What Etiquette isn’t

Many people have interesting views about what etiquette is. Some think it’s about rules, rules and more rules.

Some think it’s all about the appearance of the etiquette trainer. To them, your scarf must be of a specific length, you must walk in a certain way, and if you are a man, your tie must just kiss your belt, or else, you would have failed their ‘litmus’ test.

While some of the above may be plausible or even necessary, they do not constitute the full picture. At best, it’s placing what is trivial in the place of real substance, not unlike those who refuse to see the forest for the trees.

This month, we have decided to prepare a list of what etiquette isn’t. We hope you can read between the lines and see the bigger, clearer and more important picture of what etiquette truly is.

• Etiquette isn’t just about dos and don’ts – this belief makes etiquette off-putting to most people.

• It isn’t walking as if you are doing the ground a favour. This is arrogance.

• It is not talking through your nose or the ability to do so.

• It isn’t condescending to people.

• It isn’t snobbery or any feeling of being better than others just because you know certain things. In reality cultured people are very accommodating.

• It isn’t about the poshness of your accent or the stuffiness of your speech.

• It isn’t just about elegance, dressing well or looking like a million dollars all the time as good as these are.

• It isn’t about restricting people or straitjacketing them with endless rules.

• It isn’t wearing bespoke suits or preening yourself in expensive jewellery.

• It isn’t just about being able to combine colours and properly accessorise.

• It isn’t about looking for opportunities to correct or tell people off about their mis-behaviour.

• It isn’t about importing Western values to Africa or vice versa.

• It isn’t about negating or disparaging our own traditional values. Every culture has its own way of doing things, which must be respected.

• It isn’t about teaching people how to eat artichokes or some other food items that even the Queen may struggle with.

• It isn’t knowing the distance between the fork and the knife on a place setting.

• It isn’t about whether you can wear a patterned tie on a striped shirt.

• It isn’t matching your socks to your tie as someone emphatically suggested to us recently.

• It is not putting on a fake accent. The real accent will show through somehow.

The truth is that some of the above are ridiculous hair-splitting theories, made up by people who do not understand that etiquette is more about how well we treat people than what we know or how we look.

We all benefit when we do things right!