Winged Etiquette: Do Manners Travel?

“Manners are your passport to the world,” the Gilded Age writer of American etiquette Emily Post once opined. The mid-century sage also said etiquette isn’t a strict code of socially correct behavior we need to memorize -- it’s simply how our lives touch other people. Respect.

Although more a proponent of Miss Manner’s sharp-humored good sense, I’m intrigued by the premise if we behave thoughtfully, politely, discreetly we might float around the globe in a delicate cloud of social grace, doors opening everywhere.

Yet, are manners culture blind?

Can the deportment of one society truly transcend the culture of another? Just like etiquette isn’t a code, what passes for propriety in one place may not have the same meaning in another. Perhaps we need a non-formulaic equation for the cultural layer in these global times.

A recent tip by Cindy King about not appearing too self-centered in international situations caught my eye.

Isn’t “self-centered” culturally relative? For a person like me born under the sign of the ruler in both the Western and Chinese zodiacs and raised in “the Me Decade” of California, it can sometimes seem like the definition -- and curse -- of life itself. If one aspect of my demeanor is going to doom me worldwide, it’s this one.

King, a cross-cultural communications coach, presents a series on the role of respect in building trust. “Self-centeredness can be perceived as a lack of respect to others,” King writes. Her advice: become more curious about the other person’s perspective. Individualistic Americans will have to work over-time.

Which manners travel best for you? Where in your disposition, and on the planet, do you need to improve?