Back in 2014, my friends were all into completing 30 and 90 day challenges on facebook. Some of these challenges were about being happy or grateful and in rare instances about fitness and health diets. Because none of these challenges appealed to me I set out to create my own which I called: 100 days of etiquette rules.
To my surprise my peers loved it! By the end of the third week I was getting calls, texts and IMs from my friends and family asking for etiquette advice. Growing up all these rules had been embedded in my programming; they are a part of who I am and how I act. It was a revelation to know that so many people went through life without even knowing how to properly answer a call or what type of response to give to a party hostess when they couldn’t attend an event. Apparently you need courage and a sturdy backbone to comply with some of these guidelines which is why most people shy away from them. The irony is that the intention of the rules is to give you an easy way out, and most people were taking hard hits because of their ignorance.
The rules below are some of the most liked and most practiced etiquette advisories I posted. If you have a particular question, leave a comment below and I will assist you!
– Use one parking spot. Not 2, not 1.5, just one. If you do not trust people around your vehicle park really far away and walk. In some places the establishment will tow the car at the owner’s expense. Don’t act surprised when you can’t find your car because you parked incorrectly.
– In some places, especially government facilities and emergency areas, it is customary to park in reverse. READ the parking lot signs to make sure you are following instructions. IF one car is doing it right and the others are wrong, the others are wrong!
– Stop signs are not optional. You must stop your vehicle and then proceed to cross the intersection according to local rules. Drivers traversing the main roads have priority when stopping and making turns, especially if they are transiting uphill.
Weddings and Event Rules:
– A wedding is a fund raising event and so is a baby shower. However, weddings are the only event where an invitation requires a gift regardless of attendance. If you receive an invitation and can’t make it, you are obligated to send a gift. Some couples don’t mind that you do not send a gift if you can’t attend but ALL couples mind if you show up empty handed (unless you are an out of town guest or have coordinated with them beforehand). You have up to a year after the wedding to purchase a gift and most registries will be open during that time for your convenience.
– RSVP to any event by the due date listed on the invitation. If you do not RSVP in time, the hosts/hostess will consider you as a NO and will not have enough food, space or gift bag for you. If you RSVP yes to an event and later change your mind or get sick, you have to cancel at least 24 to 48 hrs in advance. Depending on the event, the organizers have a right to charge you a fee for not showing up.
– If you happen to be invited to a non-USA traditional wedding, be advised that the couple will most likely expect cash gifts. The invitation may not contain a registry link and in some cases will instruct you as to the preferred gift method. In some cultures it is rude to include the wedding registry info on the invitation but for non-USA folks this is common practice.
– If you don’t have a plus one listed on your invitation the bride and groom or hosting parties don’t have to grant you an additional seat for your significant other. It is not rude to ask for a plus one but it is rude to show up with an extra person especially if you never RSVP’d or were told that your plus one could not be accommodated.
– Ask the bride and groom about the attire required for their event. Unless the invitation states you can wear white, DON’T! If the invitation asks for formal attire, rent a tuxedo or wear a nice gown. In the case the event isn’t a wedding, ask the host/hostess for any attire exceptions. You can get turned away at the door if you do not comply with the dress code.
– Always be on time. Japanese people will tell you that if you are there a second too early or a second too late you were not on time. Some cultures are more relaxed about start times, give or take 10 to 15 minutes, but in the USA you are expected to arrive and depart on time. Do not over extend your welcome!
Public Place Rules:
– Finish cell phone calls before entering public places. It is rude to continue to talk loudly on the phone while people are trying to have conversations among each other, serve you or are trying to enjoy entertainment. Telephone calls are a privilege, not a right, and it can be revoked or restricted by the establishment you are entering. Don’t fight it and hang up the phone!
– Always mind your surroundings. If you hit someone with your belongings, apologize. If you get too close, excuse yourself. If you don’t know what to order, let the next person go ahead. You have 200 items and someone has 2 in a one register situation, consider letting them through. Paper runs out or toilet is out of order? Let the next person and the bathroom attendant know. See someone struggling? Ask them if they need help. Walking away from the situation doesn’t solve it, and it can make it worse. Be nice, take care of business.
Casual Conversation or Group Outing Rules:
– When dealing with groups, always be upfront about how costs will be split. If you can’t afford a trip or an item and accept the generosity of those around make sure you repay them in a timely manner.
– Let people who decide not to procreate live in peace. It is rude to assess the value of a person as a function of how many children they have. It is also rude to exclude people based on the same assessment (with or without kids).
– If challenged to do something, make sure you complete the challenge correctly and do not mock those who decide to not accept it or do it right. Research the subject matter. Prepare for the challenge. There is nothing less noble and unkind than making fun of others, regardless of what they are advocating. You do not need to justify your choices to others nor others to you, and you certainly have no right to make fun of people.
– When talking to women (or anyone for that matter) it is not acceptable to harass them in any way, shape or form. Don’t be the rude person that ruins everyone’s day by thinking this behavior is acceptable. It is not and if you witness it, call ‘em out.
– Always use the same medium for replies: If you got a letter, reply with a letter; an email with an email; a call with a call. Unless the original message indicates that there are other acceptable methods, you should always follow this advice. Remember as well that the person that started the conversation ends it or should have the last word. (But if they are taking their sweet time to get to the point you can move them along guilt-free but politely.)
– Ignorance of the law does not exempt compliance. Read up on local customs and regulations before assuming that the rules of your state or country apply. Unlike the movies, not all offenses come with bail or alternative means to wait outside of jail while you get tried. European countries for example will treat you as a guilty party until proven innocent. Not all judiciary systems are the same, proceed with extra caution when traveling internationally.
– If you are not in a hurry to get through security let those who have less items and/or a tighter connection through. Just because you where there first it doesn’t mean you can take all the time in the world to comply with TSA rules and create a bottle neck. Be aware that TSA pre-check lines do not require you to take off sweaters, shoes and belts and that premium line passengers have the right of way during document checks.
-Don’t stand in the jet way line to board before your boarding zone or area is called. In the USA people crowd the entry area making it hard for the called passengers to board. Outside of the USA the boarding crew will remove you from the boarding area by force if you do not stand back. Avoid a scene and stay seated until your zone is called.
– All roller board carry on luggage must be stowed in the bins above your seat and all small items, like purses and laptop cases, go underneath the seat in front of you. Do not store your coat, your roller board and your personal item in the overhead stowbin to be more comfortable. Depending on how full the flight is you will be asked to remove the items to make space for others belongings. Avoid delaying boarding because you think you own the space above your head, you don’t, and the flight attendant will intervene to handle the situation.
– Address flight attendants by their first name or title and do not disrespect them by treating them like servants nor challenge them. Follow all directions and indications of the crew in commercial aircraft flights including safety briefings and special requests. It is against Federal regulations (the law) to disobey a crew member. Don’t be like the British Airways flight passengers that disembarked a burning 777 aircraft with their belongings. Their lack of respect for the rules ended up causing physical injuries to the crew and fellow passengers and should have resulted in fines.
– Tips are optional and are meant to be a reward for good service. If your server did a bad job do not use tips as an opportunity to demean or humiliate them. Talk to a manager if you believe you require compensation for bad service but never leave without paying. Servers are people who are there to cater to you in a humane way; they deserve respect and dignity. In states like WA, servers are paid minimum wage salaries but in other states they are not. Check local laws to determine if the server’s wages depend on tips or on salary.
FYI: Tips are a surcharge based on the items you purchased not on the tax you paid for them therefore when calculating the tip exclude the tax amount. Most places include the tax in their estimation of the tip and this in inaccurate.
– Tour guides and bus drivers offering excursions can accept tips. Unless you are instructed not to, make sure you have a few extra dollars to tip excellent service. In some countries the guides make a minimum salary similar to servers in the USA and depend on tips.
Please remember these etiquette rules are guidelines for common courtesy. You do not have to follow them but you should take into consideration that other people abide by these and take them seriously. When in doubt, ask your hosts or friends what their expectations are about the event or activity. Most of us fail to recognize that in some cases our cooperation is required to make life easier for all the people involved; kill them with kindness.
Check out Emily Post for more etiquette gems.