking at the screen whilst texting … Anyway, you were saying?’ *taps away staring at the other person in a zombie-like state*
Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change to revert back to the old-fashioned manners from when horses roamed the streets and moustaches were the ‘new black’? So creating a Facebook event takes less than 10 minutes. It is much more exciting to find a handwritten invitation being slipped through your letterbox. Chips are great to eat with your fingers but why not avoid looks of disdain and use a fork instead (even if it is one of those pathetic little plastic ones).
In the early 1900s it was frowned upon to be noisy in public. Making the least amount of noise was a trait appreciated by society. You just need to walk down Market Street to hear: ‘HEYYY! I haven’t seen you in aaagees! How ya been?’ (This encounter, although occurring in close proximity, continued at a volume registering over 80 decibels on a decibel-reader). Whatever happened to ‘How do you do?’ or a simple ‘Hello’? Often in conversation, swearing too is commonplace. It shows a ‘lack of control over your language’. Unless one is inebriated there is no excuse really.
Deberret’s, ‘The authority on Etiquette, Taste and Achievement’, has a good site where one can brush up on their manners. One noteworthy example includes a man standing up when a woman enters the room. However, there is no need for him to act like a Jack-in-the-Box every time she decides to ‘apply some lippy’. Fashion: ‘Baseball caps are … a 'youth' fashion. They should never be worn back to front.’ I.e. People over the age of 12 should not wear said item. To do so is an extremely inexcusable British faux pas. It doesn’t matter if you like/play/watch Baseball.
Good manners are an asset to have. They make you feel as if you are part of a well-mannered society. Being nice also makes you feel good about yourself. You could argue it is an ego boost but if so, where is the harm if one is making the world a more hospitable place? Perhaps the lack of hat-tipping (apart from the lack of hats and the fact that trapper hats are not really ‘tippable’) is due to our increasingly passive lifestyle. With social networking there’s no need to RSVP, just send a text or @ someone (twitter). Having a dinner party? Create a Facebook group.
If anything this shows how we’ve changed as a society. How we’ve developed – or as some would argue – have relapsed back to being prehistoric humans. Either way we are living in a different time to that of the early 20th century. ‘Everyone for themselves’ seems to be the mantra nowadays. This is not to say that British etiquette no longer exists, just that only a small percentage still practices it. Manners cost nothing to give, are a pleasure to receive and are even better when there is an equal exchange. Perhaps we will see less people outside The Tailend eating chips with their fingers. Who are we trying to kid? At least the art of queuing still exists.