✨📖 Modern Life Etikette (2020) by Gabriela Meyer 📖✨
December has been a busy month of hosting and socializing* for me, and I’ve found great pleasure in consulting one of my favorite books on etiquette to help me elevate my game. My dear friend, mentor and my first boss, Gabriela Meyer, wrote what I consider to be the Bible of good manners in today’s tech-obsessed world: Modern Life Etiquette.
(*hosting and socializing done in super small groups, in line with Kosovo’s COVID-19 government regulations, of course 😊!)
Modern Life Etiquette covers a plethora of etiquette advice for new and unusual everyday scenarios, that traditional etiquette rules tend to forego: phone use, email etiquette, social media presence and what not. I found the book incredibly valuable in shaping my own relationships and boundaries with technology, and remembering to not let it rule my life. In between that valuable advice, Gabriela Meyer also sprinkles refreshing tips on other etiquette rules that help us in curating a more beautiful life. Because to me, that’s really what etiquette is about: beauty! One section I’d like to particularly focus on today is that of hosting guests. I think it’s particularly fitting for the holidays. Here’s four beautiful insights I’d like to share:
1: Not Guests, But Friends 💌
In German, the word for hosting is ‘Gastfreundschaft’, and Gabriela notes that the word in itself includes the word for friend (‘Freund’). While I couldn’t relate to that word play in English, I could very much relate to it in Albanian. Just like in German, in Albanian, the word for hosting is ‘mikpritje’, and the word for friend (‘mik’) is at the start of the word. The book explains that at the core of all of hosting, is ensuring that your guests don’t feel like guests, but that they feel like friends✨💖. Granted, the majority of my guests have been friends, but there’s been the odd occasion where I’ve invited a friend’s partner and, even then, I tried my best to make them feel like a friend.
2: Ambience, Ambience, Ambience 🕯
Something that the book advices, and that I’ve found tremendously enjoyable, is setting a beautiful stage for myself, first and foremost, and then also for guests. This in my home incudes fluffing up the pillows, spritzing some room perfume on the curtains, and turning on what I like to call my mood lighting: my fairy lights draped around the curtains, a little tree light by the TV, and battery powered faux-candles. Lately, I’ve also discovered that Netflix has a collection of fireplace backdrops that you can just play in the background too.
3: Communicate Your House Rules Accordingly 🏡
One thing I’ve struggled with as a hostess, is communicating my house rules to guests accordingly, but without coming off as unfriendly. The book has a great tip on how to deal with that, and uses the tricky example of shoe-use indoors. In Germany, the book explains, when welcoming guests, it’s not advisable to ask them downright to remove their shoes, especially if it’s a more formal evening and the shoes are part of the outfit. Kosovo is pretty clear-cut on shoe use, so that’s not been a problem for me, but one area that’s been difficult to navigate is smoking. I have a pretty rigid rule of absolutely no smoking in my place, but that can sometimes be tricky to communicate on the spot. Instead, as per the book’s etiquette recommendations, I have taken to communicate this house rule to guests before they arrive, so they can come prepared, and I can feel more at ease, knowing the expectations have been communicated correctly.
4: Filoxenia 🇬🇷
Gabriela, who is of Greek-German origins, ends the section of the book by talking about a very wholesome and interesting concept in Greek culture: Filoxenia. As a self-proclaimed fan of looking up Greek word origins on Wikipedia, I could somewhat guess what filoxenia could mean. It is the love of the foreigner. She explains that in Greek culture, it’s considered noble (and brings in good fortune!) to show great hospitality to foreigners as well. This holds true even for families in more rural locations, who might not have much to offer. They’ll prioritize good hospitality to strangers just as much as anyone else. I mention this bit because, again, I thought it really related beautifully to something I quite like about Albanians as well. Similar to Greeks, Albanians will also prioritize hospitality to strangers, even if we really don’t have much even for ourselves.
If you’re at all interested in etiquette, I’d strongly recommend you give this book a go, since it’ll have you covered with etiquette tips for any scenario you can think of. And I think, as I – and my friends – collectively mature, it’s quite important to refine our etiquette skills as well.