Editor’s Note: At the Table is an international exchange program that connects high school students in Philadelphia and Riga. The program, undertaken by the National Constitution Center in collaboration with the National History Museum of Latvia, will culminate in two service projects and a collaborative documentary film about civic engagement. In this post we continue to chronicle our “Project Connect” workshops, with our most recent on etiquette and perception management.
Not sure what to think when you hear the word etiquette? Well, etiquette is defined as those rules that govern socially acceptable behavior. The goal is to make people comfortable with one another, beginning with oneself. The student participants of the At the Table project looked deeply within themselves to better understand how to best behave and communicate with others locally and abroad.
When the student participants visit Latvia, they will be representing their country. With that in mind, the The Madison School of Etiquette and Protocol helped the students with standard European etiquette and perception and impression management. A student participant, Jamir Cherry recalls, “Coming from West Philadelphia, walking into our etiquette class was pretty scary for me. When we walked into our class, we were greeted by our instructor, and went through our first test: the handshake.”
In an attempt to learn culturally different customs and traditions, Jamir explains, “we then sat down at the table and began to go over the basic do’s and don’ts when meeting someone.” The students sat together around a large dinner table to polish their social behavior skills. “As the class started I began to learn quickly. That was until we had to learn the rules of eating with a fork and knife…and there were so many rules that we had to pay attention to.” Jamir comments, “It started off very hard for me, but eventually I picked up.”
Ultimately Jamir states, “We had a lot fun in the etiquette workshop. It was a great learning experience for me and hopefully the others.”
What’s Proper Quiz
After the workshop, our high school student participants could get a 100% on this quiz. Can you?
1. True or False: You should always wait until everyone is served to begin eating your meal.
2. How do the letters “b” and “d” (in that order) help you when you’re at dinner?
A. Bread on the left and drinks on the right
B. A reminder of good manners, “be docile”
C. They will remind you to compliment your host “best dinner”
D. Beverage on the left and dessert on the right
3. True or False: When shaking hands, a woman should wait for a man to extend his hand first.
4. When you are dining, but not currently eating, what should you do with your hands?
A. Put them in your lap
B. Put them at your sides
C. They can be on the table, but with the wrists resting on the edge of the table
D. If you’re not eating, it’s OK to put your elbows on the table when engaging in conversation
5. True or False: Proper etiquette rules prohibit cutting a roll, but rather you should tear the roll.
ANSWERS: 1) True; 2) A; 3) False (greetings are gender neutral); 4) C; 5) True (tear one piece, butter if desired, eat and repeat for each bite).
Jamir Cherry is a student participant and a senior at Constitution High School.