How Bon Ton can get you out of uncomfortable situations

Image by Wired

Have you ever been in that situation where you didn’t know whether you should tell a person in front of you that they have something stuck between her teeth?
Have you ever been introduced to someone and you didn’t really know wether you should shake hands, or just smile or say something?
Well, bon ton, or “good manners”, are here to help you. First of all, what is it? Bon Ton is a set of rules, a protocol, that people from the bourgeoisie had to follow back in the days. Nowadays it is strictly followed only by royals or at very formal events. However, sometimes it is useful to know how to behave.

Here are some of the rules that I believe can still be considered relevant in modern times:

1. If you are hosting a party at your house, therefore you are the host, you have the responsibility to make the introductions. Remember, it’s the person with the lowest level that should be introduced to the person with the higher level. For example: Your partner should be introduced to your parents and never the opposite. When the guest arrives, you simply take him or her to the group and say “ Dad, let me introduce you my girlfriend Sarah”. Or if you have to introduce a colleague to your boss: “ Mr. Smith, this is my colleague Frances Lewis, who is in charge of the accountability”. Remember, you never use appellation such as “Doctor, Sir” etc. Unless you are introducing a member of the nobility.

2. If someone you are speaking to has something stuck between their teeth, you have two options.
If you don’t have enough confidence with that person you just don’t say anything, but also you avoid staring at the mouth hoping that they will notice and understand. You don’t want that person to be embarrassed, so just pretend you didn’t notice anything.
If that person is your close friend, take advantage of a moment alone and nicely tell them about it. But be careful, nobody else should listen otherwise your friend will feel embarrassed.

3. Do you know the difference between a proposal and an invitation? Let’s say you plan to go to the cinema with your partner, and you want your friend Mark to come too. Should you make an invitation or a proposal? If you were to invite your friend, know that you might be expected to pay for him. Otherwise, if you want everybody to pay for themselves, you need to make a proposal. Here is an example of an invitation: “ Me and Jeff would like to invite you to the cinema on Saturday to watch the latest Woody Allen movie, may I take the ticket for you too?”. If this is the case, you should be at the cinema with Mark’s ticket in your hand 5 minutes before the time of the appointment. You don’t want Mark to see you buy his ticket in front of you, it would be not…chic.
If you want to only make a proposal, you might say “ Jeff and I are going to the cinema on Saturday, if you would like to come too we can meet outside at 3, no big deal, we can also go for a drink later. My friend Lisa will probably come too…” Remember, whenever you invite someone you should ALWAYS take the time to make a call rather than sending a message on WhatsApp. If it’s an official invitation for something more formal, you might even want to send an invitation card.

By Maria Niglio

The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.

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