Social etiquette for everyday situations during Covid


In this brave new world, which unfortunately includes COVID-19, there are certain dos and don’ts that can help make life easier, if not less awkward. To help us navigate these new social customs in everyday life, we asked Desmond So, founder of etiquette and confidence training academy East West Etiquette, to give us some pointers.

On the hiking trails

No one wants to wear a mask when they’re in the great outdoors. After all, most people are there to enjoy the fresh air – and wearing a mask defeats the purpose. However, social-distancing rules and the common good demand that we stay vigilant and respectful.

If you’re by yourself and only bumping into someone once every few hundred metres, you can probably not wear a mask. Out of respect, make it a point to turn your head away from the other person as you pass. However, if the trail is crowded, as is often the case at the summit, be sure to put your mask back on.

And please – take masks home with you and dispose of them properly. We’ve all seen an increase in the number of discarded masks on the trails, so let’s keep the outdoors clean and safe for all to enjoy.

Walking (and petting) dogs


Other people’s dogs are their property and if you’d like to touch or play with someone else’s property, it is generally polite to ask. In this case, asking also helps protect your own safety.

My dog-owner friends use a phrase that kills two birds with one stone; looking at the dog owner and referring to the furry friend, they say, “Hi, is she friendly?” If the owner answers in the affirmative, it probably means that a) it is okay for you to touch their dog and b) your dog can initiate that ritual dogs do when they meet each other.

To post or not to post on social media

Short of offensive content that violates the rules and standards of social-media companies, what you post and how often you post is entirely up to you. You may risk losing followers, but you don’t violate etiquette rules even if you post 10 times a day – note that this is different from tagging someone 10 times a day, which would run afoul of generally accepted behaviour.

I’d say the number-one rule about social media is this: be mindful that different people have different tastes and sensitivities, especially during the times of COVID-19. What you find funny, others may not. Your sarcasm may come across as total gravity to someone who doesn’t share your culture, upbringing and experiences.

Unless your social media is in the business of delivering shock content (think people who stuff 10 Mentos in their mouths and then chug cola), it is best to word content in a way that will not offend anyone. If you’re not sure, keep your account private.

Desmond So is the founder and chief consultant of East-West Institute of Applied Etiquette, a corporate training business specialising in etiquette and confidence training.

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