A Note from America – Tipping Differences

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

A frequent comment I hear from American friends who have travelled to London and the United Kingdom is, “Gosh, everything is so expensive and your VAT is 20%”; however, upon returning to my American home state in January, I was not prepared for the amount and frequency that I have to tip.

Service is added on to the bill automatically now both in America and the UK

Service is now added on to the bill automatically both in America and the UK

Yes, UK sales tax is higher than the 7% that we pay here in Georgia, but tipping in pubs is rare, and “service” in restaurants is usually 10-12.5%. For salon appointments, 10% is still the norm. In the US, however, one is expected to tip for all services – anywhere from 5% (for counter service/take away) to 15-20% for restaurants and beauty treatments. Those are the biggies, but let’s not forget baggage carriers, taxi drivers, delivery people, hotel maids and concierges. In restaurants, a bill will often arrive with listings for tips at 15%, 18% and 20%, thus making it easier to know how much to leave. In a cocktail bar, each drink should be rewarded with $2-3 or 20% of the total bill. There is even an app called “Tip N Split” which calculates the amount each person should contribute, including the tip, when a bill is shared.


Available Apps now make splitting the bill easier to calculate

Available Apps now make splitting the bill easier to calculate

My own hairdresser said that it’s rare for her to receive a 10% tip and that the majority of her clients tip close to 20%. For my last cut and colour, the tip alone was $38, which I rounded up to $40. Recently, upon paying for a beauty treatment, I noticed a sign at the till that politely suggested amounts based on time with the therapist. In this case, the tip was based on minutes. Bearing in mind that this lady was a registered nurse (discretion prevents me from revealing the full nature of the treatment), I did feel a bit awkward about tipping someone that I considered a “professional.”

As parking spaces are at a premium in Atlanta, valet parking is required for many restaurants and even some shops.  Most of these establishments オンライン カジノ provide complimentary valet parking, but one must tip the driver. This is usually $2 to $5, depending on the venue. At this same level of tipping, I include coat check and bathroom attendants. Additionally, many of us now use alternative taxi services such as Uber. Giving a strong tip raises one’s profile and increases the chances of a quicker collection.

OK, so these are my own experiences but when did the tipping culture become rampant? According to C. A Pinkham’s article “The Gratuitous Injustice of American Tipping Culture,” it began “… in 1991, [when] restaurant industry lobbyists helped push through an amendment that uncoupled the tipped minimum wage from the Federal minimum wage. The minimum wage for tipped employees has been frozen under Federal law at $2.13/hour ever since. Despite the fact that the minimum wage for non-tipped employees has since increased from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour, the tipped minimum wage has not budged one cent in over two decades.” It is not my intention to instigate a political discussion with the above statement, but one can certainly see why those, especially in restaurants, and many in the service industry must depend on tips to increase their wage.

So for now, I will continue to carry $1 bills in my purse and will tip accordingly. Personally, I would prefer to tip 15% and leave a glowing (when deserved) online review of services received.



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A Note from The Colony: a Question of Cheese!

Friday, May 1st, 2015

It is almost ten years now since I left the rolling hills and stunning coastline of Dorset that I had called home for more decades than I would care to share, to head south to the ‘land of plenty’ and all that it promised.

One might be forgiven for thinking that moving to a country so intrinsically linked with British rules and customs would be a relatively easy transition to make, particularly since we share the same language (although that could be argued at times), but despite these common denominators I continue to be fascinated by the differences in customs here in Australia to those observed in Britain. My conclusion is that this wonderful country embraces so well the diversity of its multicultural influences, that it has forged its own style and form of etiquette to enrich us all with a sense of history and belonging to a wider global community.

With that in mind, I thought I would share with you ‘what’s what and what’s not’ here in the colony, and our first port (pun not intended) of call is cheese!

Cheese Board

A stunning platter of cheeses


Once a month, just a stone’s throw across the Barwon River from my home here in Victoria, the local farmers can be heard setting up stalls amongst the native river red gums, silver wattle and woolly tea trees, very early on a Saturday morning. Like farmer’s markets in towns and cities across Britain, the trestle tables groan with the weight of the most splendid array of locally grown fruit and vegetables, grass-fed meat and, to my mind the pièce de résistance, cheese.

Cheese is as popular here in Australia as it is in Britain, but what separates the two nations is the point at which the cheese is served during a meal. With the strong Italian influence (the fourth largest ethnic group in Australia) it has brought about the widespread inclusion of cheese on the antipasto platter which is traditionally eaten, as the Italian name suggests, ‘before the meal’.

During summer, when Mr R and I have friends round for casual drinks, alfresco, we always serve a substantial cheeseboard, together with locally grown olives, chilli and fennel salami, home-made pesto, crostini and crackers, some olive sourdough bread and perhaps a fig & fennel paste. Of course, the trick is to be fairly speedy in enjoying its delights before the heat has us and our guests compelled to seek refuge in the cool and comfort of the air conditioning. There is of course a second reason: any significant rise in temperature will have the cheese ‘running’ and sweating so profusely that it will spoil rapidly which is tantamount to sacrilege in my book.


Enjoying alfresco dining is one of life's great pleasures

Enjoying alfresco dining is one of life’s great pleasures

When Mr R and I host a dinner party English style, even though my good husband is Australian, our guests who hail from all corners of the globe will witness the traditional way to serve cheese – after the pudding (and there exists a moot point, more of which later in another blog, perhaps!).

The cheese is selected to provide for a broad range of tastes and textures, and it should ALWAYS be served at room temperature to ensure a full flavour. Ideally, the cheeseboard should include the following: a soft cheese (d’Affinois is my favourite now widely available in some of our better delicatessens here in Victoria); a hard cheese such as a cheddar (Warrnambool Heritage extra tasty is a good one); a mild cheese which might include a goat’s cheese; and a sharp cheese, perhaps a blue brie (Tarago Shadows of Blue is outstanding in my opinion) or a Stilton (yes, available here in my local greengrocer).

The cheese should be presented beautifully ensuring that it is also arranged, and eaten, in order from the mildest through to the strongest. A separate cheese knife for each cheese is a must, as is providing a Stilton ‘scoop’ if serving the Stilton as a truckle (whole). Never, never take the ‘nose’ off the cheese; that’s almost as heinous as saving the pork crackling for yourself and giving your guests the overcooked morsels. Instead cut the cheese like a slice of cake ensuring the pointed end of the cheese is always intact.

Remember to include some fruit, grapes are best, but Muscatel raisins are a perfectly acceptable accompaniment, and some sticks of celery displayed in a celery glass add interest and texture.

And finally, if there is just one wine, fortified or otherwise, that I would suggest as a pairing with a selection of mixed cheese, a glass of Champagne it is – as if one needed an excuse at all !

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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 in France (Part 2)

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Like everything in France, commercial Christmas fashion changes each year.  Last year, window and other public displays were filled with black-flocked Christmas trees decorated in white and silver.  It was stylish, in a depressing, macabre kind of way.  This year our town has chosen turquoise and silver which is, in all honesty, a more cheerful option.

No matter the color or the fashion, though, Christmas in France is, like everything else here, really all about food and those trends don’t change.  Of course people make a stab at decorating their homes, and most people I know go to midnight Mass.  But it’s all a prelude to the real moment of importance – one of the biggest feasts of the year.

As I’ve grown fond of the traditions here, I’ve fallen in love with the foods of the season.  Always an oyster fan, here I’ve become oyster-obsessed.  My Christmas season includes as many of them as I can reasonably consume, always washed down with a highly chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet.  My favorites this year will be the lean, hauntingly briny oysters from St. Vaast, just off the coast of the Cotentin peninsula.  Easy to open, easier to slurp, I serve them neat, no lemon or shallot and vinegar concoction to dilute their purity.

Along with them, in my household, will be the noble scallop.  I bring them home in their shells rather than ask the fishmonger to shuck them, preferring to pry them loose myself. I slice the first few very thin to serve raw, with a little “filet” or drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fleur de sel.  These I offer to the guests who populate the kitchen, and they are often greeted with caution – the French don’t tend to eat a lot of raw seafood.  Once sampled, however, the slices disappear in a haze of favorable commentary.

The remaining scallops I leave in their cupped shells, drizzle with butter, and bake quickly so they emerge just warm in the center.  Sublime.

This year I’ve introduced a new dish to my family and friends.  It consists of raw lobster meat extracted from the shell of the elegant blue beasts that live all along the northern coast of France.  I cut the translucent, red-tinged meat into thin “escalopes,” or angled slices. These I arrange in buttered dishes, drizzle with a bit of intensely flavored fish stock, sprinkle with tarragon from the garden, and bake in a hot oven for less than five minutes.  The lobster emerges with an unparalleled, conversation-stopping  purity of flavor and texture that is almost holy. I serve it with a gently chilled white Burgundy.  We’re still in the kitchen which is a-light with candles and a fire burning in the fireplace.  It speaks of celebration, and is a wonderful way to begin a festive meal.

Leaving aside the briny realm for a moment, the Christmas season also ushers in chestnuts, which abound in our local forests. We gather them – this year’s harvest has given exceptionally large and meaty ones – and I roast them in the fireplace, or boil them in water scented with star-anise.  Apples are at their utmost during this season, too, and I take a nice, tart variety like Cox Orange Pippin, peel it, and slice it very thin.   I  brush the slices on both sides with butter and sprinkle them lightly with a mixture of ground cinnamon, cumin, and fleur de sel. These I bake long and slow and they emerge sweet and salty, crisp and scrumptious.

For Christmas we always make a bûche de Noel.  I don’t care for the typical light, airy kind, and instead use a recipe I got from a Basque farmer. The cake is dense and cinnamon-scented, the filling a beguiling blend of chestnut paste and chocolate, the frosting a semi-sweet ganache. I make meringue mushrooms, and we create a little forest scene on the top of our “bûche.”

All of this is memories-in-the-making, which is one of the best parts of Christmas, whether it be enjoyed in our country of origin, or our country of choice.  From briny beginning to sweet finish, I wish you your own memory-filled moment, and leave you with a recipe to duplicate.  Bonne Année!

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