Monthly Archives: November 2013

Pooh’s Little Etiquette Book

DSC05974What can our friends from the Hundred Acre Wood teach us about etiquette?

Pooh is an etiquette expert! He knows the difference between A Proper Tea (which is what you get at Owl’s house) and a Very Nearly Tea (one that you forget about afterward).

This whimsical little book teaches the less versed in the right way of doing things. It covers topics ranging from conversation to eating to visiting. The book offers advice with wry humour followed by a brief excerpt from one of the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

DSC05975For instance, did you know that it isn’t polite to ask for a bit of bread and honey, but it is perfectly acceptable to look wistfully in the direction of the cupboard?

One of my favourite passages goes:

When your guests prepare to leave, act sorry to see them go. But if it seems as though they may never leave, a subtle nudge is appropriate.

“Must you?” said Rabbit politely.

“Well,” said Pooh, “I could stay a little longer if it—if you—“ and he tries very hard to look in the direction of the larder.

“As a matter of fact,” said Rabbit, “I was going out myself directly.”

What finesse!



Order of introductions: who to introduce to whom?

Introductions can be tricky.

Do you break conversations to make the introductions? Do you introduce your girlfriend to your Dad or your Dad to your girlfriend?

The pleasure of making introductions falls on you if:

1. You are the host of the event.

2. You are the common acquaintance of individuals unknown to each other.

Introduce persons during a natural break in conversations. Failing to make introductions before the awkward ‘I’m Joanna, by the way,’ is a shortcoming on your part.

First Lady Michelle Obama introducing her daughter Sasha to HM The Queen of Spain (photo from

First Lady Michelle Obama introducing her daughter Sasha to HM The Queen of Spain (photo from

Now, on to introducing who to whom:

Introduce a man to a woman

a younger person to an older person

someone of lower social standing to someone of higher social standing.

For example, if you wish to introduce your your colleague James to your friend Marie, you might say, “Marie, this is James, we work in the same laboratory. James, this is Marie, a friend from my university days.”

In this case, James (the man) is introduced to Marie (the woman). Gender trumps age, and age trumps social standing. The only exception to this rule is if the person is a head of state (or government), a cardinal or royalty.

It might help to remember to say the more “important” person’s name first. For instance, you might say, ‘Prime Minister, may I present my wife, Juliana.’ In this case, Juliana (the woman) is introduced to the Prime Minister, regardless of the latter’s gender.

Please do leave a comment below if you have an introduction conundrum.

Lovely to meet you,

Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners

DSC05960Jane Austen’s novels are set in the social context of Georgian society. Though she never intended to write a historical novel, today, her works provide a glimpse of the class to which she herself belonged- the gentry.

This book provides a witty commentary on Jane Austen’s world and the women who inhabit it. The book gives advice on how to refuse a proposal of marriage and what to wear for a morning walk, among many others. It continually addresses a social situation with WWAHD- “What would an Austen Heroine Do?”

The book observes that the most agreeable visits occur the morning after a ball where:

It is good manners for an unattached gentleman to call on his principal partner of the night before, to enquire after her health and continue their acquaintance. In the same way that Mr Darcy  comes to call on Elizabeth Bennet, when she is staying to the adjacent vicarage to where he is staying shows more than the usual attentiveness.

In today’s society such niceties are largely considered antiquated. Indeed, if a guy rings the day after he meets and dances with a girl, he might appear a bit too keen.

The etiquette guidelines set in the book is hardly for our modern times. It is however, a great window to times gone by, whether we mourn its passing or celebrate the dropping of its yoke.

May I have your seat? Baby on board.

Maggie Smith, in her Oscar-winning role as Miss Jean Brodie instructs her girls, “We must away and catch our tram. I doubt we will get seats. It is 1936 and chivalry is dead.”

It might be all the etiquette books I read or the  period dramas I watch that makes me feel men should give up their seats for me on the train.

I do tut inwardly when they don’t.

I do, however, smile and profusely thank those who do.

Given that chivalry died sometime in the mid-1930’s, I would like to discuss here what I believe is the protocol for offering your seat.

The Duchess of Cambridge was presented a "Baby on Board" badge when she rode the London Underground (photo: The Independent)

The Duchess of Cambridge was presented a “Baby on Board” badge when she rode the London Underground (photo: The Independent)

1. One must offer their seat to those less able to stand. This includes older people, pregnant women, and those with small children.

2. It is polite to offer your seat to a lady, even if she is not showing a baby bump. It has become more popular to wear a “baby on board” badge when travelling in London. The Duchess of Cambridge was presented with one when she was with child.

3. Gentlemen, if you do wish to offer your seat, do NOT stay seated and say ‘Would you like this seat?’ The person would likely feel that it would be a great imposition if they accepted.

DO stand up, and say to the person, ‘Please have my seat.’

Do NOT sit back down if they decline.

4. Ladies, if a man offers you their seat, DO take it and say thank you, even if the next stop is yours. It is guaranteed to make you feel you feel special, and the gentleman feels like a hero.

Just for fun, please take time to answer the poll below. Is chivalry indeed dead or just asleep?


A royal thank you

I have recently been honoured with a thank you letter from Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This post will teach you how to write a good thank you letter, just like the one I received.

THe thank you letter from the office of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

The thank you letter from the office of TRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

A thank you letter must first and foremost be sincere.

Following that, the rest is easy. Just follow these guidelines:

1. Mention the gift you received

2. Describe what you like about it

3. Talk about how you are going to use it

Dear Aunt Rosa

Thank you for the lovely cake stand you gave me for my graduation. I love how it perfectly matches the colour theme of my kitchen.

I will display every cake I bake on it.

Love from,


A thank you note must be sent within a reasonable time of receiving the present, this is usually a week. If you forget, just send it as soon as you remember, preferably before another present arrives.

Rescinding invitations: disinviting guests

Keep Calm Studio

Fans of the series Made in Chelsea would recall a recent episode where Alex invited Binky and Fran to a dinner party. Only to withdraw Fran’s invitation because he wanted to have a dinner-date with Binky.

Fran was unceremoniously disinvited via text the morning of the party with Alex fibbing a ‘rugby injury’. The lovely Fran was left in tears.

Had Alex followed the rules of decorum, Fran’s feelings could’ve been spared, and he would still have his date with BInky.

1. It is impolite to issue invitations in the presence of those not invited.

2. If unforeseen things happen that would warrant an invitation to be rescinded, do it in person or failing that, at least a phone call. A text message lacks the tact and compassion the situation requires.

3. A reason does not need to be given instantly. A simple ‘I’m sorry, but I have to reschedule the dinner.’ would suffice.

4. If the person asks for a reason, tell the truth. People appreciate being told the truth, and in time, would come to understand.