In a rapidly changing world, social norms and etiquette have evolved significantly over the years. What was once considered proper and polite may now seem outdated and unnecessary. While some old-school etiquette rules still hold value today, others have become obsolete. Let’s take a look at 11 old-school etiquette rules you can safely leave behind, along with three that remain as relevant as ever.
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The outdated rule: Avoid wearing white clothing after Labor Day.
Why you can let it go: The theory is that this rule started in the mid-1800s, when fashion was formal and white was considered a summer color. Fashion has since evolved to be a lot less fussy. Feel free to wear white, or any other color, whenever you like.
The outdated rule: Address everyone, even acquaintances, by their last name (e.g., Mr. Smith or Mrs. Johnson).
Why you can let it go: Casual settings often call for first names, and many people prefer it. Just be sure to gauge the formality of the situation.
The outdated rule: Don’t start eating until the host begins.
Why you can let it go: It’s acceptable to start eating when your dish is served, allowing everyone to enjoy their meal while it’s hot.
The outdated rule: Send handwritten thank-you notes for gifts or favors.
Why you can let it go: While handwritten notes are charming, digital thank-yous via email or text are widely accepted and more convenient.
The outdated rule: Stand when a lady leaves or returns to the table.
Why you can let it go: This chivalrous gesture is no longer expected and can be seen as outdated or even patronizing.
The outdated rule: RSVP to invitations using a formal reply card.
Why you can let it go: Most invitations now include online RSVP options, making it easier to respond promptly.
The outdated rule: Avoid discussing politics or religion in polite company.
Why you can let it go: While heated debates are still best avoided, it’s okay to engage in thoughtful conversations on these topics when appropriate. Also, what else is there to talk about these days?
The outdated rule: Always dress formally for dinner, even with the family.
Why you can let it go: It’s perfectly reasonable to want to be comfortable at dinner. Go ahead and eat in your pajamas if you’re at home.
The outdated rule: Address individuals by their formal titles (e.g., Doctor, Professor).
Why you can let it go: In casual settings, people often prefer to be addressed by their first name. Use titles when appropriate.
The outdated rule: Never use your phone at the dinner table.
Why you can let it go: Good luck getting anyone to sit at the dinner table in the first place. If you have kids, the phone will arrive before them.
The outdated rule: Always bring a hostess gift when invited to someone’s home.
Why you can let it go: While it’s a nice gesture, it’s not mandatory, especially for casual gatherings. Express your gratitude in your own way.
The timeless rule: Always use polite language and express gratitude.
Why you should keep it: Being polite and showing appreciation will never go out of style.
The timeless rule: Hold doors for people when it’s courteous and convenient.
Why you should keep it: This small act of kindness is still appreciated by many.
The timeless rule: Always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Why you should keep it: Basic hygiene and consideration for others remain essential.
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