Tag Archives: manners

Public service announcement: How to be a rebel.

One would think that Switzerland’s orderly and somewhat overly clean society made it easy to be A Rebel: Just do the opposite from what signs and common sense tell you to do. In reality though, the Swiss find it exceedingly hard to disobey orders, both direct and inherent ones. Not because they were a particularly bland type of sheeple, but because most of them rules seem sensible inside the bounds of social contract.

So we’re lost, our puny attempts at anarchy stop short of using the wrong fork at a gala dinner. Thank goodness I’ve had the opportunity to observe a selection of touristes étrangers while staying at hotels up in the Alps. As a service to my readers, I’ll share what I learned re: proper misdemeanor.

  1. Driving on the right is for wimps. Make sure to steer your Humvee clear of any street guides and use the middle of the road only, especially if it’s one of them curvy, narrow mountain pass roads leading to the resort.
  2. Assume everybody on hotel grounds not only understands but also speaks your particularly weird Flander dialect. Get riled up at noticing this ain’t so.
  3. Variant: Assume no-one in Switzerland speaks English, French, or Italian, and crack rassist jokes at the top of your voice.
  4. It might be a pool shared by all lodgers, but you’re in love! So boink your significant other as much as your loins permit.
  5. Bonus points if you use the kids’ inflatable banana float while doing so.
  6. A propos pool area: If there’s a single shower next to the pool – to cool off prior to jumping in – and more showers in the changing rooms settle for the former to do your weekly body scrub. Take your time.
  7. Cigar butts decompose easily stuck into lobby flower pots. No need for trash cans or, Gods forbid! ash trays.

I hope this short list will become helpful once you decide life’s too old and boring. Kant’s a cunt anyway, so forget about the Golden Rule and just be yourself. Everybody else will look up to you as a prime example of human egotism self-expression. And what’s a bit of love juice between friends?

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Table manners: you are doing it wrong.

Table manners aren’t rocket science. The rules are arbitrary, snobbish, and impractical? Or the one thing that distinguishes Man from Ape? Start using the grey goo between your ears, it’s not meant as a delicacy for certain remote tribesmen only. Who probably wouldn’t use the proper spoon to get going, either. Them sauvages!

What cutlery to use in what order or how to hold a glass of wine might seem overly codified. But there’s good practical reasons to adhere to what pragmatic minds thought of centuries ago. Take the wine glass thing, for example. In Survivor, Chuck Palahniuk used his protagonist’s obsessive-compulsive disorder for laughs. Remember the bit where the narrator threatens to shoot anybody who holds the white wine by the bowl and the red wine by the stem? Funny, ennit? Well, yes. But there’s a sound reason for the narrator’s insistence:

White wines are usually served cold, red ones at warmer temperatures. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the beverage probably stays colder if you hold it by the stem and gets a tad warmer if not.

That wasn’t too difficult, now, was it?

What many seem to miss is that Chuck isn’t primarily poking fun at the narrator for being such an anal character. He’s criticising the Wannabes who need to hire said narrator to learn how to eat a lobster. And can’t distinguish nonsense from common sense. The book splendidly fucks with them idiots who use a Code (here: table manners) for heightening their status and being able to look down at others. There were critics dismantling Survivor for this alone; it was “unrealistic” and “over-the-top” to hinge the moral on table manners, they said.

I think it’s brilliant. And very much part of our real life. Dinner rules, okay, but for chrissakes stop using them where they don’t belong. You don’t eat a sandwich with knife and fork. You don’t sniff the rubber cork of your $ 5 bottle. (Or any rubber cork to begin with.) But also stop holding your glass of brandy by the stem, little finger extended. Or somebody might shoot you, especially if you’re on a hijacked plane.

Misusing a code, especially table manners, makes you look like an idiot first. Afterwards, it raises questions about your self-esteem and your compulsory need to appear greater than your fellow human beings. In short:

Stop being a sodding ass, for fuck’s sake.