August 9, 2010 / 3:18 PM / 9 years ago

Modern Etiquette: Holidaying in polite style

(Jo Bryant is the London-based etiquette advisor for Debrett’s, the UK’s modern authority on all matters of manners and behaviour. The opinions expressed are her own. Debrett’s

Tourists cool off in the fountains near the Pyramid entrance of the Louvre Museum on a hot summer day in Paris July 8, 2010. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

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By Jo Bryant

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - With the holiday season well underway, a trip abroad is on the cards for most of us. Lazy days, balmy temperatures and the relaxed pace of a break away, however, can often cause us to forget our manners.

Polite Flying

The stress of travel can test our behavior even before we’ve reached our destination, and the cramped conditions of airplanes mean that good manners are paramount. Do not intrude on to your fellow passengers’ territory: keep elbows firmly tucked in; ease your chair gently into a reclining position to avoid a sudden invasion of the limited legroom of the passenger behind. Friendly conversation with your neighbors can be enjoyable, but know when to quiet down.

Drink in moderation; boisterous behavior will alienate (and irritate) your fellow passengers. Help the elderly (or those of diminutive stature) to stow (or remove) luggage in the overhead compartments. Be patient when it comes to disembarking and remember to thank the flight crew for their service.

Culture Shock

Abiding by foreign customs while traveling is essential, so read that boring bit at the beginning of the guide book about customs and etiquette in your chosen destination.

Keep your eyes peeled for how those around you are behaving and do as you can see others are being done by. Avoid the arrogance of imagining that everyone on your travels speaks English - or should do. Be aware of any major faux pas in advance, for example showing the soles of your feet in Thailand or eating with your left hand in India.

Research the etiquette you’ll need on a daily basis, particularly in regard to money - for example haggling and tipping. Be considerate toward your traveling companion(s). Stick to any plans you have made, listen to what they want to do, adhere to the agreed budget.

Beach Behavior

The beach is an unusual public area where we strip down to the equivalent of our underwear. But even in such laissez-faire surroundings, behavior should be governed by consideration for others.

Respect other peoples’ space. Keep a towel’s width distance from the next encampment and don’t cramp your nearest neighbor. Remember that sand gets everywhere, so be careful to shake towels out with consideration of the wind direction.

Music should be played only through headphones, never speakers, and save team sports for quiet stretches of unpopulated sand.

Swimwear should protect your modesty. Avoid thongs and micro-brief trunks. Topless bathing should be saved for deserted or remote beaches. Never stare or ogle at fellow sunbathers. Cover up with sarongs or t-shirts in beachside shops and restaurants. Leave no trace - clear up all your rubbish.


A smile and some civil behavior go a long way to encourage good service, so mind you Ps and Qs when you’re checking in. Tip the bellboy or porters per piece of luggage (one to two pounds, euros, dollars etc). Doormen should be tipped if they have helped with check out, getting a taxi etc. Room service should be tipped when they deliver the order, but leave a banknote in your room for housekeeping if you have stayed for a reasonable length of time.

Dress appropriately in public areas of the hotel. Even if you’re on your way back from the pool, make sure you’ve dried off and covered up. Hotel bars are often sophisticated, peaceful places. Avoid raucous or drunken behavior.

Leave your room tidy for housekeeping - pull up the bed, hang up your towel, don’t leave clothes on the floor etc. Respect the fixtures and fittings, and save rock’n’roll antics for the professionals. Check out on time or call reception to warn them you’re running late.


Holidaying with friends can be a memorable experience, and villas offer some of the best and affordable facilities. Make sure you remember the holiday for right reasons.

Respect your companions if you want to hang onto your friends. Don’t be overly noisy at night or early in the morning if people are in bed. The fridge contains communal supplies, so don’t eat or drink everyone out of house and home. Consider a rota for chores such as cooking, washing up etc. Remember the majority rule: go with the flow and fit in with what most people want to do. Villa holidays are all about communal living.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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