Are Christmas cards a thing of the past?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

With the time for writing our Christmas cards (or not, as the case may be) let’s revisit a discussion I had on ITV Daybreak (now Good Morning Britain!) last year about whether they are here to stay or should be forgotten.

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The English Manner in China: One year on…

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The news this week that Debrett’s are to open an office in Shanghai has prompted me to reflect on the past year.  Always setting the trend where others seek to follow, 2014 is the first anniversary of our official launch in China.

Alexandra Messervy talking in Shanghai (Oct 2013)

Firstly, we visited regularly to give tuition on request to schools and private individuals, hotels and country club complexes and then private clubs in Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chengdu, with an unprecedented demand for etiquette and business protocol programmes.  But it is so much more than that, and the cross cultural integration tuition for which we are so well known is as popular now as social graces, as the Chinese population realise that in order for them to be educated, live and do business with the West, they need to learn not only how their counterparts react, but also how to speak the lingo and walk the walk to social acceptance.  Money talks, and designer labels show a growing awareness of luxury and lifestyle, but without social and business know-how, acceptance, and therefore success, is sometimes hard to come by.

Angela Harwood teaches tea etiquette (April 2014)Our first office opened in Chengdu in early 2013 and I officially opened it in October when I was delighted to visit Chengdu and Shanghai.  We now have offices in both cities and have led various projects there as well as Beijing, Qingdao, Tianjin, Shenzhen and Guangzhou  over the past months.  Continuing our highly successful partnership with David Charles, we have enjoyed a wide range of media coverage, including CCTV, China News Daily, China Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle and Tatler, for whom our own senior tutor William Hanson is now penning a monthly column on Western etiquette.

This summer sees the launch of various summer school initiatives in the UK with our Asian partners as well as some fabulous cultural learning programmes based in England, Scotland and France.

None of this would have been possible without the support of our tremendous Chinese staff and our wonderful team of tutors and experts who continually clock up their air miles flying to clients around the world.

William Hanson teaches children's etiquette (April 2013)Manners maketh man.  There were a few years in the 90s when people seemed to think the age of chivalry and social grace was dead.  It didn’t last long: modern manners have evolved from tradition and the belief that we all like to be treated well, so it stands to reason that to conduct successful lives, at home and at work, first impressions set the tone, and in the end, we all respond to some grace, kindness and consideration; ensuring a more harmonious international and integrated environment.

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China office launch event – October 2013

Monday, January 13th, 2014

In October 2013, Jimmy Beale, William Hanson and I flew to China for the official launch of our China office, in Chengdu.  We have been operating in China (Beijing, Shanghai & Chengdu) since February 2013 and our exciting launch event cemented our commitment to bringing our training programmes and expertise to China.  Below is the text from the speech made by our Director of Operations & Educational Development, Jimmy Beale.  You may also like to view a video our Chinese partners produced of the event at the bottom of this post. 

Jimmy Beale, Director of Operations & Educational DevelopmentIt gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Shangri-La Hotel for this evening’s introduction to western etiquette through ‘A Taste of Downton Abbey’.  This is a significant event – one where people from many different spheres have come together to share thoughts and their interests in all that Prestige Education Consultancy and The English Manner have to offer.  This joint venture is all about education and opportunities for learning – that invaluable aspect of our society that touches us all.  Whether for our children, or for ourselves, learning never ceases and, as adults, we must never be too proud to think that we have learnt it all.  All that is happening with this company is very exciting indeed and I am delighted to see you all here.  I hope that you have a good evening, that you make the most of the good company and that you learn something.

The English Manner has been operating in the United Kingdom for over ten years.  The founder of the company and our CEO, Mrs Alexandra Messervy, has built the company to a position whereby it is the market leader for etiquette training in the UK, as well as a provider of training in many parts of the world.  In recent months, individuals and companies in Russia, Dubai, Qatar, Canada, the United States of America, Switzerland,  Kenya and Uganda have all benefitted from The English Manner’s outstanding support.  Individuals and groups form those countries and others have also visited the United Kingdom to visit and tour with Alexandra and her team – she is able to put together the most amazing experiences for any of you who might wish to visit England – through her one can experience activities and visit places that normal tourists cannot hope to access.

But you will be asking, why we are here?  Thorough our association with the team at Prestige Education Consultancy, we have a wonderful opportunity to bring our training and expertise to Chengdu.  I must take this opportunity to say a thank you to Lawrence, Ophelia and their team for making this dream a reality – they are simply outstanding.  They have recently moved to new offices at Square One, Tianfu Square – they would be delighted to welcome you there if you are ever passing.  A partnership with a company that has education at the heart of all they do is entirely appropriate – some of you will know them as they have placed your children in schools in the UK.

You might want to talk to us about how we can support you or your clients – please do so after the presentation.  I would now like to introduce you to William Hanson – our senior tutor.  He spends an increasing amount of time on television, particularly on the BBC, and has become to go to expert for the British media for anything related with etiquette.  May I introduce Mr William Hanson…

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Christmas card courtesy

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

It’s that time of year when many people will be sending out greeting cards for Christmas or other religious holidays.  I have often been asked the “correct way” to insert a card into the envelope. I am always amazed when people who consider etiquette and manners as out-dated and of little use, nevertheless want to do things properly when faced with tradition and rituals.

Greetings cards are of no small expense and trouble, so it is worth some extra care when assembling them.  Consider how the recipient will open the card and how to enhance the whole experience. When inserting the card into the envelope, the front of the card should face the back of the envelope so that when the flap is lifted or slit open, the attractive face of the card is revealed.  Most people will be holding the envelope in their left hand and extracting the card with their right, so insert the card so that it will come out the right way up to read.  In the case of a typical card that has the fold on the left hand side (i.e., to be opened like a book), this means inserting the fold first with the front of the card facing the back of the envelope.

If the card has any embossing or embellishment, this method will also protect the face of the card from the pounding it would receive from the post office sorting and cancelling machinery. (Some cards with embossed fronts now even come with ‘card protector sheets’ to insert over the design to also help protect the card from the wear and tear of the post.)

But not all cards are folded on the left side.  What about tent-style cards, folded on the top?

Insert these the same way: fold first and facing the back. If you insert a card with the fold along the top edge, there is the risk that it will be damaged or cut if the recipient is using a letter opener. If you are enclosing anything with the card, (a photograph, perhaps, or some cash in a birthday card), inserting the card fold first will ensure than the enclosure comes out of the envelope with the card and does not slip out unnoticed and perhaps get thrown away.

Please don’t stress too much over how the card goes into the envelope but do be sure to personalize each card to the recipient, perhaps adding a few words of greeting beyond the printed text. Receiving a good quality envelope carefully addressed by hand and with a stamp, (never franked), creates a sense of anticipation. To find within a card with only a signature appended to the printed text is a disappointing letdown.

Let these guidelines enhance the pleasure you get by sending and receiving cards and when you receive a card that has been put in the envelope “upside down and backwards,” please ignore such trivial details and enjoy the sentiments and the thoughtfulness of the sender. In the words of Emily Post writing in 1922, do not “give too much importance to nothing.”

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The good towel guide

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Good towels are part of providing good hospitality to your guests.  The times I have stayed somewhere to be given a towel that is like a piece of sandpaper are countless.  (Or, and I don’t wish to sound fussy, but the towels are so fluffy or synthetic they don’t absorb anything.)

Together with my colleague Barbara Allred, here are our guidelines for tiptop towels.

1)    Unless the guest room does not have an en suite, have the guests’ towels hanging on the towel rail in the bathroom, rather than placed on the bed.  So many hotels do this, when pretty much all hotel rooms come with bathrooms.  There is no need.  What next?  Pillows in the sink?

2)    Each guest should be provided with: a flannel, one small ‘head’ towel, and one big towel.  Each bathroom also needs: a bathmat and a hand towel.

3)    We prefer white guest towels, as they look crisper and will go with any colour scheme.

4)    Yet we’d prefer a dingy dark brown towel to a rather pathetic looking, faded white morsel.  Keep white towels white by washing with the addition of laundry bleach or a whitening sachet.  Or for a LA-dentistry white, soak the towels overnight in cold water with lemon juice, 60ml (quarter of a cup) of bicarbonate of soda and then wash the next morning.

5)    Whilst biological detergent is more effective, use non-biological for guest towels and bedding as you never know when you’ll have a guest whose skin doesn’t take kindly to the biological stuff.  A teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (US: baking powder) in the drawer with the (liquid) detergent will help boost the power of non-bio products.

6)    If your houseguests are staying longer than three nights, apart from feeling very sorry for you, we suggest you change their towels then.  Or sooner if they ask for it.

7)    When washing your guest towels (or your own) make sure you do it on a 60°C or higher setting or else the bacteria and germs will linger.  Most germs are killed at 62°C.  We know we are told to wash on a lower setting to protect the planet, but your own environment could be compromised if you shun this.  (Especially important if you have young children or the elderly who are more prone to picking up germs.)

8)    Only use a little fabric softener as too much will mean the towels lose their absorbency.

9)    For really bad stains, soak the towel overnight in cold water with a 120ml (half a cup) of bicarbonate of soda and 120ml (half a cup) of bleach.

10) To get your towels fluffy, either partially air dry them and then finish off in the tumble dryer, or put straight into the dryer from the washing machine.

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