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Don’t mind if I do…

March 10, 2013

One thing from the very get go you can’t ignore in North America are the almost obsessively good manners. Being polite and courteous is so much second nature it seems they are programmed in at birth.

It is certainly something we have welcomed as parents, not that our girls were unruly or impolite it’s more that it will imbed with them that good manners are normal and not just something Mum and Dad insist on.

People welcome you in the street, neighbours welcomed us to the district with gift baskets and a variety of kind and generous offers and genuine concern for our health and welfare, children address you as Sir and Mam, service providers at my work treat me with considerable and uncommon formality (uncommon that is relative to anywhere else I have lived), thank you cards follow even the smallest event (perhaps when I hold the door open for someone I should have a business card ready so they know where to send the thank you card).

Kia ora

It really is fantastic, and perhaps the part of the ‘retained’ and ‘more English than the English’ customs that North Americans have carried forward that I most enjoy.

At times we struggle to comprehend the sincerity of an offer or an act of ‘good manners’ yet all the evidence to date is that it is all from the heart and not one bit of it forced.

I think it has already changed my way of life – I expect and invariably receive uncommonly good courtesy and endeavor to reciprocate at all times. It’s possibly too subtle to understand how this might flow through to my demeanour,  my posture, my facial gestures etc. I do know it has loosened my response to the proverbial question ‘How are you doing today Sir” to invariably be much louder and enthusiastic than it would have been in New Zealand, and I love that.

A bit of gregariousness is hugely beneficial – it lifts the spirits and ups the energy in a room – provided of course you don’t let it ‘become the room’  – and yes we’ve experience those North Americans too 🙂

I enjoy tension and contradiction and it occurs to me that good manners may create a more buoyant and vibrant environment – which in their original genesis is just what they were designed to contain.

By welcoming someone, you invite conversation, provide a level of equality and embrace which is otherwise absent.

Is our societal challenge to reinvent good manners to be a means for a warm embrace seen as convivial and welcoming rather than containing and formal?

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