Savoir-vivre, etiquette and manners

30 June 2017
Classy colibri on savoir-vivre, etiquette, manners

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The internet offers plenty of advice on the rules of savoir-vivre, etiquette, good manners, but no website describing those sources of inspiration, grand gestures, classy attitudes and exceptional places that lead to the most precious of moments: that of sharing a moment, an experience, with someone.

Inspiration is what keeps us alive and moving forward. Through classy colibri we wish to share with you our sources of inspiration in the hope of procuring first and foremost an enjoyable read and, perhaps, a desire to discover a certain lifestyle in which to find sense and motivation.

Our intentions are sincere and true. Our quest for a certain savoir-vivre is not driven by imitation of, or desire to enter, a social or intellectual class to which we do not belong. On the contrary, it stems from the need to live right and in accordance with certain values too often disregarded, such as elegance, grandeur and a valiant spirit.


The French origins of the term savoir-vivre literally mean to know how to live. It’s the ability to live life well and with intelligent enjoyment, meeting every situation with poise, elegance, good manners and respect of social etiquette.

Savoir-vivre is behavior that is accepted as gracious and polite in social, professional, and family situations. Savoir-vivre encompasses both etiquette and good manners and is first and foremost about respect – for others and for ourselves. It is also about striving to become a better version of ourselves. Manners and savoir-vivre reflect character: savoir-vivre is not just a way of doing, it is a way of being. It can mean the difference between success and failure in many aspects of life.

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.”   Laurence Sterne


We are all, at times, wondering whether to follow our instincts or to yield to social conventions. Original etiquette manuals were really success manuals, teaching nobles how to conduct themselves in the court of the king, from which the concept of courtesy stems. Nowadays, the tendency is to tilt too far toward our instincts and to disregard established codes of conduct. Far from being an expression of cool irreverence, this makes social interactions more awkward and uncertain as people put their interests selfishly first, settle for the lowest common denominator and are lesser persons than they can be.

“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”   Robert A Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

Etiquette is a code of conduct for social acceptance and efficiency, a protocol of interaction from which trust and openness can be built. Like any code, knowing the etiquette for any given social situation increases your ease and confidence and, by extension, the ease and comfort of people around you. The rules of etiquette cover almost every social situation. Each rule was thought of for a particular good reason, be it protecting those who are weaker or affording strangers a basic level of dignity and respect. The aim is social harmony.

“I don’t care at all about all your rules if they don’t have any kindness behind them.”   Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Etiquette provides the structure within which good manners operate. According to Emily Post, perhaps the most influential American writer on etiquette in the twentieth century, rules of etiquette are the guiding codes that enable us to practice manners.


Manners are a combination of generosity of spirit and polite behavior that reflect an attitude of consideration, kindness and respect for others.

Good manners are more than opening doors and writing thank you notes. While opening doors for others and writing notes is nice, true courtesy goes deeper. Being polite and courteous means considering the feelings of others.  A well-mannered person knows better than to belittle or embarrass another person, remembers to say please and thank you and refrains from interrupting others in the middle of a conversation, to name just a few good manners.

Good manners may cause you to breach etiquette – columnist AA Gill best described it when he wrote in the Sunday Times:

“It’s etiquette that points out to the girl next to you that she’s drinking from the finger bowl; it is manners that insist you drink from yours to put her at ease.”   AA Gill


There are numerous books, blogs and articles listing rules of etiquette and savoir-vivre, but the one I would recommend as the most trusted source is Debrett’s. British people seeking advice on etiquette and lineage have been able to turn to Debrett’s since 1769, and Debrett’s is now digital and going global with an elegant (what else ?) and impressive website:



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