The development of etiquette dates back to Europe during the medieval era, when rules and social conventions first garnered prominence. During the Renaissance, expectations of behavior at royal and noble courts were outlined in courtesy books, also known as books of manners. In the 19th century, etiquette manuals continued to flourish in Europe and the United States guiding behavior for ladies and gentlemen in both social and professional settings. By the early 20th century, these guidebooks were increasingly popular with both wealthy and middle-class women in the United States, and author Emily Post became the definitive expert with the publication of her first book of etiquette in 1922.
In today’s social graces, the rules of behavior observed by previous generations might seem old-fashioned, and certainly there are some social conventions better left in the past, as they reflect the inequality and biases of previous eras. However, etiquette isn’t inherently outdated. While specific customs may evolve, the underlying principles of courtesy, respect, and consideration for others remain as relevant today as they were a century or two ago.
Antiquated Rule #1: A man must stand to greet a woman
It wasn’t too long ago that it was proper etiquette for a man to stand when greeting a woman entering the room. However, today it is proper etiquette to stand up whenever anyone greets anyone. The act of standing up shows respect and an eagerness to meet the person(s). Regardless of your gender, consider standing up to greet someone a welcoming gesture.
Antiquated Rule #2: Don’t shake a woman’s hand unless she offers
Previously, it was well-known that “a man has no right to take a lady’s hand until it is offered,” as was noted in one Victorian-age guide to etiquette. This is no longer the rule. “Today, a man does not need to wait for a woman to offer her hand before he extends his. Whether you are a man or a woman, always remember to shake hands,” advises Emily Post.
Antiquated Rule #3: The man pays for the meal
Say goodbye to the days of men being obligated to pay for the meals of their women dining companion. Going “Dutch” is entirely appropriate, particularly when two people agree ahead of time on the arrangement. Otherwise, the rule is that whoever does the inviting pays for the meal, according to the Emily Post Institute.
Antiquated Rule #4: A man must hold the door for a woman
In today’s world, chivalry has moved into a gender-neutral territory. It is no longer customary for a woman to move aside so that a man can open the door, especially if he’s a stranger. Instead, the first person at the door should open it and then hold it open for the next person. Also, when you do hold the door, be sure to stand in a way that allows for maximum room for others to pass.
Antiquated Rule #5: No elbows on the table
The rule. “no-elbows-on-the-table”. made good sense when tables were makeshift trestles covered with cloth. This presented a perilous situation because an elbow placed in the wrong place might mean the collapse of the table. Nowadays, our tables are much more sturdy. In present day dining, leaning in toward someone who is speaking, which might including resting on one’s elbow, is a sign of interest and attention.
Antiquated Rule #6: Offering toasts requires drinking alcohol
This ridiculous etiquette rule requiring those not drinking alcohol to refrain from raising their glasses in a toast came entirely from superstition. It dates back to the Ancient Greeks and involves a river of water symbolizing death. Most, if not all, etiquette experts disagree with this antiquated rule declaring that if you are avoiding alcohol for any reason, you should feel free to raise your glass of soda, water, or juice. You can also hold it to your lips without sipping, or raise your hand as though holding a glass.