How to walk in public

My favourite subject at the moment is my morning walk to work. Striding down a leafy silent Cardigan Street, hustling through the heart of the city, loping moon-eyed over the Yarra, and ambling through King's Domain to the Shrine... I wax lyrical and interminable about it. The only reason I haven't mentioned it here before is that I intend to write you a book devoted entirely to the activity, and don't want to spoil the ending.

Enough! I have said too much already. Only this more I will say, that nothing could improve my morning constitutional, which is the world's finest — except if my fellow travellers were even vaguely familiar with the principles of perambulation, so concisely delivered to us by the insuperable Mr Maurice White, editor of How to Succeed in a Man's World.

White explains "Outdoor Etiquette"

WALKING IN PUBLIC A good, erect bearing is important when walking in public. A woman does not take a man's arm unless she is elderly. When walking with a woman, a man walks on the kerb-side of the pavement. This would also apply when you walk with two women. The women walk side by side, the elder next to the man. Naturally you can offer your arm to a woman if you want to protect her from any danger crossing the road on a slippery pass or steps, even if you do not know her very well. However, it would be disrespectful to grip her arm, elbow or hand to support her. Offer to carry any parcels she might have. Do not walk hand in hand or put your arm around a girl's waist.

If you meet somebody you know and you have time for a little talk, do not stop for any length of time in a crowded street and inconvenience passers-by, but turn and move slowly along with the person you want to talk to. Apologize if you collide with another pedestrian. It is tactless to stare at other people or to turn round to have a better look at them. In case of an accident only stop if you want to help. Keep to the left in British countries and to the right in European countries when you walk along the street.

INTRODUCTIONS IN THE STREET It is not good form to introduce two persons in the street unless there is some special reason. If a woman passes two men one of whom she knows, it is correct for both of them to raise their hats. Should they stop to speak to each other, the other man would slowly walk on. The same would apply to a man meeting two men, one of whom he knows.

ALL ABOUT YOUR HAT In a lift: Whether or not to remove your hat in a lift depends largely on the circumstances. It may not be possible to do so when you are in a crowded lift in a department store or public building. However, it would be much more polite to take your hat off in a lift whenever possible, particularly when you are in the presence of a woman.

RAISING YOUR HAT It is not only important that you raise your hat, but how you do it matters also. To do it half-heartedly indicating that it is a rather irksome duty, will not make a good impression. Just to touch the brim of the hat in greeting a woman is downright impolite. When a man meets a woman in the street, he raises his hat or bows slightly if he is not wearing one. Raise the hat with the left hand, in case a handshake is to follow. And if you are smoking a pipe or cigarette, remove it. It is not necessary to keep your hat off whilst talking to a woman in the street. Do not forget to raise it again when saying good-bye. If you carry your hat in your hand, hold it with the inside pointing towards you. It may have a very expensive label on it, but nobody wants to know.

From White, M. (ed), How to Succeed in a Man's World, Vol 3, 868-869

Joseph | 27 Sep 2004

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