Good etiquette: what does it mean and how has it changed over the years?

Ask your father or grandfather about good etiquette and you’ll undoubtedly be told about a set of rules for good behaviour that sound completely alien in the modern world. In the past century the rules of etiquette have changed enormously as the world’s become more inter-connected, affecting everything from gender relations to customer service.

However, despite having rich, traditional history behind it, good etiquette still has a role to play in modern life. Respect, tolerance and patience would begin to disappear and we would be living in a world full of rude, selfish and impatient people.

In this article we take a look at how etiquette has changed in specific surroundings throughout the past century, and ask what that means for society.

The service industry

In bygone days, you might have known people working in the service industry personally. Inhabitants of a small town would know their butcher, postman and shopkeeper by name, affording them the same level of courtesy as they would expect themselves.

Engaging in conversation with someone in the service industry was often expected, and that intimate understanding would mean that whoever was serving you would learn more about your lifestyle and preferences – and therefore provide you with personal recommendations.

Treating someone courteously and politely when they are serving you is important – it will ensure you receive the highest level of service possible while making someone else happy.

In the UK, the service industry accounted for 79% of all gross economic output in 2017, highlighting that it is the engine of the country’s economy. And that’s made industries more competitive, vying for customers by delivering improved products and services.

As a result, consumers have growing expectations – and as a result, are sometimes rude. Many shops have come up with zero tolerance policies around abusive behaviour against their staff, which is perhaps a sign of the deterioration of good etiquette in shops.

The dinner table

In previous generations, parents would often teach their children table banners from an early age. Manners like:

  • Elbows off the table
  • Eating with your mouth closed
  • Waiting for everyone to be seated before eating

To a modern audience these rules may seem like the construct of strict parents, but they teach children important lessons for later life.

Business meetings and important encounters in adult life can often be conducted over the dinner table. Having the experience and knowledge of how to act when in such a situation, remains essential to those situations going well.

Making a good impression not only from your conversational manner, but your etiquette as well, is extremely important. If children are taught these lessons from an early age they will be much more likely to carry them on in adult life.

Good table manners engender stronger romantic relationships, a positive image among your peers, and more professional opportunities.

In the casino

The gaming tables of Europe were once crowded with elegant patrons wearing the classiest clothes from their wardrobes. Strict dress codes in casinos were universal and people wouldn’t dream of entering one without a dinner jacket, tie, smart shoes or an elegant dress.

However, the rules have changed completely in the modern era, with only a handful of casinos still operating a strict dress code. Many punters will not think twice about going to their local casino in a hoody, jeans and trainers.

The only people in casinos who are required to continue good standards of etiquette in the way they dress and their decorum are croupiers. Almost every casino in the world requires its croupiers to follow a formal dress code – in smart shirt, trousers, smart shoes and either a tie or dicky bow and a waistcoat.

This level of etiquette helps to reinforce the status of the croupier and cultivate an air of exclusivity to casinos – and this continues to this day. Even online casino providers have even recognised the importance of a smartly dressed croupiers, ensuring their croupiers in live casino games are suitably attired.

Live casino links gamblers up with real croupiers via video linking, offering them a more immersive gambling experience and bringing the human element to the fore. These professional dealers have lost nothing from their equivalents in the Vegas heyday of land-based gambling, as you’ll see by playing live casino at a trustworthy online operator like Wink Slots.

On the phone

This section doesn’t refer to having good etiquette when making a telephone call – although that is important. This actually pertains to the negative effect that smartphones are having on our manners and interactions with others.

In a recent survey conducted by a major newspaper it was found that more than 60% of British people have bad manners. One of the main causes of this high figure? Smartphones.

Go for a walk in the street and you’ll see people looking down at their smartphones rather than interacting with each other. Alarmingly, 9 out of 10 people surveyed said that they would not say hello to a stranger on public transport as they would rather interact with their phone.

Just making eye contact with someone and smiling at them can brighten their day and put them in a good mood. In previous years, a cheerful hello and a wave would have been commonplace, but today more people are choosing to ignore each other rather than speak to each other.

What’s more, many people now use their phones while interacting with people in the real world. By doing this, they are unconsciously letting the person they are with know that they aren’t as important as what is on their phone. However, there is cause for hope – as digital detoxes are becoming much more common among people looking after their own wellbeing.

What does the future have in store for good etiquette?

Increasing populations and more advanced technology poses a challenge for the preservation of etiquette in the future. But there are still places where formal etiquette remains. The casino, formal events and official dinners are such examples.

The next time you head into public, sit down for dinner or meet someone new remember just how powerful good manners and good etiquette can be.

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