Debrett's guide to modern dilemmas: kissing, e-cigarettes and doing make-up on the tube
For nearly 250 years, it has advised the British public on the finer points of social etiquette, from how to write a thank you note to what to do when one meets the Queen.
Now, Debrett’s has lifted the lid on its very modern guide to good manners for the first time, disclosing the questions that most trouble the British public in 2014.
Mobile phone use
Debrett’s receive more enquiries about mobile use than any other device. According to Debrett’s, it is always rude to pay more attention to a phone than a person in the flesh, and they should always be put away when transacting other business – for example, when you're paying for something in a shop. They should be switched off in theatres, cinemas (including during the trailers!), art galleries, or any space where silence is desired.
Smoking e-cigarettes at work
As electronic cigarettes become more popular, so to do the number of enquiries that Debrett’s receive on the device. The most pressing question is whether they are acceptable in the workplace. According to Debrett’s they should never be used in a work environment. Vaping shows that you’re not focused on your work and may also be a distraction to your colleagues.
Social greeting: kissing
Many people are clearly unclear on the subject of social kissing. According to Debrett’s, kissing is not appropriate in many professional situations. On the whole it should only be used among friends, but not on first meeting. An air kiss, without contact, may seem rude or impersonal, so very slight contact is best but no sound effects are needed.
Eating and applying make-up on public transport
Debrett’s has been inundated with enquiries as to whether it’s acceptable to eat or apply make-up on public transport. According to Debrett’s you should avoid both. It’s inconsiderate to eat smelly food in a confined environment, and applying make-up on public transport can jeopardise that all-important first impression and make you appear disorganised.
Reclining your seat on aeroplanes
This is a common bugbear. According to Debrett’s, it's selfish to recline your seat back during short daytime flights. When travelling by plane always stay within your own designated space and don't hog the armrest. Also avoid kicking the back of the seat in front of you or using it as an aid to standing-up.
Giving up your seat on public transport
In a recent university experiment only 20 per cent of London tube passengers offered to give up their seat to a visibly pregnant woman. According to Debrett’s, passengers should always offer to give up their seat to any individual that is pregnant, elderly, or clearly in need. It is important to remember, however, that it is just as rude to aggressively decline the offer of a seat as it is to not offer a seat.
Blind copying (bcc)
Debrett’s receive a high level of enquiries on best business practice. The most commonly asked question is whether it is ever right to blind copy (bcc) someone into an email. According to Debrett’s, blind copying should be used discerningly as it is deceptive to the primary recipient. Instead, the email should be forwarded on to the third party, with a short note explaining any confidentiality, after its distribution.
If blind copying is essential – i.e. for a confidential document where all recipients must remain anonymous – then the sender should address the email to themselves, and everyone else as ‘bcc’ recipients.
Eating before everyone is served
The final question is one that we’ve all asked ourselves: is it rude to start eating at the table before everyone else has been served? According to Debrett’s the simple answer is yes, unless the host or hostess gives their permission for diners to start.