OKEECHOBEE — We have all heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but can we say the same about etiquette? Is etiquette also in the eye of the beholder? Proper etiquette is important in many areas of life — the workplace, at home, at the grocery store, on the telephone, etc.
Recently, at a local business, an email was sent out to the entire staff, and the subject line read, “Break room refrigerator.” Office refrigerators are often the subject of contention. Some people put food in there and then leave it forever. It is as if they think there is a magic fridge fairy who comes and cleans out the fridge. Others see the office refrigerator as a place to go get a free snack when they are hungry. They think of everything inside as “up for grabs.” Putting your name on the food does not deter these folks. They just “accidentally” overlook it.
When it comes to office break rooms, there are other etiquette topics, too. Some believe it is common courtesy to clean up their own messes, and some seem to think their mom works there and will be by soon to wipe up their crumbs for them. Some think nothing of taking out the trash when it is full, and others wouldn’t dream of taking it out. “I was not hired to be the garbage man,” they seem to say.
At the grocery store, the topic of grocery carts is a hot one. Some would never dream of leaving their cart out in the middle of the parking lot and always put it away when they are finished with it. After all, it could roll into someone’s vehicle. Others leave their carts right where they finished with them. Putting the cart away is someone else’s job. Some have excuses: What do I do with my kids while I walk across the parking lot to put it away? It’s raining. The cart rack is too far from the car.
Telephone etiquette is another controversial subject. Is it polite to hold a loud conversation on the phone while in the same room with others? If someone texts you, what is the polite amount of time in which to reply? How late is too late to call someone?
Most people are not as polite at home as they are out in the world.
In other countries, they have different views on what is polite. In Nepal, it is considered very impolite to hand someone anything with your left hand, because that hand is considered unclean. In Japan, it is considered rude to laugh with your mouth open. In some countries, giving someone a thumbs up is the equivalent of “shooting them a bird” in the United States. In France or Spain, it would be considered rude to ask for salt to add to your meal in a restaurant. It would be like saying the food was not prepared properly. In many Buddhist countries, it is considered a great insult to expose the soles of your feet, because they are thought to be the dirtiest part of the body. In China, you will be looked at with disgust if you blow your nose in public. In Mexico, it is considered polite to be late, because it gives the host more time to prepare for the event. In Japan and South Korea, it is considered rude to leave a tip anywhere. They take pride in a job well done, and are offended by tips. In some countries in Africa, it is considered poor taste to compliment someone on something they own, because it can be taken as a desire to have it for yourself, and they may feel they have to give it to you.
Although most of us believe we know what is polite, and we clearly see how rude other people are, in truth, etiquette really is in the eye of the beholder. To the person watching us, we may be the ones who are rude.