People often think of etiquette — good manners — in terms of the dinner table. While there are certainly fine points in that arena that deserve to be better known, most of us probably know the basics: Use your napkin, keep your elbows off the table, don’t shovel your food into your mouth, and such.
The celebrated etiquette authority the Emily Post Institute has published a list of the top 10 table manners, including the aforementioned three, and 24/7 Tempo has expanded on the theme with an inventory of some dining-out etiquette rules that should come back.
Etiquette applies to many areas of life beyond the table, however. It’s simply a way to make going through life on a day to day basis as easy and pleasant as possible for everyone concerned.
Every culture has its own code of comportment, of course, and what may seem perfectly acceptable in Denver or Fort Lauderdale might be unforgivably rude in Dubai or Frankfurt (and vice versa) — just as behavior that’s okay at the ballpark would probably be out of place at church.
The point, in every case, is simply to be polite — to avoid making other people uncomfortable or embarrassed and to be careful not to impose upon them, act superior to them, or invade their space (whether physical, auditory, visual, or olfactory).
This isn’t the place to catalogue the myriad examples of good and bad manners around the world that may differ from our own. (Consider, for example, the kisses, handshakes, and fist bumps that are ways to say hello in countries around the world.)
Instead, this list is a reminder that some behavior — things we might do, or forget to do — can affect people in ways we might not always be aware of. These are things that make us look rude, even though we don’t intend to be.