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Manners maketh men and women

Etiquette expert: Trudy Snaith has written a book to help people who are new to the island fit in (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening — it’s the little things that count in Bermuda. Etiquette expert Trudy Snaith has written Bermuda Shorts & More to help people who are new to the island fit in. The book covers “cultural etiquette faux pas” but also celebrates everyday Bermudian life and traditions. Mrs Snaith spoke to Lifestyle about it.

Q: Is this your first book on etiquette?

A: Yes.

Q: How much is there to say on the subject?

A: There is lots to say. It is my belief that people have been taught and do know most of these things but they benefit from being reminded. The first part of the book is for the visitor to Bermuda, introducing them to our customs and way of life while at the same time giving them tips on how to avoid making mistakes. For example, proper salutations co-ordinated to the time of day are preferred, drop the word “native” from your vocabulary, call a person by their last name unless they tell you differently.

Q: Who is the book for?

A: Bermuda visitors (as a keepsake), Bermuda residents (to know what it takes to get along) and Bermudians (to remember the way we were).

Q: Why do manners matter?

A: It smooths the way for successful social interactions and civility.

Q: Do you think social media has changed what’s acceptable?

A: Yes. Things are accepted because it’s easier to do so. Since the advent of social media people are also more impatient and less tolerant of each other. With personal face-to-face interactions you have an opportunity to look into a person’s eyes, read body language and make a proper assessment. With social media, a message comes in and you react to it right away without being able to judge the intent of the sender. Mistakes are easy to make.

Q: What Bermudians did you interview for your book?

A: Ann Francis, Lady Lully Gibbons, Charles Webbe, Penne Leseur, Ruth Thomas, Carol Hill, Laribe Chenteuf, Isabelle Ramsey-Blackstone and members of the Sunshine Senior Citizens Club.

Q: How did you determine who was an acceptable authority on the subject?

A: There are some people where there is no question about their expertise when it comes to recognising such things; they have an understanding about what is actually important in life. Above all, I wanted to demonstrate to this generation and people today, through the observations of those interviewed, that such things are simple and not impossible to recreate.

Q: What are some of the faux pas committed here?

A: Assuming that courtesy is not necessary is a big one. Smaller ones that are not necessarily less important, but easier for people to recognise, are things like being late without apology, failure to acknowledge a situation where respect is due; there are others — the list is rather lengthy. Many times people just don’t know or think it’s important or perhaps they think no one will notice. But someone always does.

Q: What is your interest in etiquette/culture?

A: In my opinion there are two ways culture is generally defined. One is the normal expectations of a group of people — their ‘culture’, or what is common among their family group and peers. Another is an appreciation of something that is acquired and enjoyed by a group of people. I have been interested in etiquette and culture for as long as I can remember and enjoy learning about it as well as sharing what I know with others. Everywhere I have travelled, from the Far to Middle East, from Europe to the Caribbean, I have found that the basic cultural expectations of people in general are very similar.

Q: Is it something you think only the older generation is concerned about?

A: Yes, the older generation is concerned about the demise of etiquette, manners and civility, but that is because they are familiar with it as it was. I believe it can be reintroduced and once this and future generations understand the benefits, they will have no problem embracing it.

Q: Your age?

A: A lady does not tell, but I will say that I am old enough to have raised two wonderful, successful adults and am now overseeing the etiquette education of four grandchildren.

• Bermuda Shorts & More is available for $20 at Robertson’s Drugstore in St George’s and the Dockyard Craft Market. Buy from Mrs Snaith directly on tsnaith@ibl.bm. http://www.esop.bm/TrudySnaith-TheAuthor.htm