Home Mind your manners: modern day etiquette guide for students

Mind your manners: modern day etiquette guide for students

by admin November 24, 2009

Etiquette may seem outdated, even antique to most of today’s students. Nowadays, it’s associated with knowing where the salad fork goes in relation to the water glass, or with handwritten thank-you notes. But the truth is there is a lot more to what is now commonly referred to as business or social civility, than the placement of dishes.
According to certified self-employed etiquette coach, Julie Blais Comeau, proper etiquette is about making others feel comfortable and respected.

“This is easy enough to do,” says Blais Comeau. “If you use your judgment, if you think about respecting others than you will probably make the right decision.”
Learning some rules of etiquette is unlikely to appeal to students who probably last learned about manners from Barney. Still, there are certain things we should all learn to ensure we are respectful citizens. Besides, with the uncertain job market &- it never hurts to have superb manners.

Café Studying
With exams right around the corner, many students find solace studying at coffee shops. For those who deem the silence of a library intolerable, a café not only gives you a room with some noise, but easy access to caffeine and Wi-Fi. But, have you ever stopped to wonder how appropriate your habits are? Is your $3 latte really worth four hours of studying? Or, how about if the two tables your books take up discourages other customers from sitting down? What about if it’s right that your friend who came to visit didn’t even bother to buy a drink?

According to Lewena Bayer, president of Civility Experts, an international etiquette training company &- the answer is probably no.
“The idea is that we need to be respectful of public spaces and remember that they are public,” says Bayer. “We need to monitor how much space we take up, the noise levels we create and if there is any inconvenience to someone else.”
Bayer explains that around universities, businesses tend to be a little more understanding of students and the lifestyle they lead, but this does not mean come exam time, one can move into the coffee shop next door to school. She points out a student has to remember employers are trying to earn a living, and making their business your personal living room is not helpful.

“I am running a business,” says Chris Coughlin, owner and manager of the Second Cup near Concordia University’s Loyola campus. “Most students are aware of this and will “pay their rent,’ but there are those who will buy one tea and take over three tables with their books for hours.”
Coughlin says when this happens, he will approach a table and ask them to leave or confine their books. He says most of the time students are understanding and willing to leave, separate tables or buy more coffee.

According to Bayer, there is no rule that determines how much money should be spent per hour, but she says in a coffee shop, a business owner would presumably hope to make at least the price of a coffee per person who can fit at the table per hour. Though Bayer explains this mostly depends on store traffic.
Since Second Cup does not have a policy limiting the time one can spend there, Coughlin says it sometimes makes it hard to ask people to leave. Recently, he met with other franchise owners to discuss implementing a time limit policy ranging between a maximum of one to three hours between purchases.

Bayer agrees that one to two hours is an appropriate amount of time. Though she emphasizes if more than that, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and your actions so they don’t cause discomfort or inconvenience for someone else.
“Sometimes café studiers make it uncomfortable for people who are there to socialize and speak,” says Bayer. “Those socializing expect to be able to talk and laugh and someone trying to study may be glancing over or giving a glaring look to noisy patrons but this is not fair to them.”

Lingering in Restaurants and cafés
“You just have to be observant of what is going on around you, there is not really a time limit,” says Blais Comeau.
Some of the signs it may be time to go is if you know there is a later dinner service, if you are the last ones in the restaurant and all the waiters are being attentive, or if people are lining up waiting for a table, she says.
If you are unsure, Bayer advises asking your server if they need the table.
In a less formal setting than a restaurant like a coffee shop, she says the best thing to do is to make eye contact or smile at people passing by so they are not intimidated or nervous walking by a group of lingerers.

Cell Phones and iPods in Public Places
It is almost cliché to discuss how attached our generation is to technology, but it’s an unavoidable topic when considering etiquette. Being on your cell phone in public places is generally inappropriate whether you’re in the company of strangers or close friends, says Bayer.
“It really is selfish and I think often misplaced or over-estimated sense of self-importance to think that people are impressed by how often your phone rings,” says Bayer. “If you want to impress people, focus on making them comfortable instead of chatting on the phone.”

Bayer explains it’s especially important to be conscious of how accepting a call may leave whoever you are with sitting alone listening to a one-sided conversation. Doing so is also rude to your server, who may be ready to take your order but is now forced to wait until you have finished. In short: put your phone away, or on silent, she says.
When in the company of strangers, Blais Comeau says the best thing to do is to make sure you are at least two arms length away from other people so as not to disturb them with your phone call. Even if you are at this distance make sure to keep your conversation short.

“Unless you are alone in your home,” says Blais Comeau. “You should not be having lengthy personal phone calls.”
Bayer explains that doing so is what she calls “social dandruff.”
“Talking loudly on the phone about personal or private things when the other people are close by is wrong,” says Bayer. “Because they can’t really not listen, they are now forced to hear all your personal information and have all your personal stuff impinged on them.”
Blais Comeau is quick to admit there are a few exceptions to this rule. For instance if you’re waiting for someone to meet you, or are expecting an urgent call. If this is the case, make sure to inform your company as to why you may need to answer your phone but keep the phone out of sight and have the ringer off regardless.
The same discretion applies to music players. The person next to you does not need to be able to hear all the lyrics of a song nor should an employee be forced to serve you while you have headphones in your ears.

Tipping Rules
Tipping is another area many students struggle with when going for dinner or drinks. It isn’t always easy figuring out how much to leave, but Blais Comeau says all this pressure is unwarranted.
“The tipping guideline is 15 per cent before tax,” she says. “This applies not only to restaurants but to bars and even salons.”

Nevertheless, if there is a 15 per cent standard, it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to tip more or less depending on the service you received says Blais Comeau. She acknowledges that a student’s budget does not always allow for the large tip a server may deserve. In that situation, Bayer advises it’s best to be very nice and thankful.
“Most people understand students are struggling money-wise, but it is still expected that social protocol applies, 15 per cent is the norm and would be particularly welcome when the service-person is another student,” says Bayer. “And if you are only going to tip five to 10 per cent because maybe that is all you have, at least be polite and don’t give the waiter a hard time.”

If a situation arises where you feel you received worse service because you’re a student and it seems the server assumed your tip would be minimal, there are certain steps to take. Blais Comeau’s advise is to approach the management discreetly and tell them your situation rather than leaving a small tip which will confirm their original belief.
In terms of tip jars at cafés and eateries with counter service, she says it’d to the discretion of the student and not at all mandatory to leave a tip.
“The situation is different than that of wait staff who receive less than minimum wage since tipping is expected and included in their income,” explains Blais Comeau. “In the case of a counter service the employees will at least be paid minimum wage and tipping is therefore not obligated. It is up to the student.”
“From an etiquette perspective, soliciting tips by putting a tip jar out on a take out counter is actually not appropriate and in my etiquette opinion, is quite rude,” says Bayer.

Leave a Comment