Our Etiquette Advice Center - Your etiquette questions answered

The Butler Bureau - for domestic staff and their employers
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Yes indeed it’s tricky - when to curtsey and when to bow - but take heart, if the leaders of France and Russia have problems getting it right, we’re all OK.

We have a team of experts at your disposal as we believe that Etiquette and its colleagues: Protocol and Good Form are actually here to help us get through complicated social occasions.

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Do you need a definition of etiquette? Many do. At its simplest it’s just  a set of rules, mostly flexible, that allow us all to function well when presented with a socially challenging situation. Knowledge of etiquette prevents us from appearing stupid or boorish

Our attempt here on the Butler Bureau site is to de-mystify some elements of etiquette, and stop it being regarded with fear. To do that we will on occasion have a joke at its expense.

Alternatively of course etiquette can be looked upon as an antiquated set of obtuse rules and requirements (stemming from the old ‘court’ culture of Royal familiies past and present) having little relevance to 99.99% of the world’s population.

How often are any of us in a position in which we have to request an Archbishop, a Prince of the realm, and a country’s President sit down for a meal and therefore need to know who comes first when we announce to them that dinner is served? (i.e. Precedence)

Who needs to know  how to write a letter, with correct forms of address to a Benedictine Abbot, as opposed to a retired Archdeacon?

There are various bodies and groups of people to whom isolated elements of etiquette and form are absolutely important and a select handful too who have to know every aspect by rote ( The Private Secretary to the Queen for example).

For the rest of us, by and large, it’s just knowing not to lick our knife when dining in company!

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Joking aside, etiquette issues do face us in every day life whether it is, for a man, to stand when a lady enters the room or company or offering  his seat on public transport. To avoid swearing or picking one’s nose, not dropping litter are simple aspects of etiquette or good social behaviour. Yes, I know, the world’s going to hell in a hand basket!

In the world of domestic staffing, whether as an employee or employer, let’s make a commitment to at least promote good manners and selflessness. If we need to know who’s speech follows that of the Best mans’ we can look it up in a book (or on a web site) but some etiquette manners should be part of our everyday lives.

Others are so obscure and relate to the tiniest sections of society and, while not to be ignored when required, can be looked up as and when required in your reference book of choice. On a day to day basis the dining table is an etiquette minefield!

For businessmen travelling abroad just 30 minutes researching a nation’s quirks, likes and dislikes, approved behaviour and social ‘no-nos’ can make the difference in coming home with the order or not. As in using chopsticks correctly......


For example did you know that showing the sole of your shoe to some nationalities (when crossing your legs for example) is seen as being very rude? They will be too polite to inform you of that of course so you’ll never know why you’ve gone home with an empty order book!

How about the fact that in Norway, as in Japan, the North American ‘OK’ gesture, thumb and forefinger making a circle, is regarded as an insult?

Business gifts, when to give them and who to, is an etiquette minefield depending which country you are in. So is dining etiquette and when it is appropraite to discuss business and when not. Don’t you think it might be an idea to do a little homework prior to your trip so as not to come across as one of those ignorant foreigners?

We intend adding to the etiquette pages as we expand the site - even covering do’s and don’ts for individual countries - but in the meantime have a look at our wedding advice pages.