Monday, July 9, 2012

Manners: where are you hiding?

„Hi, I’ll be five minutes late, sorry“ said one of my students and I was surprised. He especially called me, did not just send a message or just came late.

He’s an exception. I’m used to very different manners…

There are students who are 10 minutes or 15 minutes late and when I ask what happened, they reply that traffic was bad or they give neither an explanation nor an excuse. Or they don’t come at all, have overslept or anything else – but I get to know this only on our next date.

Am I getting old? Am I old fashioned? Or even both? No, this is not the case as discussions with colleagues and friends show. But manners seem to be out of fashion.

When I cleaned my shoes in front of my French teacher’s home, she said appreciatively that no-one else was doing so. So what for is such a rug in front of an apartment door? Me too, I’ve got one: black, big, obvious, the only one on my landing. Yet, I have to ask 9 out of 10 people to please clean their shoes. This is very embarrassing for me, since after all, there are doctors, managers, bankers and others among my students… and nevertheless, it is so necessary. The streets are always sandy, there’s always some kind of disgusting rubbish and the water tank lories spill their precious commodity so that often a sticky stuff… sticks on the sole of the shoes.

I don’t want to shake hands. I’m disgusted from the lacking hygiene. There are people who practise nose-picking, pimple squeezing and sneezing into their hands without using a paper tissue, although there is a tissue box on the table. And I should shake hands?

Then, there are people who leave used paper tissues, empty coke cans, broken pencils and others on my table – rubbish that I have to dispose of. Am I the public waste disposal?

In turn, others ask for a second, third or fourth glass of water instead of bringing their own, although they just finished doing sports and consequently are thirstier as usual. Am I a café?

And yet others charge their mobile phones and notebooks without asking. Am I a power station?

The longer I work as a „teacher“ and the more I meet people from all walks of life, the more I am surprised how little manners, politeness and good grace are spread. This hasn’t got anything to do with different cultures; my experiences result from across all walks of life and all nationalities. I am able to make differences: when my Koreans sip water noisily, I can understand. Somehow, a normal young travel guide for whom my lessons may be expensive might show better manners and even brings a gift on his return from his home town. However, a doctor and owner of a clinic lies half across the table, the hyper nervous dentist gets up and walks to and fro in my flat because he cannot sit quiet for an hour. The diving instructor’s papers and books look as if they had lain in the sand for a year and he regularly asks for a pen because he always forgets his own one.

The more I praise the job of that person who taught me manners, respect and politeness: my mother. She laid the foundation and I learned more while travelling and in business life.

Manners haven’t become extinct completely yet: some of my students give thanks to my lessons as much as I thank them for their attention. Some discretely take their rubbish with them or ask me if they may put it into the waste bin. There are these tiny signs of attention, few words and simple gestures that let as feel at ease with one another. I really wonder why this is not more common.

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