Alexandra Messervy, a former member of British Royal Household to Queen Elizabeth II, was in Dubai recently to launch the Middle Eastern branch of her etiquette consultancy “The English Manner.”
Messervy initially established the manner-teaching school in the U.K. over a decade ago and has since has branched out with team set up in Dubai aiming to impart pearls of social wisdom to their students, according to Dubai-based newspaper The National.
The English Manner will teach students how to correctly conduct themselves in various situations ranging from corporate activities to fine dining.
The National reported that the owner of the highly acclaimed consultancy instructed that “when drinking tea you should hold the cup and saucer; with coffee, you can leave the saucer on the table, never hold your pinkie out, always inside.”
“And the correct way for ladies to sit is with a very straight back with your knees and ankles together,” she added.
Messervy told The National that when it comes to social skills she is a strong believer in cultural intelligence, especially in the Gulf region and recommends thorough research before travelling on foreign business or to a social event. Especially for women, as conventions often differ greatly from their home country.
She explained how etiquette differentiates in different parts of the world saying that one should “try to remember that in countries like Saudi and Kuwait, gentlemen may prefer to introduce themselves to you first, It’s the same with India; men will never open doors for women or allow them go to in front of them, for example.”
“That can be difficult, particularly in these days of equality, but the main thing is to act with grace and not look hurt. If you smile and extricate yourself from the situation, no one will think any less of you,” she advised.
Messervy said that if you should ever find yourself in the company of royalty be mindful of the following,
“You should never turn your back on a member of royalty, exiting a room backwards is in good form. Only speak when spoken to - always wait to be addressed, and that applies to a senior in any organization.”
Adding to her list of top etiquette tips Messervy said that her advice for ladies querying the most elegant and ladylike way to enter and exit a car is the age-old finishing school rule of “knees together, swivel, legs out and stand,” she added that this should be applied wherever possible.
However, Messervy did highlight that the rule may need tweaking saying that “the idea is not to show any flesh but it’s hard, especially with 4x4s now. We all leap into them and there's a risk of having to hitch up the skirt. And when they have steps, it can be even worse!”
Always keep the following in mind in general day to day life, “smart casual” conventionally means no denim, when meeting new people one should avoid talking about money, health, religion or politics and a gentleman should always pay on the first date, regardless of who initiated it.
When dining out one should keep in mind not to hold your pen like a knife, however, you should hold both your soup and pudding spoons like a knife.
Finally, when complaining you should always try to avoid making a scene by calling the waiter to one side and explaining to them in a calm and quiet manner what the issues is.