Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 3 "B's" of Toasting and International Signals

Here we go again. Another American politician makes another International faux-pas while visiting a foreign country. President George Bush, then First Lady Michelle Obama touch the Queen. Tim Kaine makes the "thumbs up" gesture during the Queen's 2007 visit to Virginia, (in Europe  Latin America and The Middle East, hand gestures are obscene)! Yesterday, President Obama makes many mistakes during his toast to the Queen. The poor Queen. She does not say anything, but she did shoot him a look when he toasted her during the national anthem.

   The casual, relaxed and affable President Obama just never took the quick etiquette class on the logistics of giving a toast. He said at the end of his speech, as he was also laying down his note cards: "Ladies and Gentleman, please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a Her Majesty The Queen."
   These words are THE International signal for: "I am finishing up my toast," just like marrying the knife and fork together in the 10:20 position on one's plate is the International signal for: "I am finished with my meal, remove my plate." The conductor thought President Obama was finishing up his toast, so the orchestra started up the British national anthem. Then surprisingly, a few seconds later, President Obama started talking again and continued giving his toast. Everyone else in the room was standing at attention in silence for their National Anthem. Finally, President Obama raised his glass to The Queen and for the second time looked as though he was winding up his toast. The Queen, in the middle of this confusion, shot him a glance reminiscent of a look my Mother used to give me at the dinner table or at a party when my manners were lacking and she did not want to, or could not say anything.
  The President should have paused, stood silently until the anthem was done, then raised his glass and finished his toast.
   Then, after all that, President Obama did not drink from his glass as everyone else did (save the Queen). The whole scene was painful to watch. 
   Yet again, the stereo-typical "Ugly American" and our poor manners. Why? One does not have to have money to have manners. Why do we not teach a manners course in school to 3rd graders, then again, to rising Juniors? Why do Harvard and Yale apparently not have an etiquette afternoon seminar? Do they think little rules of etiquette only apply to little people? 

Tricky etiquette, especially Internationally...really? Toasting is easy, really. All you need to read are a few basic rules as follows:
1. The 3 "B's" of toasting are always: Begin, Be Brief and Be Seated.
2. A welcome toast (before eating) and a toast to the guest of honor (dessert course) is always given by the host. The host leads the
    way, always toasts first, and sets the tone.
3. One always stands up to give a toast.
4. Never drink to yourself if the toast is in your honor.
5. The International signal for finishing a toast are these words: "Let us raise our glasses with a toast to... "So-in-So."

So, you see, little rules of etiquette DO apply to little people and Big people at Harvard, Yale and The Queen. She knows all the little rules of etiquette !