Rude Awakenings: Etiquette Rules No One Follows Anymore

Store Owner Opens Door for Customer at Local Coffee Shop


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Store Owner Opens Door for Customer at Local Coffee Shop

Much-Missed Manners

The older we get, the more we realize the world has definitely changed. Sure, progress is welcome, but when basic niceties fall by the wayside, it’s hard not to get nostalgic for what’s fallen out of favor. We offer a look at what’s been lost to time when it comes to etiquette, which can be defined as the customary code of polite behavior. Read on — and feel free to nod in recognition.

Related: 25 Pieces of Advice from Seniors to Millennials

Money problems or payments.

Your Party? You Pay

Unless the invite explicitly says otherwise, if you host a party, you're the one who should be paying. But these days, some people are receiving electronic requests for money to cover their "share" after a dinner party or some other get-together. Insanity. It's perfectly acceptable to let the host know that when you were invited, you did not expect to have to pay for your attendance. 

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caregiver helping senior woman with shopping

Respecting … Everyone

It used to be a given: You respect your elders (no matter how cranky that old neighbor might actually be). These days, not only are the elderly often disrespected but so are those in the service industries, immigrants, and just plain strangers. Let’s bring back kindness and compassion.   

Female bank teller advising female customer

Using Personal Titles

It’s jarring when a young bank teller you’ve never seen before says, “Anything else, Mary?” Um, what happened to Mrs., Miss or even Ms.? Today’s overly familiar way of life leaves a lot of people smarting when they are called by their first name without permission.     

A Limo to the Airport, Air China

Opening the Car Door for a Lady

Your date opens the car door for you before going around to his side. Yes, kids, this used to happen. It’s the same way when a couple would walk down a sidewalk, the man would always walk on the side nearer the road to protect his companion. Ah, the good old days when chivalry wasn’t the exception.      

Can I get you some of these, mom?

The Proper Response

When you say thank you to most anyone in a store these days, especially millennials, the reply, invariably, is “No problem.” Boils my blood. No, the correct response is “You’re welcome.” Even better: “My pleasure.” 

Thank You Letter

A Proper Thank You

Making the time to write — yes, with pen, paper and a stamped envelope — a thank-you note or greeting card has, sadly, become a lost art. Texts, emails and e-cards have made “snail mail” greetings a thing of the past for far too many.        

Crowded Church

Dressing Appropriately

A quick glance might yield bedazzled jeans, cut-off shorts, mini skirts, bra straps, tight leggings, sports uniforms, flip-flops … no, we’re not talking about what’s being worn at the local mall but rather a house of worship. Some say just being there should be enough, but many feel that what you wear shows how much you respect those around you and what brought you there in the first place.    

party invitation card

Remembering to RSVP

The courtesy of a reply is requested … and expected. Too many hostesses find themselves overbuying because they’re not sure exactly how many guests to expect. Their other choice is to track down all those who were invited and put them on the spot.

Restaurant Eating

Table Talk

You’re at a table of, say, three couples. The server may need to make two trips to bring out everyone’s entrees. Wait, what? You are already three bites into your lasagna before the whole table is served? Not cool — or polite. Etiquette notes that you don’t eat until everyone at the table has their food in front of them. And when you do eat, please use the proper utensils.  

Related: The Surprising Side Effects of Eating at Your Desk

Asian man using smartphone while drinking coffee

Hats Off!

There was a time when most gentlemen wore hats, which they removed once inside. Today, most caps, fedoras and cowboy hats stay well in place on a man’s head inside or out.     

Related: 30 Most Regrettable Fashion Trends in History

Welcome to the team!
Goodboy Picture Company/istockphoto

Stand Up for the Ladies

A woman at the table gets up to use the ladies’ room, so the men stand up as a sign of respect. Huh? Yes, that was the way it used to be. And men also stood to greet a newcomer, too.     

Founder Commitment: Gustafson's Solution

Shake on It

Falling out of favor in more recent times, the handshake has been on the wane for years. A simple nod or casual wave of the hand often suffices, even in business situations. Accelerated by COVID-era safety protocols, the handshake’s future really may be in peril.    

Los Angeles Traffic

Following Road Rules

Common courtesy on the road can be hard to find. People turn without signaling, alternately giving a very clear signal (think one specific finger) at other times. Some drivers are too harried to wait for the car in front of them to turn, scooting around into oncoming traffic or dipping into the shoulder to speed by. The rules of the road haven’t changed — but people sure have.

Related: How to Stay Safe From Road Rage, Including Your Own 

Making a new friend

‘Oh, You Shouldn’t Have’

You go to someone’s home for dinner and bring a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. It’s the polite thing to do. So, why do people not do it so much these days? And, of course, a housewarming gift is always expected the first time you visit someone’s new place.

Store Owner Opens Door for Customer at Local Coffee Shop

After You

Lost count of the times a door has closed on you? Holding the door for the person behind you or letting someone exit — from a bus, elevator or even shop — before you rush in is another one of those everyday gestures that displays civility.

man sneezes sitting at a table in a cafe


It’s a free-for-all some days. You sit next to someone having a coughing fit (and they don’t cover their mouth) or they emit a wildly dramatic sneeze into the air. Masks have provided protection from those offensive behaviors of late, but some people are slow to change their habits. In the workplace, staying home when under the weather shows you respect your colleagues, too.      

Related: 15 Ways the Coronavirus Has Changed Americans' Daily Lives

Double parking on Handicapped parking spots

Space It Out

Taking up two seats on the train — one for you and one for your bag — or laying your gym tote on the bench instead of in a locker … all signs you are invading someone else’s (potential) space. And we’ll avoid commenting on those with fancy cars who purposely take up two parking spaces so no one scratches their “baby.” 

Littered picnic area in a park
Kenneth Francis/istockphoto

May I Clear That?

Have you watched a table full of people eat an entire meal at a food court, deli, fast-food spot or park picnic table, finish and leave the table full of debris, from open ketchup packets to unfinished sandwiches to dirty napkins? It only takes a moment to clean up after yourself — and it shows you respect yourself, the eatery — and whoever will sit at the table next.    

Related: 15 Mistakes You're Making When Going Out to Eat

Rude Woman on Phone in Cafe

Pay Attention to Me

How is it that you can hear that woman gossiping from across the room? People crave attention, and for many, speaking loudly in public brings exactly that. After all, what they are saying is so exciting/important/cool, you need to listen, right? Um, no. Same goes for music blared out of cars, at beaches and in the park.

A noisy coworker can derail your productivity

Calling on Courtesy

We could do an entire piece on phone etiquette, but we’ll leave it to a few points. Not talking on your cell at the dinner table, not yelling or shrieking when catching up with someone in public, taking selfies that infringe on other people’s space — and worse, posting things on social media without permission of those featured. Yes, phones can cause a lot of issues. 

Dog Welcome Sign

Barking Mad

Sure, pets are great — but not everyone is of the opinion they belong by your side, no matter where you go. Back in the day, no one would have ever thought to bring his or her dog to a restaurant (where they might bark or try to sneak food off the table) or the discount-clothing store, where they’ve been spotted perched in the “baby seat” of a shopping cart. Ewwww. Think of who has to sit there next — and keep your dog where it belongs.       

Disrespectful man in a movie theater

Cinematic Courtesies

People are back in the land of the big screen once again. It’s tempting to think you’re still at home watching Netflix, but remember you are definitely not. That means no yelling at the screen, talking loudly to your companion or, gasp, texting or taking a phone call.     

Mother talking to upset daughter
petek arici/istockphoto

Personal Comments

“Wow, you got your, um, hair cut…” That’s never a great thing to hear. Comments about someone’s personal appearance used to be looked down upon. These days, there are no rules. “Are you going to have kids soon?” “Is your husband’s job giving raises?” “Does your son have a girlfriend?” People constantly invade privacy, judge others (look to Instagram for proof) and put people down. Sure, there always have been things people think or want to know, but there was a time that you weren’t confronted with such intrusive questions or comments. 


Respecting Differences

“What is that you’re eating?” “Why do you wear that?” “How come you do it that way?” As the world becomes more multicultural, we are exposed to more cultures and their customs. Don’t assume your ways and traditions are best. Find out what makes other people tick, and you just might understand — and appreciate — them more.

Woman looking her watch stand up

Be on Time

Perhaps the biggest pet peeve of mine is waiting for someone who is late, especially if they’re a “repeat offender.” We all have those friends who are never, ever on time. You know the type — you tell them the 7:30 dinner is at 7 in the hopes that they will arrive by 7:45. And you’ve tired of giving gentle reprimands with those “Always late but worth the wait” gifts. Bottom line: Punctuality is a sign of respect. Those who are late don’t respect your time.     

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