National Etiquette Differences in Europe/Rules of Etiquette

Rules of EtiquetteEdit

EatingEdit

 
Different drinks are more popular in different regions of Europe. Red indicates the popularity of wine, yellow indicates the popularity of beer, and blue indicates the popularity of vodka.
  • It is often impolite to begin eating before others are ready to begin, or to eat in front of another person without offering to share. Typically all wait for the host, eldest person present or guest of honor to say "let's begin" in some way.
  • In a situation such as a large banquet table or a restaurant where the waiter has failed to bring all food to the table at the same time, it is gracious to insist that others begin eating first while their meals are still warm.
  • It is good manners to hold the knife in the right hand and the fork in the other throughout the meal. This contrasts with the "zig zag method" that is a hallmark of good table manners in the USA. Crossing one's cutlery on the plate means one is taking a break but has not finished eating. Upon finishing a meal, the knife and fork should be left more or less parallel or else it hints that one hasn't eaten enough.[1]
  • Resting one's hands under the table or one's elbow on it is considered inappropriate.

FlowersEdit

 
Chrysanthemums are only appropriate for funerals.
  • In many areas of Europe, even numbers of flowers fewer than a dozen are appropriate only for funerals. This rule does not apply to larger arrangements. Also, certain flowers (such as chrysanthemums) are given only at funerals and most florists will advise against them. As red roses typically connote romantic feeling, they are inappropriate for other circumstances.[1]

GesturesEdit

  • Avoid hand gestures with which one is unfamiliar; many hand gestures are impolite. Also, some gestures have different meanings in different cultures. For example, a variation of the thumb-to-index finger "okay" sign is an obscene gesture in some European countries.

HandshakesEdit

  • Shaking hands while wearing gloves is widely considered impolite. This does not apply to gloves for women designed to be worn indoors.[2]

Hats and coatsEdit

  • Among many segments of the European population, it is considered rude for men to wear hats or other head coverings indoors, especially in regard to churches, private homes and respected public institution.[3]
  • Anyone wearing coats, boots and other outer garments inside someone’s home is often frowned upon as well. Sitting down at the table to eat with a hat, outerwear or other inappropriate attire is even worse.[4]
  • These rules are sometimes disregarded if the head wear is worn for religious purposes such as a Jewish Kippah, or a Muslim's headscarf.

LanguageEdit

  • Rules of language belong more to a language textbook than this article, but do remember that some languages mark familiarity and/or respect using methods such as the T-V distinction. This often applies to common phrases such as "how are you?", that are sometimes learned in isolation (such as from phrase books).[5]
  • Addressing people with the inappropriately familiar form may be seen as derogatory, insulting, or even aggressive. Conversely, forms that are inappropriately formal may be seen as impolitely snobbish.[6]

LuckEdit

  • Some things formerly prohibited by superstitions surrounding bad luck remain as examples of bad manners. Opening an umbrella indoors and accepting a light for a cigarette after two others are two examples.[7]

MoneyEdit

  • Talking or asking about one's personal wealth, possessions is viewed as vulgar and abusive of one's privacy. Even enquiring how successful one is in business is reserved to close relations. People will rarely say how much money they make or have in the bank, nor will they request such information from someone else. It is also impolite to ask colleagues about their salary. Even where the salary are publicly known, like with governmental employees', it is still considered extremely rude to ask or openly discuss how much individuals earn.

NamesEdit

  • In many parts of Europe, it is inappropriate to use someone's first name until a certain level of friendship is attained. Typically, this formality is maintained until one person, typically the elder of the two or generally one with higher standing in society (for example woman to man, elder to younger, bood on company occasions to employee etc.), says “you may call me (first name)” and the other person responds in kind. Even in areas where this guideline holds true it probably doesn't apply among people below a certain age group nor in some very informal settings.[8]

PointingEdit

  • Pointing at people with the index finger is widely regarded as at least mildly impolite. Pointing with the entire hand is more commonly accepted. Pointing with the middle finger is an obscene gesture in most European countries.

SeatingEdit

  • Good manners dictate that in most situations, people in apparent good health surrender their seats to the elderly, handicapped people and pregnant women. Men often surrender their seats to women regardless of other factors.

SocksEdit

  • White socks, including the style associated with athleticism in the USA, are widely regarded as inappropriate to wear with anything else than sneakers and may prompt snickering. Tennis courts are a specific exception. Men wearing socks with sandals (including Crocs) would also be a source of amusement, except in Germany.

VisitingEdit

  • Many Europeans feel it is rude to visit someone's home without bringing a token gift such as sweets, a small toy for the host's child, a beverage to be shared, a book they know the host will enjoy, or flowers. Even young people who observe this custom less stringently enjoy being on the receiving end.
  • This custom holds true whether answering an invitation or dropping by unexpectedly, although the latter is almost certainly a faux pas unless the host has previously indicated that such surprise visits are welcome.

WeddingsEdit

  • In some European wedding traditions, wearing white is reserved for the bride. Women especially should avoid dressing in white or colors that could be mistaken for white in a dimly lit banquet hall. White combined with other colors (such as a white blouse with an outfit) is fine. Avoid wearing a dress more elegant or ostentatious than the bride's own.
  • Black is not very appropriate for weddings. Dark blue and dark brown are fine. Men in black suits should balance that with an element such as a brightly colored neck tie to avoid looking like one is dressed for a funeral.
  • In some European countries, it's customary to wear the wedding band on the right hand, in others on the left hand, and in some cultures with the groom wearing the band on his right and the bride on her left. Widows and widowers often move the band to the other hand.
  • Engagement bands in lieu of stone-set engagement rings are customary in some places, for both the man and the woman. These are often smaller, and most often go on the opposite hand of the wedding bands.

ReferencesEdit

  1. a b Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Window on the World
  2. "Bartelby's". http://www.bartelby.net/95/3.html. 
  3. Victorian Age Etiquette
  4. Victorian Age Etiquette
  5. Hervey Sandor, Ian Higgins, Sandor G J Hervey. (2002) Thinking French Translation, Routledge (UK). p. 46. ISBN 0-415-25522-8.
  6. Michel Walter Pharand. (2001) Bernard Shaw and the French, University Press of Florida. p. 113. ISBN 0-8130-1828-5.
  7. Almanac
  8. Cultural Tips