Manners cost nothing…

I’ve been thinking lately about how things are changing – changing everywhere, all over the world, but also here too. We are very lucky to live in such a safe environment as here in the UAE. Of course, there are still incidents of crime and violence but they are much fewer and farther between than in most of our home countries. Though it does seem to me lately that in such a safe and normally pleasant place to live as the UAE where you can be jailed for swearing at someone in public or making ‘unfortunate’ hand signals whilst driving, there seems to be a disconnect… I’ve written before about the fact that if you look at a situation with different eyes, that couldn’t a place where people can go to jail for speaking unnecessarily to one another actually create an environment that is nice to live in? Not one where people are afraid to express their feelings, but one where people do so with thought and respect for one another. But it seems to me that in this modern day, it’s not only in the Western world that treating others with respect seems to be a dying trait, I’m sad to say that I notice more and more rude and uncalled for behaviour on the streets daily in this country.

Just recently in Carrefour, I bent over to pick something up from the bottom shelf – which, since I’m currently carrying a near ripe foetus inside me and with a little pair of feet firmly resting under my ribs, I’m sure you can understand that bending at all is no mean feat! So I bent over very slowly and carefully to reach something from the bottom shelf when a small child who was not watching where she was going ran into me with such gusto that I was practically knocked flat on the floor and left with a scratch on my chin from the force of the collision! Of course, it wasn’t the action of the child I minded, I’m sure they had no intention of causing the collision, but the incident had been fully observed by the child’s father and yet having clearly seen the whole thing, the father just walked off with the child without a single word. No apology, no mention to the child to watch where she’s going more carefully next time, not even the faintest acknowledgement that anything at all had happened as I found my feet again and stumbled to collect myself. That’s what I found stunning. I know it was an accident and no harm was intended – but harm was indeed caused, and yet still not a single word was uttered. I find that shocking and incredibly bad mannered. I couldn’t believe it. And this I find sadly, is not an isolated incident… Just the day after my incident in Carrefour my husband was at the golf course heading right on time for his scheduled 11.30am tee off time when another so-called gentleman came up in front of him and proceeded to tee off at precisely 11.30am, with no question or consideration of anyone else around him. This may not be such a big deal, and my husband was happy to wait, but it’s not the point – and anyone who plays golf will know that etiquette forms an important part of the game! Tee off times are exactly that – timed to allow the maximum players in the course with adequate space between, and to tee off at someone else’s slot without any apparent care is just rude. And it’s not just these things – doors are constantly dropped and slammed in front of both women and men with their hands full with shopping or children. We see impatience and rude behaviour here every day on the roads where if you haven’t floored the accelerator within a nano second of the light turning green you are subjected to an impatient barrage of horn tooting (and let’s face it, this is one of the politest examples of rudeness on the roads I could probably have found for you!). I don’t know if it’s because we live in such a multi-cultural society where manners and etiquette differ between cultures or whether it’s just because we live in a culture where money talks and can buy anything. Sometimes I wonder if this is really what makes people forget themselves… perhaps people get so used to getting anything and everything they want that they become selfish and so caught up in themselves that maybe they think manners and being polite no longer matter? Or perhaps due to believing themselves to be the absolute centre of the world these ideas no longer even occur to them, possibly not even meaning to be rude – just the idea of caring for others not even crossing their mind? I don’t know what it is or why it is, but regardless, I firmly believe that manners are not an outdated institution and some attention to good manners and being polite absolutely does make the world a better place for all of us to live in. Thankfully, it’s not all bad – there are still some of us out there who care. I have seen moments and acts of kindness where people hold doors for women struggling with prams, or offer to carry things for people struggling on escalators and so on, but it does seem that even here, in this normally exceptionally safe and respectful society where many of us are blessed with a quality of life that others can only dream of, that caring is a dying trait. All I can say is – please, let’s get this new year off on the right foot and all be more aware and kind to those around us, after all, manners cost nothing.

What do you think? Do you have any tales of bad behaviour or perhaps even of extreme kindness to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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  • An excellent article, Lindsey. This topic strike very close to home for me, as I consider myself very well-raised in terms of social etiquette, manners and consideration for others. All credit goes to my wonderful parents for inculcating a strict sense of public accord in me from a very early age. I personally believe there are at least 3 very distinct environments where one can act in appropriately distinct forms. A personal individual space, where no one is present, and you are free to be yourself in any way you please. An environment of family or friends where you are a known entity and can act with some leeway. And the public space, where you are an unknown, and needed to be in your most self-aware state with regard to strangers around you.

    It is this last state where a great number of people globally fail to act appropriately. One tends to point fingers at ethnic differences amongst the population at large, but this should not be the case. I’ve traveled extensively and lived in several different countries of varying ethnicities, and find this a globally recurring phenomenon. I would say it is true that more of these socially inept types are found in certain cultures, but ultimately the culture is not to blame. It almost always goes back to upbringing. And sadly, from this point of view, it can be surmised that the vast majority of people that one may come across anywhere in the world did not have that ideal upbringing as children.

    When I was living in Montreal, I experienced a very different culture compared to the non-French speaking part of Canada. In Montreal, or Quebec as a whole, I’ve found people to be more independent, and proudly so, compared to English-speaking Canada. So once when I was crossing the street on the way to work once morning, a young man walking in the opposite direction in front of me stumbled, seemed to twist his ankle and fell over in a heap on the road. The traffic light was about to turn red, but he couldn’t quite get up at the time. People just stood on the side and stared or ignored him. My natural instinct was to alert the driver of the car that would be first to move, in case the driver did not see the man sitting on the road. Then I helped the guy up, and helped him get across the street to the pavement, where I sat him down on the pavement and asked if he was alright. He nodded, but the expression on his face was of complete disbelief, even suspicion… “why are you helping me? why do you care?” he seemed to be thinking.

    People are oblivious. Your experience in Carrefour was extremely unfortunate, especially considering there was potential harm to be done to two individuals, not just one. Even a simple “Sorry” would have gone a long way toward acknowledging the situation, at the very least. But you may have answered your own question. Manners cost nothing – maybe thats why most people assign no value to it? Now if manners came wrapped in a Prada bag….

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts so extensively, what a great comment! It’s great to hear your story and I love that you helped the guy despite his reaction. I feel that these days sometimes even the most well brought up are hesitant to help in these situations as they may feel that it’s ‘not the done thing’ anymore, even when their gut instinct or first thought is to assist. Perhaps for fear of the result – at best a look of disbelief and at worse, well, who knows?
      As for the Prada bag value analogy, that made me chuckle though the sad truth is I think you may have hit the nail on the head…

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