In this mini-series Etiquette for event-managers, you will learn everything you need to know about etiquette as an event-organizer. Today I zoom in with expert Vincent Vermeulen on hierarchy in etiquette.
Hi Vincent, welcome to our studio.
Thank you for inviting me.
We're going to talk about etiquette. Where does etiquette come from?
Well actually, despite what people might think, it comes from France and not so much from the UK.
I was thinking it's British.
Well, that's how we see it in the last 200 years. But actually, the knights who were fighting at the crusades, they came back to France and they actually transferred their rules of engagement, let's say into social life.
So, Louis XIV, he divided pieces of France to these knights, who became landlords. He invited them to Versailles to have the State of the Union. So he could know what was happening in the country. And they actually brought along their wives. To those meetings. And it were those wives, who were walking all around the gardens of Versailles.
But the gardener wasn't that happy, because they were walking on the grass, they were picking the flowers, et cetera, et cetera. So, what he did was, he placed around all sorts of signs, which said: don't walk on the grass, don't pick the flowers. And a sign in French, the name for a sign in French is etiquette.
So, that's where it comes from. It's actually rules amongst ourselves, let's say to feel at ease in most situations.
And etiquette, is it still applicable today? Because it sounds like something old, we don't have to care anymore about.
It is very applicable these days. Even more than ever, if you ask me.
The strange thing is that everybody does it every single day, but we don't realize it. For example: driving on the right side of the street. So, that's actually a form of etiquette.
But, what we see is that, with social media, unfortunately, some values have gone away. And it is those values that can make you kind of unique in certain situations.
So, it's very much alive.
Today we're going to talk... Because we're going to make a series on the subject. In this episode, we will be focusing on hierarchy in etiquette. What is that about?
Hierarchy in etiquette gives you the opportunity to know who to prioritize. I'll give you an example. Let's say there's a lady and there's a gentleman. They have never met before. And sometimes you have that awkward situation: as a gentleman, do I shake hands, do I give a kiss? I don't know what to do. So, with a little bit of knowledge of etiquette, you can solve that straightaway.
For example: a gentleman would never offer his hand to a lady. It's actually the lady that has to take the initiative.
If we look at age: a younger person would never offer his hand to an older person.
And a lower ranked would never offer his hand to a higher ranked. So, for example, it would be the king that offers his hand to somebody visiting at the palace.
What happens if, for example, you meet that lady and she doesn't take any initiative. Then you do nothing?
Then you do nothing. Then you just keep your body language to yourself.
That is what happens all the time with me. If I invite ladies to the butler school, I open the door, I welcome them and the moment they offer their hands, I respond with a handshake. If they don't, I just keep standing.
It doesn't only apply to the greeting. But also, for example, to introducing people.
Exactly. It applies to everything.
For example, introducing people. You would say, for...
Let's say we have a CEO and we have a new employee. We would say: Mr. CEO, allow me to introduce Mr. Charles. He's new at the company. It's his first day today.
That gives the opportunity, to the CEO, to start up the conversation. And what I just did was: I gave a little bit of extra information to the CEO, the fact that he's new to the company, so he can start up that conversation.
So, again it's about putting people at ease in any situation.
For example, preceding. What we always say is: ladies first. That's, as I said, we don't offer our hand to a lady, ladies first, higher ranked first, older people first.
There are of course exceptions. Quite a bit. But that's the general rule. That's the general rule.
What happens with... At events we always have a host or a hostess of the party.
Does he or she have a special role in the hierarchy?
A host or a hostess, whether it would at a private dinner in your home or it would be a big event, company event for example. The role of the host is rather very important. It's his responsibility to make people feel at ease.
So that means, for example, if he's sitting at a table, or she is sitting at a table, they're the ones who will initiate, for example, the topics. They are the ones starting to eat, so everybody can start eating.
For example, your napkin. You put it on your lap first and then the rest can follow.
So, they're actually an example at the table, of how the rhythm of the evening should be.
So, it's rather an important role.
So, as a guest, it's rather easy. You just need to follow the lead of the host.
Exactly, exactly, yes.
Vincent, in the next episodes on etiquette, what will we be talking about?
Well, we'll be talking about seating plans. We'll be talking about table etiquette. Specific etiquette around parties and events. So, there's a lot and a lot to talk about.
Looking forward to that, thank you for coming over.
And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.