The Etiquette of Personal Space: Don’t’ Stand Too Close To Me!

Monday, October 5th, 2015

I am lucky enough to live in the English countryside and although I am frequently in London for meetings or travelling worldwide for The English Manner, I suppose it is not often nowadays that I am standing in a large crowd of people or waiting in anything other than an orderly, still very British, queue at a checkout or in line for service.

It struck me yesterday evening, whilst waiting for my daughter and her friend to return from a travelling vacation in India, how those who live and work in this country appear to have lost their awareness of the etiquette of personal space. Yes, there is an etiquette for it!

The world is getting smaller and more crowded and the closer our paths cross with others the more important it must become to ensure that we feel safe and respected. That could be on a pavement or in an airport concourse, moving through doorways and in and out of buses, trains, lifts and any public space.

When teaching people to enter a room and network, my first rule is ‘stop look and listen’. Be aware of the people around you, yet last night not one person waiting for their colleagues or loved ones seemed to be aware of anyone else in the same situation. People were oblivious to the fact that by waving their name card in the air straight into my face or at the back of my head, that they were not only standing too close but were actually being a menace! I am only 5’6” tall and fairly slight, but am I really that insignificant? Don’t I command any thought that perhaps I too needed to see across the barrier and crowd to be able to identify the girls coming through? The so called etiquette expert was in a dilemma, having leaned away as far as I could and shifted position several times, I wondered if I should just come right out and say something, but wary of making a scene and having to explain why I needed more space to peer into the revolving doors without having my head knocked off by their arms, I instead retreated, cowed, to another position further along the line.

Then of course the usual bug bear of earphones and obsessive checking of mobiles kicked in – too easy now for us to be totally absorbed in checking emails and texts whilst being unaware of anyone around us and also where we are standing or worse still walking with heads down! Stop it, please!

If walking in a crocodile or a line, we were always taught to keep up just as we are told when driving to keep up with the traffic.   A good rule to follow and again, the mobile phone users take note: don’t suddenly stop in the street or in a crowded area and check your damn phone! Move to one side and be aware of your surroundings. When on the phone give yourself space. Apart from the safety aspect, do we all really need to listen to you telling your friend what you are having for dinner?

Allow others to come through a door or exit a taxi or a lift before you try to get in. Hold a lift door or a heavy door instead of pretending not to notice or perhaps even worse, not noticing. If you are standing near a lift button, ask your fellow travellers which floor they need instead of making them squeeze past you to press the required button.

Personal space is a term used to define the physical distance between two people in a social, family or business environment. It is an invisible shield, formed around you to create a distance, and is important not only for privacy and security, but for our own feeling of personal safety now too. Years ago I was mugged on my way back from the office to home just a mile or so away on foot; since I was approached from behind and held at knifepoint, I have been highly aware of anyone coming up close behind me from that day. I realise that has perhaps made me a bit paranoid, but the rule of thumb applies: the comfort zone is a few feet unless you know someone exceptionally well. So everyone, let’s try to keep a distance of 3-10 feet for public spaces and if crowds allow, 4-12 feet is best. And, whilst we are on the subject, don’t tailgate on the airport slip road either; we all want to get home too!

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We Celebrate Our Queen’s Achievement This Week

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

I am going to indulge myself a little this month and hark back to my career roots in The Royal Household of Her Majesty The Queen.  This month marks the spectacular achievement of Her Majesty’s tenure as the longest reigning monarch in our history, and The English Manner offers every congratulation to The Queen.

A quite remarkable woman, as a former employee I have only warm and happy memories of my time in the Household and having the honour to interact with the Royal Family; and as a subject of the United Kingdom, I have the utmost admiration and respect for our Queen.

Her Majesty has never put a foot wrong and, as someone put it on the wireless today, her reign has seen the invention of the Mini, the internet, Facebook, numerous terrible conflicts and too many changes of Government to mention, but The Queen remains a constant and whether a Republican or a Royalist, one has to admire that tenacity and durability.  This monarch has without doubt given us tremendous stability in times of worldwide strife.

Her Majesty became the longest reigning British Monarch on 9th September 2015

Her Majesty became the longest reigning British   Monarch on 9th September 2015

We have been fortunate enough this year to lead cultural learning experiences for guests from China and America as well as some from other parts of the world.  As part of these programmes we have shown the power of the British Monarchy in tourism and it is without doubt one of our greatest exports!  We have enjoyed exclusive private tours of Kensington Palace, The Crown Jewels and the Tower of London, The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace and indeed, Buckingham Palace itself.  This year’s exhibit of the arrangements for a State Banquet are absolutely superb and I am sure the wonderful late Master of the Household Sir Peter Ashmore would be thrilled to see how it has been laid out to show visitors how it is done.

For our part, as we consistently teach to British Royal Standards, I am delighted that we have been able to showcase table settings and placements, and decorations the way we have been alluding to for years!  A truly super exhibit, and for those who have not yet seen it, I urge a visit before it closes on 27th September.

We have once again this year been to Sandringham House, and I hosted a very special group at that most beloved Scottish castle, Balmoral.  Remodelled extensively by Queen Victoria, I was struck this time by the restoration of the gardens and the new visitor centre facilities.  It must be 25 years since my last visit, and memories of the Summer Court and long stays as the nights drew in were abundant as we arrived in glorious warm sunshine to be greeted by a guide who remembered my time there in the 1980s!

The beautiful cottage where we Household girls stayed boasts a new kitchen but looked pretty much the same otherwise, and I will always remember the wonderfully kind Housekeeper taking pity on me as I shivered on the Highland evenings and allowed me a two bar electric fire in my room to keep me warm as well as the must have dram of whisky!

Sandringham House

Sandringham House

A journey to Balmoral is quite a long one from most parts of the country, but it is well worth the visit.  The Royal Whisky Distillery at Lochnagar is a superb tour; a more commercial one than the smallest distillery at Edradour (worth visiting en route at Pitlochry to see the difference between the two) and there are wonderful walks around the Estate itself.  Not open to visitors whilst Her Majesty is there over the summer months, but certainly one to head up the list for 2016 if you have a chance.

The visitor centre at Balmoral is superb, and if you peep inside the church at Crathie Kirk, you will see remnants of generations of the real Royal Family; a real live family, of grandparents, children, grandchildren and friends, who gather together with the occasional official visit from the Prime Minister or others, on their summer holidays, worshipping each Sunday in their local church.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle

As the summer, such as we have seen it, draws to a close and the nights and mornings darken, we wish Her Majesty many more years on the throne, and a very happy summer holiday at Balmoral!

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Announcing our new ‘Three-Day Masterclass in Protocol’

Monday, August 31st, 2015

The English Manner and the Protocolbureau have joined forces and developed a practical protocol training in Brussels, London and The Hague

Want to know how to manage a visit of a high-level delegation or a national day? How to handle formal written communication? How to navigate a formal dinner? How to be aware of the sensitivities when placing guests? What is the right order of precedence and which guests rank most highly? After completing this three-day masterclass, you will be equipped to meet the challenges and complexities of modern protocol management.

The English Manner and the Protocolbureau will teach you all the basics of international protocol and etiquette, and the management of high-level events. You will be inspired, gain insight and indispensible knowledge and skills. You will become proficient in preparing meetings with dignitaries and become an advisor for colleagues.

The course is ideal for embassy staff, those working for international or multi-lateral organisations, public relations and public affairs specialists, personal assistants, event planners, communication experts and protocol officers.

The Three-Day Masterclass in Protocol of The English Manner (London, United Kingdom) and the Protocolbureau (The Hague, Netherlands) will be held in Brussels (December), London (November) and The Hague (October).

The English Manner is a worldwide operating organisation founded by Alexandra Messervy, formerly of the Royal Household of Her Majesty The Queen. The Protocolbureau is the number one protocol expert of the Netherlands.

The training will be given among other by the Honorary Chamberlain and former Master of Ceremonies of H.M. Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, Gilbert Monod de Froideville, former BBC newsreader Diana Mather, the UK’s leading etiquette expert William Hanson, and the Head of Protocol, Events & Visits of the International Criminal Court, Bengt-Arne Hulleman.

”With the worldwide expertise of both organisations we are able to offer a truly unique practical protocol training that covers all the basics in only three days” – Jean Paul Wyers, director of the Protocolbureau

For more information please visit:

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Scented Manners

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Most of us have experienced the overwhelming heady feeling when standing next to someone who is wearing a very strong or far too much perfume (always called scent by the upper classes).

It overpowers every sense, can cause headaches and sickness, and generally has a negative affect on the virtual recipient. If one is to wear scent, before it is applied, think about the occasion and what that calls for, and remember that less is more.


Perfume too strong

Follow rules of business; some companies do not allow it to be worn at all, and if there is food or wine involved, then very often fragrance is barred due to dulling of the senses. Some colleagues may be allergic or asthmatic, so beware when applying it for a business meeting or event.

Never overdo it. Apply lightly once when dressing and do not refresh during the day. The perfume will develop as the application warms on the skin and is very different a couple of hours later to the first application. To overlay is not good, but the best application is to overlay perhaps with perfume, and body lotion or powder for a light but intense burst.

In the evening you can wear a little more but during the day usually err on wearing none at all or very little.

Over time, every fragrance gets stale, and open bottles last only about six months, even when very expensive. Be ruthless and discard, don’t be tempted to wear an old one; it can cause irritation on the skin or allergic reactions and can also smell acidic.

Don’t apply in public.

Don’t spritz on your clothes, it can stain and damage delicate fabrics.

Seek specifics to suit the season, a heavier fragrance is more appropriate in the winter months and a light floral in summer.

Apply sparingly, at the pulse points; behind the ears, on the wrist and behind your knees.

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Royal Family Traditions at Easter

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Much of the world is gearing up for Easter this week, and certainly for the Christian faith, this is a major festival in the religious calendar. The giving of Easter Eggs is to celebrate new life; the symbol of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and a cracked open egg stands for the empty tomb.

Over the centuries, ordinary eggs were boiled and decorated with hand painting using vegetable dyes and latterly we have turned to one of our favourite confections, chocolate. For young and old alike, Easter and chocolate have become synonymous and a treat to look forward to as winter turns to spring. Eggs are traditionally given on Easter Sunday (again in line with Jesus rising from the dead), and although many households will also eat a Simnel Cake that afternoon for tea, the origins of this were for servant girls to bake the cake for Mothering Sunday in Lent and take home to see their mothers.


A traditional Simnel Cake

A traditional Simnel Cake

The Royal Family like to celebrate Easter with as many of the group together as they can, and traditionally The Queen and the Royal Court move to Windsor Castle for the celebration. Usually staying for a few weeks, The Queen often hosts a State Visit around that time at Windsor, and she also uses the opportunity to entertain frequently.

A popular Easter Court tradition is ‘Dine and Sleep’ invitations. Being so close to London, guests are encouraged to drive out to the Castle in time to enjoy cocktails after changing for dinner (black tie of course!), and spend the night afterwards, departing after breakfast next day. This harks back to a tradition from the Victorian era when there were no cars or chauffeurs to take guests back to London for the night and a carriage ride would take too long! Nowadays, it would take just 40 minutes, but in the Royal Household many traditions are upheld, and this is always a much-coveted invitation.

In this way, Her Majesty manages to entertain very many guests all together from a variety of backgrounds; politics, the arts, industry and education, and they get to enjoy the magnificent setting of Europe’s oldest inhabited Castle, albeit with many aeroplanes whizzing overhead on the Heathrow Airport flight path!

The beautiful Windsor Castle

The beautiful Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is a truly wondrous estate and within the boundary walls is the stunning St George’s Chapel. Here, The Queen and members of the Royal Family will gather for the traditional Easter Day service before a formal lunch which usually offers very similar fare to our traditions at home; Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, and often a simple fish or egg starter, perhaps the Queen Mother’s old favourite of Eggs Drumkilbo (a lovely concoction of lobster, eggs and mayonnaise rather like an upmarket prawn cocktail and thankfully also available at the renowned Goring Hotel!), and apple pie, often served with vanilla ice cream (a la Mode), another favourite.

Members of the Royal Family take up most of the bedrooms and suites in the Castle over Easter, and almost certainly The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall; the Princess Royal and her family; and the Earl and Countess of Wessex will be present. Some members of the inner circle of the Household will be on duty and asked as guests, but the main celebrations are family orientated at this time of year as they often are in our own families.

After several Dine & Sleeps, and potentially a State Visit, there is sometimes very little space between Easter and the early May Royal Windsor Horse Show, when Her Majesty is always on hand to spectate and members of the Family regularly take part. From there, it is usually time to head back to London for the first of the Social Season, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, about which we will write more another time!

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