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Social Etiquette Tips

Apart from the work place on a day to day basis we get to interact with people on a social capacity. During this interaction there are expected norms and behaviours that make for effective communication and enhanced relationships with our friends and loved ones. Something as basic as how we eat, what our mothers referred to as “table manners”, how we use the bathroom or restroom can make or break relationships or determine   how one is perceived by others. Then there are special occasions like funerals and weddings   which bring a diverse set of people together. For the event   to run smoothly there are some expected “good manners”.

In the Bathroom

Make sure that toilet paper, soap and hand towels are available for use. This is not only hygienic but is also courteous   to ones guests.

Ensure that you do not engage in personal or business conversations when in public restrooms, not every body needs to know your stuff. In the same breathe don’t chat on your mobile phone when in the toilet. Imagine a scenario where someone in the next booth flushes the toilet, and the person that you are conversing with on the phone gets to hear. This is discourteous.

Please knock first before you enter a toilet to ensure that no one is inside. This will save you embarrassing moments in case you stumble by someone doing “their stuff”’. Closely related to this tip is to ensure that the door is firmly closed or better still locked when you are attending to yourself in the toilet.

Flush the toilet and ensure that there is no evidence that you used the toilet. Go a step further and use air freshener if it has been provided for.  Dispose off personal hygiene products in the bin provided.  Remember that only toilet paper should be flushed in the toilet. Other things can block the toilet.

Wash your hands after using the toilet.

If in a public restroom, ladies do not use the mirror all to yourself. Let other ladies use the mirror and attend to their personal grooming too.

 When eating

It is common courtesy to wait until your host starts eating or indicates that you should begin eating. After you have been served food whether in a home or restaurant set up say, “Thank You”.

Many a time a table napkin is provided, this should be put across ones lap and should be used to clean off bits of food from ones mouth. This napkin should not be used to blow ones nose.

Close your mouth when chewing food.

Do not put too much food in your mouth and do not talk with food in your mouth.  One should not make noises when eating food.

Desist from picking food out of your teeth with fingers, ask for a toothpick instead.

Soup should be taken from the side of the spoon after tipping the bowl to one side.

Never take food from your neighbour’s plate.

Just like we learned when we were children, there should be no elbows on the table while eating.

Ask for the bowl of food to be passed to you rather than reaching over someone’s plate.

If in a restaurant pay for your food by putting the money on the plate when the bill comes.

If using fork and knife remember that unless one is left handed the knife is normally on the right hand and the fork on the left hand. Closely related to this is that one should never lick or put the knife in ones mouth.

In a Funeral

Funerals are sad occasions as it is when family members, friends and colleagues of the dearly departed  come to pay their last respect. However, it is not wrong to remember happy and humorous memories with the deceased when celebrating their lives in the funeral.

Express your condolences to the bereaved family in simple terms.

Sign the condolence book. This is a precious memento for the deceased’s family and they will keep on referring to it in days to come.

It is okay to give a cash contribution to the family to help offset funeral costs. Some   families may give instructions on what kind of donations they would appreciate in the passing of their loved one e.g. donation to a charity. Even helping out in cooking meals for guests is a good contribution for a family that has been bereaved.

Dress appropriately for a funeral.  These days funerals are perceived more as celebration of life, so dress smartly, even to impress but stick to dark coloured hues.

Keep in touch with the family after the funeral as that is when the family needs the support the most, long after the throngs of friends and relatives have left.

In a wedding

Once one has been invited to a wedding it is good to confirm to the people who have invited one on ones absence or presence in the wedding. Likewise adhere to the number of people   that the invitation accommodates. This aids in planning purposes as most weddings are planned on budget.

Dress to impress in a wedding. This will make the couple’s weddings photos look good and add a celebratory air in the happy occasion.  If a dress code has been given, please follow it. One generally accepted rule is that no one should wear white in a wedding except the bride. One should not steal the thunder from the bride’s special day.

It is courteous to give the bride and groom a wedding gift. Give what you can afford and what is appropriate. Many a time it is the thought that counts and not necessarily the cost of the gift. Likewise the bride and groom should never demand of gifts from their guests. It should be according to their discretion. The bride and groom should ensure they thank all who gave them a gift on their special day.

This article brings an end to a focus on Etiquette for this month. Happy good manners are wished to all!


“Wacha niKwambie”
June 2018 – “ I am Beautiful”
A focus on Etiquette and Personal Grooming

© Kwambie Nyambane,