Q&A with etiquette expert, William Hanson
For those who don’t already know, what exactly is etiquette?
Etiquette is a code of rules and guidelines for how a society should lead its life, politely. It can change from country to country and so what is correct in the UK may not be correct in Japan, and vice versa. I am fortunate to travel a lot for work and really enjoy learning new ways and history behind the culture from different countries.
When and how did you first become interested in etiquette?
My grandmother gave me a book of etiquette one Christmas when I was 12. Hard to believe, I know, but I was a fairly precious child and she thought it may appeal to me precocity. Which it eventually did, although not at first. Once I started to read the book, I was intrigued to learn more as it didn’t explain why we had to do the rules – only how. So, I bought more books and very quietly began educating myself further. Then when I was 17, I was asked to teach the younger years at my school basic table manners and from there it grew…
What kind of training does a person need to undergo to be able to call themselves an etiquette expert?
Most importantly, above anything else, you have got to like research. Read, read and read some more. And watch people. Be self-critical and critical (silently!) of others’ behaviour and take the good and shed the bad.
Why do you think that people are interested in etiquette and is it as popular now as it used to be?
Yes, I think people are fascinated. When Downton started in 2011 we were still suffering from the recession and people were able to realise that – as cliched as it is – good manners do cost nothing and perhaps with all the frantic rush to advance our careers and livelihoods we have forgotten some of the niceties that can add real value to the lives of others, and ourselves.
How does knowing about etiquette fit into modern day living?
Etiquette isn’t just how low you should curtsey to the Princess Royal. It’s about all aspects of behaviour, formal or informal. From how to slide into the DMs of someone on social media, to which prefix to use in front of someone’s name (Mr, Miss, Ms, Mx?) as well as how to eat a banana without causing a diplomatic incident.
What does your show Teacups and Tiara’s: The History of Etiquette consist of and what will people learn if they come along?
It’s a sparkling night out that will explain why we do certain things and help shine a light on the rich social history of the country. There’s also the opportunity for me to polish up a few rougher elements of the audience too, live on stage.
William Hanson’s Teacups and Tiara’s: A History of Etiquette (for the socially less fortunate) comes to Winchester Wednesday 4 March, 7.30pm.