Why Etiquette?

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“I felt so awkward wearIng a paIr of leather shoes at a party.”

“I was embarrassed when I couldn’t even tIe my own necktIe on a date.” “I don’t know how to BegIn wIth my dInner at a fIne dInIng restaurant.” “I was so uncomfortaBle mInglIng socIally among my peers.”

These are some of the remarks I’ve heard from our Hawaii high school graduates going on to higher education in some fine colleges and universities on the Mainland.

Most of these young men and women are the cream of the crop from local, exclusive educational institutions. Their academic standings are on the upper national scales. Yet when they were with more cosmopolitan peers in social environments, somehow they felt they were inadequate.

As I observed them, it seemed like they subconsciously felt they had a lack of culture, having been brought up in the Islands. Which is unfortunate, because youths here do have a lot of opportunities and exposure to world-class cultural events, art performances and global touring museum exhibitions – sometimes moreso than those in other metropolitan cities of similar size.

You see, the rules of etiquette serve to equalize these feelings of inferiority. Etiquette conventions were created as a way to show respect for yourself as well as for others. In fact, learning decorum is meant to build self-esteem and self-confidence. This allows you to be more assertive in showing who you are.

Parents here are totally committed to developing their children to their full potential. They send their children to the best private schools, and right after school, children are promptly transported to extra-curricular activities such as piano lessons, dance classes, language tutoring or sports activities. Yet when it comes to sessions on social graces, kids insist, “Why do we have to learn about etiquette?”

We are living in a multi-cultural and even multi-subcultural world, which creates the need for adapting many new rules of etiquette. For instance, Hawaii residents are taught to remove their shoes when entering a home, but on the Mainland, if you notice there are no shoes outside at the front door and, well, you walk into a party with socks, that would be embarrassing!

It is not uncommon to see some parents literally investing their life savings toward their children’s education. However, parents must realize there is something missing that holds the key to facilitating their children’s future success – and that is etiquette. s

Editor’s note: George Ing is the president of Ing International Inc., a consulting and training company in the U.S. and China. Through Ing International Inc., he teaches cross-cultural training programs on etiquette and assists educational institutions on teaching social graces. He is the author of three motivational books (What’s Right with America; Wit and Wisdom; and Ing Spot – by George). Ing currently serves as president of the Ala Moana Rotary Club. Submit your etiquette questions to Ing at www.hiluxury.com.

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