Have you always thought of yourself as a very well-mannered person? Well, here’s one way to find out… This quiz by William Hanson, widely regarded as the UK’s freshest and most trusted authority on etiquette and protocol, gives you insights on what’s polite and what’s not. He is also the author of ‘The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette’, and regular columnist for Mail Online. So, are you ready to dine at the palace? Let’s find out…
1. When invited to a dinner at 7.30pm at a private house, what time should you arrive?
Answer: C – It is the custom to arrive ten minutes late to social engagement. This allows the host a little breathing space and shows that you aren’t too keen. Showing up early is almost as bad as showing up late says William. Do you agree with this point? In Australia, everyone is expected to be on time.
2. When served as a first course, which is the correct way to eat asparagus?
a) With a knife and fork
b) With just a fork (in the right hand)
c) With the fingers
Answer C – so long as the Hollandaise sauce is not served already poured over the asparagus, this is a finger food. According to William, in the UK, it is picked up and eaten with the left hand.
3. You have returned home from a weekend stay at your friend’s house. Correctly, how long should the thank you letter be?
a) One side
b) Two sides
c) Doesn’t matter so long as there is a thank you letter
Answer B – Although a short thank you letter is better than none at all, traditionally one would write two pages by way of a thank you letter to your hosts. Not two sides of A4, social correspondence paper is roughly what we now call A5 in size.
4. The Duke of Decorum dies. When can his eldest son start using his late father’s title?
a) The moment the Duke dies
b) Once the will has been read
c) When the funeral ends
Answer C – William says that you are not socially dead until after the funeral and it is customary for eldest sons to wait until after this before they style themselves with their new title.
5. When leaving the table during a meal but with every intention of returning, the napkin should be placed where?
a) On the table
b) On the chair
c) On the floor
Answer B – the napkin on the arm or seat of the chair signals to staff and any guests that see it that you will be returning. In formal dining, however, you do not leave the table at all – unless you are the host/cook and you need to return to the kitchen.
6. When dining with The Queen and you notice the Monarch has finished, you should…
a) Finish too, regardless of whether you still have more to eat
b) Quickly finish what you can on your plate
c) Carry on eating until The Queen looks bored
Answer A – Correct protocol means that all diners should stop eating within a few moments of The Monarch. William says that Queen Victoria was a very quick eater and also particularly rude and would not even care if the end of the table hadn’t even been served by the time she had finished – meaning a lot of people went hungry. Our current Queen is also a quick eater but much more considerate to her guests, thankfully! But still, when she stops eating, you stop too!
7. For smart, indoor evening events, open-toed shoes are acceptable. True or false?
Answer B – Always closed-toe shoes for formal evening events.
8. What does ‘place à table’ (French) mean in English?
a) Seating plan
b) Table setting
c) Room layout
Answer A – If you want to impress, ask you hostess what the place à table is before entering the dining room. If you are the male guest of honour, expect to be seated to the right of the hostess; the female guest of honour, to the right of the host. Smart houses will ensure the guests are placed boy-girl-boy-girl.
9. The top tier of a wedding cake is traditionally reserved for what?
a) The bride and groom to consume in their new house
b) The mother of the bride
c) The Christening of the first-born
d) To feed the waiting staff
Answer C – Traditionally, wedding cakes are fruitcakes, often with nuts – these ingredients being used to symbolise fertility. In America and increasingly in Australia, the top tier is reserved for the couple’s first wedding anniversary, but in the UK and it is reserved for the birth of the first-born.
10. Candles should never be lit before what time of day?
Answer C – candles are evening only accessories. Candles are lit and ladies’ hats are removed at six o’clock.
11. The flap on the envelope for social correspondence (birthday cards, thank you letters, invitations) should be what shape?
a) Inverted triangle
Answer A – social letters need triangular flaps, whereas all business correspondence needs straight-edged rectangular flaps.
12. In Britain, it is correct to present a business card in which hand?
c) With both
Answer B – William explains that in Britain and Europe, business cards are presented in the right hand, the text of the card facing the recipient. In Asia business cards are presented (and received) with both hands. In Australia, giving out your business card with one hand is common but just make sure that the front is faced up.
Like more tips? According to William, here’s how you should hold a tea cup…
What does your score mean?
Here’s what William says…
If you got all 12 correct, you’re ready to meet the Queen. Well done!
11-9: Practically perfect, but not quite. Just a few more hours at charm school needed.
8-6: Average at best. Average won’t get you anywhere socially or professionally. You had better brush up your act sharpish.
5-3: Somewhat tragic. You can do better, and you know it.
2-0: Not so much a question of attending a Finishing School for you, you are more in need of a Starting School according to William.