The New Etiquette

The way we interact with people continues to change in the COVID-19 world. Everything from personal space and petting someone’s dog to tipping and greeting friends and family is all different now and will continue to be different. What are the new social norms we need to abide by? International etiquette and culture expert Sharon Schweitzer, founder of the firm Access to Culture (www.protocolww.com) shares some ideas.

• Asking for 6 feet or more of space: Before Covid-19, asking someone to step-back, stepping back from them, or reminding them of your personal space would have been a faux pas—or at least felt awkward in U.S. culture. However, today, it’s expected and if you don’t do it, be prepared for someone else to do so or say something to you.

• Petting my Dog: Walking a friendly dog before Covid-19 was time consuming because canines are social animals who seek out human interaction. Of course, having a chat with fluffy about the Coronavirus is tough – she still wants all the attention she’s been receiving. If a walker or neighbor tries to pet Fluffy, consider walking her earlier or later in the day or in a different neighborhood. If someone doesn’t respect the recommended 6-foot distance, politely say, “Fluffy and I are both social distancing. Please greet us from at least 6 feet away. We look forward to seeing you after this all resolves. You’ll be more than welcome to pet her then!”

• Putting on a Mask: Studies show that there are individuals who test positive for the virus, yet, don’t show any symptoms. These individuals, who aren’t suffering from the illness physically, are the ones potentially spreading the virus even more because they don’t know they are carrying it in the first place. Always put on your mask when going out for now.

• Changing your RSVP from yes to no: Longstanding etiquette and basic social graces dictate if you responded that you would attend an event, you must. However, in light of the Coronavirus, changing your RSVP to decline and skipping an event is appropriate if it’s done immediately. Send a note to the host explaining you regret missing the event but it’s safest for all.

• Greetings: Global greetings vary by culture. The most unsanitary have been the cheek kiss, handshake and hug due to potentially dangerous bacteria or a deadly virus. The CDC recommends reducing all physical contact with others, so germ-free gestures should be considered like a nod, smile, bow, wave and of course a verbal exchange.  

• Tipping: When placing a curbside, pick-up, to-go, carryout, or delivery order, ask whether it’s possible to leave a tip in advance on your credit card. Many companies and restaurants have established “contactless delivery” to safeguard the health of everyone in the chain; their customers, staff, employees, and vendors. If tipping in advance isn’t an option, place cash inside a clean envelope and write a short thank-you message outside the envelope.

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