Call it what you will – be it etiquette, manners, politeness, upbringing or just good old fashioned hospitality. I have grave concerns about our general level of kindness as the UK embarks on their biggest hosting role ever!
Travelling on public transport day in and day out, I am continuously dismayed by the number of young (of which I cheekily count myself one), able bodies who do not give up their seat to the aged, the pregnant, the young families. The number of times I see scores of people passing a mother frantically trying to navigate stairs with a pram and toddler without any offer of assistance, is yes alarming but also a sad reflection on our level of common courtesy.
In business I am both astonished and appalled at the lack of simple professional courtesy. Standing when the client enters the room, offering visitors a beverage, looking someone in the eye upon greeting…even the basics, like a handshake seem to have gone amiss.
When dining with colleagues, clients or friends the lack of table manners often leaves me flabbergasted. I am not from a wealthy family, I did not go to public school and yet I often find that even my simple country upbringing surpasses the manners I have witnessed during many a dinner. While I made light of my age earlier, I am left to feel like an old fuddy-duddy as I quietly seethe over a dinner out with others. Do people really not know to put their napkin on their lap? Or to wait until everyone is served before “tucking in” to a meal? Or, to transfer a wedge of butter onto their bread plate (the small plate on your left) before buttering your bread? In a country steeped in pomp and ceremony, bowler hats and morning suits, surely these are basics that should be taught, understood and protected?
Is it simply a question of relevance in today’s world? Is it a question of effort? Is it a question of knowledge or personal and patriotic pride? I am not sure. What I do know is that nearly 600,000 people are about to descend on this wonderful country. A country full of history, culture and decorum. I hope that every Londoner born or visiting extends courtesy, caring and compassion to those visiting from far flung places across the globe.
Offer assistance, know what is going on in the area around you so that you can guide people, be patient, be generous of your time. If every UK resident extends their hospitality it will pay dividends. Let’s face it, things are going to go wrong. Given the size and scope of this globally recognised event, it is inevitable. But much like a restaurant, even if the food is mediocre, provided the service is genuine, attentive and friendly you are most likely going to speak well of it when talking to others.
So, will your hospitality, etiquette and hosting efforts be an adversary or an ambassador for the 2012 Olympic Games? It’s your country, it’s your call.
By Debra Ward