How to be a proper English gentleman
Traditional British etiquette is hard to find in today’s modern society. As Sir Patrick Moore once said, the height of Englishness is “good manners”. Many of us would like to think that we are quite polite: holding the door open for others, veiling one’s mouth whilst yawning. Yet, it seems the ushering in of the modern era has long deteriorated the British etiquette we find in films such as Brief Encounter and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
According to a survey carried out by Future Inns, 41% of British businesspeople consider it acceptable to regularly use their phone whilst in a meeting. Despite this, a surprising 70% of them believe it to be rude when others do the same. Society has become lackadaisical when it comes to etiquette. Too lazy to show some manners, and yet too busy “blackberry-ing”. Is it really too much to ask to put your phone away when with a friend? All it says to your companion is, “I’m not really listening to what you have to say.”
Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change to revert back to old-fashioned manners from the days when horses roamed the streets and moustaches were the “new black”? Creating a Facebook event, for example, takes less than 10 minutes. It is much more exciting to find a handwritten invitation being slipped through your letterbox.
In the early 1900s, it was frowned upon to be noisy in public. Making the minimal amount of noise was a trait appreciated by society. Nowadays, you just need to walk down Market Street to hear: “HEYYY! I haven’t seen you in aaagees! How ya been?” at around 80 decibels. Whatever happened to “How do you do?” or a simple (quiet) “Hello”? Likewise, swearing is often too commonplace in daily conversation. It shows a “lack of control over your language”, so unless one is inebriated, there really is no excuse.
The website debretts.com names itself as “the authority on etiquette, taste and achievement.” It has a number of tips where the modern citizen can brush up on their manners. One noteworthy example states that a man should stand 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 leave the room. Under the topic of fashion, Debrett’s clearly states that “baseball caps are … a ‘youth’ fashion. They should never be worn back to front.”
Good manners are an asset to have. They make you feel as if you are part of a well-mannered society, and as a result, you feel good about yourself. Perhaps the lack of hat-tipping is due to our increasingly passive lifestyle. If anything, the decline of etiquette shows how we’ve changed as a society. How we’ve developed – or, as some would argue – have relapsed back to being monosyllabic, prehistoric beings.
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 of people still practice 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 queueing still exists.