We learned Emily Post’s Etiquette (18th edition) Chapter 3. Common courtesies at our book club meeting on March 22, 2018. Below is my reading notes.
Quotes from the book:
“Being courteous means taking personal responsibility for the way our actions affect others, showing respect for the space we share and the well-being of those we share it with.”
“Common courtesy starts with acknowledging those around you pleasantly.”
“• Notice, notice, notice. Say “thanks” when someone does you a favor and give compliments when you can.”
“• On the street, a man traditionally walks on the curb side of a woman—shielding her from the hazards posed by passing horse and buggies, now cars, splashing through puddles.
- A woman precedes a man through a door, on an escalator (unless she needs help getting on or off), or in a narrow outdoor passageway.
- A man precedes a woman into a dark street or building, down a steep ramp or a slippery slope, on rough ground, and through crowds, taking her hand or arm as necessary.”
Things not to do that I was not too sure before reading this book:
“Holding space in a line for friends who are paying separately from you.”
Some examples given in the book (17th edition, Chapter 4: Dealing with rudeness). I think they are very helpful to people who are learning spoken English:
(Note: 1. Most of the time people just let it go – it may not worth the emotional energy you’d need to fight back; safety concerns; 2. You can also laugh it off – just chuckle, and switch the topic; 3. Take it to the higher authority instead of dealing with the offender yourself. If you decide to speak up, be calm and polite.)
“Please don’t shout. I know the space is tight, and kids will be kids. But your daughter has been kicking my seat since we boarded. I’d really appreciate it if you could ask her to stop. Thanks!”
Reply to a rude comment:
“How kind of you to say so.”
“Many of us are trying to read. So would you mind lowering your voice? Thanks!”
“Would you please sit down so I can see?”
“Excuse me, but I guess you didn’t realize this is the express lane. I’m just letting you know for future reference.”
To someone who cuts you off when a new check-out line is opened:
“I’m sorry but I’ve been waiting longer than you. Would you mind if I go first?”
To a co-worker who always bring lunch with strong smell:
“Steven, are you trying to drive us all away so you can have a quiet lunch? The smell of that broccoli just may do the trick!”
To someone who keeps gossiping about a co-worker in shared public space:
“Terrisa, I don’t mean to butter in, but if you want to speak ill of Virginia, don’t you think you should do it in some place more private? You never know when she might walk in.”
To someone who gives sarcastic comments on your son’s choice of university major:
“Like me, Jimmy thinks the real reward comes from loving what you do, not how much you make. And I couldn’t be more proud of him!”
“Excuse me, but I’m not sure that you noticed there are children on the bus. Could you please watch your language?”
To someone who puts a bag on a seat on a crowded train:
“Excuse me, but would you mind if I sit down?”
“Robert, I assume you’ve smoked in the car so you wouldn’t need to in the restaurant. Would you mind if we move to the non-smoking?”, instead of “First you smoked in my car, then this (picking seats in smoking area)?”
New behaviours I’ve developed after I came to North America:
Say “Excuse me” when I encounter somebody in a narrow space, have to pass by, or move closer to someone.
Smile at strangers on the street and say “hi”.
Hold the door for people right behind me.
When waiting in line to check out in a grocery store, I learned to put a bar behind my items to make it easier for the person behind me to put his or her items onto the conveyor counter. I’d also let the person behind me to go first if he or she has just a handful of items while I have a lot.
If I can’t make it on time, I’d call to let people know, and give the reason, especially the ETA.
Greet the driver when getting aboard a bus, and say “thank you” when getting off.
Unstrap my backpack when it’s crowded on a bus or subway, and stow it down.
Finally, here are a couple of articles I wrote in both English and Chinese about the cultural differences that are related to some topics mentioned above:
Chinese Saying “Thank-you” /中国人说“Thank You”
甜言蜜语 vs 良药苦口/Sweetened Words V.S. Bitter-sweet Pills