top of page

Thank you for your question! Laura Windsor will answer you shortly.

What is the difference between manners and etiquette?

Is Etiquette for 'posh' people?

How do I address my boss at a social function?

Have a question to ask?

  Ask Laura Windsor

Q&A on Etiquette

Etiquette Questions & Answers

Question: A work colleague goes a bit overboard on the perfume. What can I do? My head aches every day from the fragrance.        Ben from London, UK asks

A. In Western culture,  especially in business, perfume should not arrive before you do or linger after you have gone. Light perfume or men's cologne can be appealing, but it has to be light. It should only have a supporting role in your image and complement rather than hurt your image. Because people are sensitive or even be allergic to perfume, it is important that people are aware of just how much perfume they are wearing. 

The most direct route is, if you are good friends, to speak to this colleague directly and explain the situation. If you feel this person may react badly or you feel uncomfortable doing this, you could let your manager or HR deal with it as they may have more options, such as switching offices or assignments.

Question: When I'm standing in a business setting I never know what to do with my arms and hands. I'm very conscious of them.      Wendy, from London, UK asks

A. You want to appear as natural as possible. Standing completely still with arms frozen at your side won't feel or look natural. On the other hand, fluid, graceful movements are good. If you are explaining something and want to animate a point using your hands, that is fine. Try placing your hands together just above your belly button, without clenching your fingers.

Q. The other evening, someone used my bread plate so I ended up not eating any bread and I was starving. I avoided say something even though I was tempted. Was that the right thing to do?      Jeff, from England, asks

A. Yes, you behaved appropriately. Having manners means never pointing out another person's etiquette faux-pas and embarrassing them. That is the height of bad manners. There is nothing graceful about making others feel awkward or ill at ease. No matter how frustrated you may have felt. I believe that once you know the rules, you can sometimes break them. In this instant, you could have placed the roll on the rim of your main plate and no one would have thought any less of you!

Q.What do I do if I have to sneeze and I don’t have time to excuse myself from the table or have a hanky on me?         Shaida, from Saudi Arabia, asks

A. Eating isn’t particularly an attractive maneouvre, it is a place where we immediately react to the slightest deviation from what we regard as being polite.
Napkins should never be used as dishcloths or handkerchiefs, they are there to dab lips and collect crumbs that fall onto your lap. This is the reason why it is always handy to have a handkerchief nearby. I do not advocate sneezing into your elbow or shoulder at the table. If you feel a sneeze coming on and all you have is the napkin, it is always advisable to turn your head away and use the napkin as a shield. When it is an emergency, common sense always prevails. Then excuse yourself, take the napkin with you and go to the bathroom. After you have freshened up, ask for a new napkin.

Q. In a business setting, should I wait for a lady to extend her hand first? 
Neil, from England, asks

A. No. In a business setting, it is not gender that prevails. It all boils down to rank. If the lady is the higher-ranking person or the host, you should wait for her to offer her hand. If she does not, be ready to take the matter into your own hands.

Q. Should you extend your pinkie finger when drinking from a teacup?
Melanie, from Ireland, asks 

A. No, this is not correct practice. There is nothing refined about raising a crooked pinky finger whilst drinking tea or anything else for that matter. You may have seen a young Queen Elizabeth II in the TV series 'The Crown' following suit, but it is incorrect. Since Ancient Rome, a cultured person would eat with three fingers, while a commoner wth five. Extending one's pinkie finger was, therefore, a way of distinguishing one's status quo.

Q. Is there a difference between manners and etiquette or is it the same thing?      
Teresa, from USA, asks

A. There is a saying: We put Etiquette rules in our head, we carry Manners in our heart.
Manners take into consideration other people. Treating people the way you would like to be treated. It's about tweaking your behaviour to suit the situation, so that you don't embarrass or offend someone. Etiquette, on the other hand, is a set of rules by which a society lives, which   may change across cultures. It’s about learning how to fit in socially, in order to achieve your goals and feel a sense of belonging. Etiquette is not carved in stone; it changes and adapts with the times.

Q. Is it true it's incorrect to call Afternoon Tea, High Tea?     Janice, from Dubai, asks

A.Yes, that is correct, Janice. A lot of hotels around the world call it High Tea, because they think it sounds more elegant and exclusive. Unfortunately there is nothing elegant about it. High Tea was the main meal of the day for workers who returned home after a hard day's work  in the fields, factories, shops and mines during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. This meal was served on a high table and consisted of bread, cold meats, ale, sausages, cheese, tea, meat pies and other hearty foods.

bottom of page