Just because they aren't talked about, doesn't mean you can ignore them.

By Melissa Locker
January 31, 2020

Most Southerners are taught from birth that they need to say please, write thank you notes, put your napkin in your lap, and always bring something to eat to a wake (and a birth and to a new neighbor). A steady stream of parents and grandparents and teachers and camp counselors and piano instructors have instilled in us the rules of proper behavior in polite society. However, some rules are less obvious than don’t eat birthday cake with your hands in front of your future mother-in-law (unless you darn well feel like it). Some rules of etiquette are practically invisible, yet nearly just as important. That’s why we are making a list of some of those nearly-unseen manners that Southerners practice every day to make the world run a little more pleasant.

  • Have common courtesy
  • Be hospitable
  • Be honest
  • Be respectful
  • Be kind
  • Be a good friend
  • Don’t be stingy with compliments
  • Dinner table conversation should be inclusive, light, and friendly
  • Know how to change the subject tactfully
  • Introduce older people first
  • Say thank you to waiters, valets, housekeepers, gardeners, shopkeepers, and everyone else
  • Cancel plans only if there is an emergency (which does not involve Netflix and the sofa)
  • Clean up after yourself
  • Don’t whisper in front of others
  • Don’t ask someone where they are from, just make them feel welcome
  • Don’t boast, brag, or show off
  • Always offer visitors a seat and something to drink
  • Be punctual, but never early
  • If an uninvited guest shows up at your shindig, make them feel welcome
  • Treat your parents and grandparents well
  • Make eye contact when you shake hands
  • Always offer to help
  • Learn to compromise
  • Include everyone in your conversation at a gathering and circulate at a party
  • Know how to make sweet tea
  • Always RSVP after receiving an invitation, even if it’s not requested
  • Be well-groomed, but don’t judge others who haven’t managed to put on pearls before driving carpool
  • Never embarrass your hostess
  • Turn off your cell phone when entering a theater, church or meeting
  • Keep personal problems private, especially at another's expense
  • Be sincere with your compliments
  • Hold the door for anyone who needs a little extra help
  • Give your seat to people with disabilities, women who are expecting, and folks older than you
  • Keep your promises
  • Don’t be tacky
  • Know how to make one dish and one drink really well
  • Don’t laugh at other people’s mistakes and if you do, at least pretend you’re coughing
  • Don’t use your phone while having a real-life conversation
  • Stay home from work, school, church, and parties if you’re sick
  • Do not overdo it on drinks and don’t overserve your guests
  • Wait until everyone is served before digging into your food
  • If you get the church giggles, try to squelch them—or excuse yourself to the restroom
  • No phones at the table, the cemetery, church, or at the movies
  • Never show up empty-handed
  • Manners trump etiquette
  • Feel free to break these rules but do it with good humor—and don’t let your mother catch you
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