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MA N R I T E N E SN H 2s C N U Y 1t E T R

Chapter 8

Social rules are a requirement for all societies, but over the centuries what is considered socially acceptable behaviour has constantly changed.
With the death of one rule comes the birth of a new one. While few would welcome the return of the most rigid old-fashioned rules of conduct, many mourn the passing of others. In focus groups we run, a commonly expressed view is that our society exhibits less communityminded and considerable behaviour today than in the past.
Teaching manners in the home

With parents juggling work, family budgets and other roles and responsibilities, it is difficult to find the time on top of other parental duties to instill good manners in their children. Balancing family and career is an expectation of most men and women today notwithstanding the number of women choosing full time parenting over juggling work and family, and an increase in the number of stay at home dads. Nevertheless, parents today definitely average less discretionary time at home than parents once had.


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Percentage of women in the workforce102

1954 Today 29% 55.6%

In todays frantic, fast-paced world, when families are at home together at the end of a busy day, much time is spent making dinner, preparing for the next day and simply unwinding, usually by vegging out in front of the screen television or computer. On average, screen time takes up 27% of young peoples waking hours, while school, school preparation and study take a further 58%.103 This leaves precious little time for parents to spend with their young ones. But its not simply a matter of finding the time to teach manners. Instructing the modern child in some of the golden rules of childhood (such as doing as youre told and speaking only when spoken to) needs to be done in a broader context. These days parents need to tell their children to be wary of strangers (stranger danger), and potentially trusted persons as well (the danger from within).104 Therefore, we teach children to be assertive rather than obedient. In our survey on manners, we found that nearly half of Aussie parents teach their kids only to listen to and obey adults whom they know. It is revealing when talking to Gen X-ers about their childhoods to see just how much has changed in a generation: parks now devoid of slippery slides, childhoods without cracker night, no more pyjama parties, and no more walking to school unattended. A woman from the Boomer generation illustrates this loss of innocence: Growing up today is more complicated. I began to see a glimmer of life to come at eight when the Beaumont children went missing. Living in Adelaide then was uncomplicated. No one even thought evil could be done to children. I had no comprehension of not speaking to strangers. Recently, there seems to have been a shift in the teaching of good manners in the home. In the 80s and 90s, when the Boomers were

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raising their X-er and Gen Y children, permissive parenting was a style that emerged in reaction to the old school authoritarian style of parenting of the Builder generation. Consequently, manners werent enforced as strictly. On top of that, the stress on speed and productivity nurtured by new technology and increasing materialism worked against polite behaviour. In recent years, authoritative parenting (also known as the helping mode of parenting) has become popular. Manners have made a comeback, although the way parents teach them is new in some ways. Gen X parents prefer a less punitive approach in raising their children. Children are not taught good manners out of a sense of obedience to parents, but out of a sense of mutual respect and empathy for others. Gen X parents want children who can be assertive of their needs but also respectful. We found that two in three parents say they always correct their children if they fail to say please, thank you or excuse me.
Teaching manners in the classroom

Up until the 60s, good manners were drummed into children in the classroom by way of prose, poems, readers and instructions from teachers and often, with a little help from the cane. Instruction in good manners disappeared from the classroom in the 80s and 90s when the X-ers were being schooled. However, there have been recent attempts at the government level to reintroduce the teaching of good manners in schools.105 Since 2005, the national Values Education program has been given in both private and public schools across Australia. It promotes national values, transcending age, cultural and religious differences. The program is restricted to what is utilitarian and is ostensibly morals neutral.106 It teaches children nine values: Integrity Care and compassion Respect Doing your best Responsibility Fair go Understanding, tolerance Freedom and inclusion.107 Honesty and trustworthiness

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The Good Manners chart was first issued to Queensland schools in 1898 by the Department of Public Instruction as part of the systematic teaching of conduct and manners. The chart was based on rules formulated by the Children's National Guild of Courtesy which had been founded in UK elementary schools in 1889. 130

M anners Formal titles and names

These days, Australians are far more relaxed in addressing people they are unfamiliar with. Mid-last century, it was considered unacceptable to address George Routledge, someone by his or her first name unless Routledges Manual of Etiquette108 one was well acquainted with that person or was considered an equal. Now, the only times we do address someone by title is in formal contexts (such as courts, official speeches), professional situations (such as interactions with doctors and police) and at school.

Never speak of absent persons by only their Christian or surnames; but always as Mr. ____ or Mrs. ____.

Children were once taught to address all unrelated adults as Mr, Miss, Mrs, Sir or Maam. Todays children commonly refer to and address adults by their first names. In the classroom students are still expected to address teachers by way of formal title although many high schools and universities prefer a more casual first name approach. Only 22% of parents insist that their children always refer to adults as Mr, Mrs, etc. Over half (51%) only insist their children address adults by formal title if those adults wish to be addressed formally.109

Many people today are more likely to refer to their significant other as their partner, instead of their boyfriend, girlfriend or, if married, spouse, husband or wife. In fact, four in five Australians who are in a serious relationship but are not married usually refer to the other party as my partner. Most married people still prefer husband or wife. The neutral term partner reflects changing social norms with regard to relationships and is reinforced in relatively recent law reforms, where the term is used to refer to:


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Coupled parents, whether living together or not (this is not limited to couples over 18), people married to each other, unmarried people who have lived together for more than two years. The definition of spouse has also been changed in law. It now means partner, married or not.110 The term partner puts married and unmarried, committed and uncommitted relationships under the same umbrella. Although we still love a good wedding, many Australians no longer see marriage as a sacred institution. To many, it is no different from any other committed and loving relationship.111 Of course, this shift in mind set is linked with social changes, such as the decrease in church attendance reducing the influence of religion on relationship choices, and the increase in people living together before marriage influenced in part by modern financial realities.
Percentage of marriages preceded by cohabitation112
1975 1984 1995 2001 Today 16% 38.4% 56.3% 72% 76%

Increase in age at marriage112

Males 1982 Today Females 1982 Today 22 30 24 32

Civil unions as a percentage of civil and church unions112

1982 1999 Today 40% 51% 60%


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Marital status
In the past a womans title advertised her marital status. Today, a woman may opt to be referred to as Ms whether unmarried, married or divorced, while many women retain their maiden name when they get married. In fact, one in five married women prefer to be referred to as Ms, while 28% of brides now keep their maiden name or a combination of their name and their husbands. This number is only going to grow. Most single women say they would keep their name (24%) or adopt a combination of the two if they got married (27%). Yet, interestingly, when it comes to deciding on a last name for their children, tradition still reigns. Eighty-six per cent of childless women plan on giving any children their fathers name. Of these, two in three plan to do this whether married to the father or not (only 14% plan on giving any children both names).

Customer service
It is now uncommon to be referred to as maam or sir by a waitperson, shopkeeper or check-out operator. Once it was Will there be anything else, Sir? Now it is simply Will there be anything else? (or, not infrequently, You right, mate?). Only one-third of Australians say they are regularly referred to as sir or maam by customer service people (one fifth say they are never addressed in this manner).109
Chivalry and respect for elders

How often do we vacate our seats for the elderly?113

Under 35 All the time Rarely Over 35 All the time Rarely 133 67% 33% 53% 46%

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We are now living in an age of undefined equalitarianism which, in effect, means we dont acknowledge the differences between the sexes anymore. The respect we extend to one another is therefore gender neutral. In extending courtesy to strangers, we consider their specific circumstances and level of need before taking their sex into account. For example, while todays average young man may be likely to vacate his seat for an elderly or pregnant woman, he is unlikely to vacate his seat for a young and healthy woman. In our survey on manners, we found that one in five men offer their seats to women, regardless of the womens health or age, while most men (two in three) say they vacate their seats for pregnant or elderly women. Similarly, only a minority of men (one in five) allow women to be served ahead of them, regardless of the womens health or age. Most women do not expect or particularly desire special treatment from men anyway. When asked if they would be offended if a healthy, fit man did not vacate his seat for them in a busy train or waiting room, two in three say they would only expect a man to vacate his seat for them if they were pregnant or elderly. Some comments included: No, I would not be offended if a man did not vacate his seat for me because I am fit and healthy and we are all equal. However, most women will accept an offer of help from men (69%).
Chivalry in Jane Austens day108 On attending to the fatigued lady When a lady is walking with a gentleman in a park, or public garden, or through the rooms of an exhibition, and becomes fatigued, it is the gentlemans duty to find her a seat. If you meet a lady in the street whom you are sufficiently intimate to address, do not stop her, but turn round and walk beside her in whichever direction she is going. When you have said all that you wish to say, you can take your leave. In walking with a lady, take charge of any small parcel, parasol, or book with which she may be encumbered. 134

On approaching a female acquaintance in public

On assisting a lady

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Undefined equalitarianism has also led to a change in the way we address those in positions of seniority, such as parents, teachers and clergymen. The courtesy we now show one another is mutual (and this is reflected in the Values Education program for schools). Parents now increasingly tend to side with their children when there is a discipline issue, whereas once they invariably sided with the teacher.105 At the same time, many schools now teach children their rights in accordance with the UNs Rights of the Child,114 which accords children the freedom of association and privacy,115 potentially lessening parental authority and, ultimately, the respect parents have traditionally commanded by virtue of their authority over children.
Table manners

Dinner was once a nightly ritual in the Australian home. Not only did we have to sit at a set table (with Mum and Dad at each end), but we were forever being told how to use a knife and fork correctly, not to talk with our mouth full, and to eat all our veggies or thered be no dessert. After we had finished our meal, children would ask May I be excused? Australians are now far more relaxed only 37% of todays parents always insist that their children excuse themselves before leaving the dinner table, compared to 70.5% of their parents. Of course, today we are so time poor that only the most determined can gather their family to the dinner table with any regularity.


w ord u p Table manners in the 1800s108 On where to sit The lady of the house takes the head of the table. The gentleman who led her down to dinner occupies the seat on her right hand, and the gentleman next in order of precedence, that on her left. The master of the house takes the foot of the table. The lady whom he escorted sits on his right hand, and the lady next in order of precedence on his left. How to eat soup and what to do with a cherry-stone are weighty considerations when taken as the index of social status; and it is not too much to say, that a young woman who elected to take claret with her fish, or ate peas with her knife, would justly risk the punishment of being banished from good society.

On how to eat

Business etiquette

In the 1950s book Australian Etiquette: The Rules of Good Society, by Lillian M. Pyke, employees are (rather comically) instructed as follows: An employee, when summoned to the managers room, should remain standing until his chief indicates a seat. At the conclusion of the interview he should leave the room as quietly as possible, closing the door gently behind him. It continues: If a junior meets his employer in the lift or the street he should bow, but should not enter into conversation unless he is addressed first. And: If an employee has need to send a letter to his chief, he should commence Sir if he has a very subordinate position, and conclude Yours obediently. (p. 110) Rules like these, given in etiquette guides, do not describe how people actually behaved; but rather an ideal, which would have been ignored as often as it was followed. However because they were held up as a standard to aim at, they still offer a clue to how times have changed. In todays workplace, the handshake is about as formal as business etiquette gets. In our survey on manners we found that 44% of workers never or sometimes use formal sign-offs like yours faithfully and sincerely. Many prefer casual sign-offs such as cheers.

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A large proportion of workers (39%) describe their communication style with the boss as casual and relaxed. Of course, as we have seen, the advent of email is partially responsible for a relaxation in communication styles.
Common courtesy

Most of our ancestors came from countries where forgetting manners was the worst of social crimes and could result in being shunned in society. Now, people most fear unintentional and embarrassing public moments, such as finding out your fly is undone or that you have tucked your skirt into your underwear.
10 awkward social situations 1. Wardrobe malfunctions E.g. being exposed when an article of clothing comes undone. 2. Lost for words Forgetting someones name, etc. 3. Mistaken baby bump Wrongly assuming someone is pregnant. 4. Romantic mishaps E.g. bumping into an ex. 5. Looking foolish E.g. saying something inappropriate. 6. Nigel no-friends E.g. being ignored in a social situation. 7. Embarrassment by proxy E.g. being embarrassed by family. 8. Dating disasters E.g. spilling food or drink onto your partner. 9. Living a lie Lying and then being caught out, etc. 10. Clumsy catastrophes E.g. tripping over, dropping something, bumping in to someone or something.

In our survey on manners, most respondents claimed they are courteous to strangers as they go about their daily lives. There was not much difference between the responses of younger and older survey participants to questions on courtesy, with the exception of one question. Older respondents were more likely than younger respondents

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to say hello to strangers in the streets. Given the emphasis placed on stranger danger today, this is easy to believe.
Do you ever say hello to strangers in the street?
Under 35 Yes No Over 35 Yes No 93% 7% 73% 27%

We also asked for comments and opinions on mens and womens manners. Common complaints about mens manners included vulgarity (spitting and burping, for example), unchivalrous behavior and chauvinism (for example, ogling women).

Australians on mens manners:

My father still opens the car door for my mum, me and my sisters. I cannot remember the last time a male (aside from dad) did this for me. Is it really that hard to remember to put the toilet seat down? I dont want things done for me by a male but I guess sometimes it would be nice if they offered and I could politely decline.

I think that women themselves have caused problems with male manners by not accepting gracefully doors being opened for them, being seated before a man etc.

In another survey we found a curious generational difference in womens responses to mens behaviour. Over half of women over 35 find it offensive if a man swears in front of them, compared to only one in five women under 35. Evidently women are becoming more tolerant of swearing, and perhaps swearing more often than they used to.

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Common complaints about womens manners included unladylike behavior (such as smoking or drinking like men), gossiping and nastiness.

Australians on womens manners:

I dont like it when women swear and talk about vulgar things. I think its distasteful and not ladylike at all. I am disgusted when I see females emulating males rude manners, I think they really let themselves down. [When] females call each other bitches it makes it okay for males to do so. Females need to show each other a bit more respect.
Etiquette new and old

Women . . . need to pick up their act and stop swearing loudly [and] drinking like men and then chivalry may be revived.

Most rules of etiquette last for generations, still guiding peoples behaviour in times that are often very different from when they were invented. Taboos on what we can say or do reveal a lot about the main concerns of the society that introduces them. The Age recently ran a report contrasting taboos from a previous era, that are on their way out, with new ones produced in our own times. Some of them are listed opposite:


w ord u p Taboos of etiquette116 NEW Discriminating on the basis of race, sex, creed or sexual orientation. Using racist, sexist or homophobic names. Answering a mobile phone while engaged in a business matter. Smacking your child in public. Smoking (especially dropping cigarette butts on the ground). Using plastic bags to carry home groceries. Going to restaurants or the supermarket with children. Speaking loudly on a mobile phone on a train or bus. Listening to loud music on your MP3 player on a train or bus. Sending an SMS when talking to somebody. OLD Swearing in the presence of a lady. Staying seated when a lady is standing. Not removing your hat in the presence of a lady. Not standing up when a woman enters the room. If a child, speaking when not spoken to. If a child, addressing an adult by first name. Talking about politics, money or religion in a social setting. Failing to introduce two people you are acquainted with. If a woman, dressing in a revealing fashion. Addressing somebody unfamiliar to you by first name.

Since the time when the Builders generation were young, what society considers morally acceptable has changed. We are less offended by some of the lifestyle choices once considered taboo, but have become more aware of environmental offences such as watering ones garden in drought-stricken times and driving a petrol-guzzling four wheel drive in the city. Perhaps today more people see morality as relative to ones culture and time. A recent survey indicated that the younger people are, the less likely they are to believe there are definitely some moral absolutes. Seventy per cent of Builders agreed there were moral absolutes, compared to 63.5% of Boomers, 54.5% of X-ers and 53.8% of Y-ers. Much of modern etiquette is based on the inconvenience certain behaviours cause other people, rather than rigid moral and social codes.

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The areas that are subject to etiquette have changed dramatically with the times. Books dedicated to proper etiquette for letter writing, travelling, dining, courting, attending dances and visiting people were once very common. Today, there are rules for emailing, using a mobile phone and even netiquette regulating behaviour on the internet. Extracts from Routledges Manual of Etiquette reveal some of the concerns that were uppermost in Britain in 1875:
Introductions Always introduce the gentleman to the lady never the lady to the gentleman. The chivalry of etiquette assumes that the lady is invariably the superior in right of her sex, and that the gentleman is honoured in the introduction. Some men make a point of talking commonplace to all ladies alike, as if a woman could only be a trifler. Others, on the contrary, seem to forget in what respects the education of a lady differs from that of a gentleman, and commit the opposite error of conversing on topics with which ladies are seldom acquainted. Never be seen in the street without gloves; and never let your gloves be of any material that is not kid or calf. Worsted or cotton gloves are unutterably vulgar. Your gloves should fit to the last degree of perfection. Lady correspondents are too apt to over-emphasise in their letter-writing, and in general evince a sad disregard of the laws of punctuation. We would respectfully suggest that a comma is not designed to answer every purpose, and that the underlining of every second or third word adds nothing to the eloquence or clearness of a letter, however certain it may be to provoke an unflattering smile upon the lips of the reader. In writing to persons much your superior or inferior, use as few words as possible. In the former case, to take up much of a great mans time is to take a liberty; in the latter, to be diffuse is to be too familiar. It is only in familiar correspondence that long letters are permissible. Balls and dances Gifts No lady should accept an invitation to dance from a gentleman to whom she has not been introduced. Unmarried ladies may not accept presents from gentlemen who are neither related nor engaged to them. Presents made by a married lady to a gentleman can only be offered in the joint names of her husband and herself.





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Just as there are universal rules of etiquette, there are rules of etiquette that apply to particular cultures or nations. Below are some long-standing examples of etiquette that applies in Australia but not necessarily overseas.

1 The handshake:

Hands are to be shaken on the following occasions, both formal and informal: When two people (generally men) meet for the first time. If a male and female are being introduced, a male should wait for the lady to extend her hand before volunteering his own. When parting (also formal and informal, and generally between men). It is generally more appropriate to kiss a woman friend on the cheek when saying ones farewells.

2 Paying for goods and services: 3 Taxi travel:

One must place the money in the cashiers hand, not on the counter, as that is considered rude and snobbish (the ultimate Aussie crime).

A male passenger sits in the front passenger seat next to the driver, not in the back seat as that is (again) considered snobbish. A woman may choose to sit in the back and a man accompanying a woman may sit in the back with her.

4 Queuing:

When waiting to be served, one must wait in a line or risk unfriendly looks. This does not apply in pubs; however, one must decline service if someone else has been waiting longer. This can be done by a simple nod of the head towards the person who has been waiting longer.

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5 Shouting:

When out drinking with friends, each person must shout a round of drinks in turn. Those who do not are invited out with diminished frequency.

6 Stairways:

On a flight of stairs or a busy escalator, one must walk or stand on the left side or risk getting bowled over during peak hour.

7 Headlights: 8 Driving:

When police are patrolling the roads, it is considered the decent thing to warn an oncoming driver by flashing ones headlights that is, once one is out of sight of the cops.

When a driver holds back to let someone change lanes or come out of a driveway, it is considered rude not to acknowledge him or her by waving as a sign of thanks. Not waving, or pushing in without warning can elicit a different, less favourable salute!

9 Pedestrian crossing: 10 Barbecues:

When using a pedestrian crossing, it is considered polite to nod or acknowledge in some way the driver who has pulled up at the crossing, especially when the car has pulled up for earlier pedestrians.

When hosting a barbecue, it is acceptable to ask ones guests to bring a plate or to bring their own meat and/or grog.


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Its not possible to understand how language is evolving without considering the part played by manners. Polite behaviour is one of our ways of communicating with each other. This is partly a question of language, including our choice of words such as mate and sir, thanks and excuse me, and of titles and first names and polite phrases. Even without words, manners are used to tell others about how formal a situation is, about the levels of respect one feels they deserve, how familiar one is ready to be, and so on. They reflect cultural changes, just as the lexicon does. The 20th century was one of the most tumultuous in history and rapid social change has accentuated the differences between each generation. Civil rights, feminism, and the digital revolution are just some of the social landmarks that have challenged civil norms changing the way we interact with one another. The desire for brevity and speed nurtured by new technology has also had an impact on the nature of social intercourse. Its not that young people intend to be rude when they are short and to the point. It can be seen as an attitude reinforced by their daily use of text, chat and email. Even more it is an attitude encouraged by the hectic lifestyle that the younger generations are raised in. It seems that in every period, older generations deplore the manners of the young. The criticism is often fair, but short memories easily forget the impropriety of their own youth.



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