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.
Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.