Pages from Modern Manners

Modern Manners and relationships

Our new collection of essays from The Gentlewoman has some neat advice when it comes to making and keeping friends

Who do you turn to when your relationships flounder? Friends? Relatives? A psychiatrist or life coach? Could we add one further source of advice and guidance? Our new book Modern Manners: Instructions for living fabulously well, is a stellar collection of articles drawn from the fabulous women’s magazine, The Gentlewoman. Featuring contributions from among others: The New Yorker’s Lauren Collins, the Observer columnist Eva Wiseman, and Vogue’s Susie Rushton, Modern Manners covers everything from tailoring to telephone etiquette; solitary drinking to hand soap.

Don’t think of it as a Debrett’s-style etiquette manual, but instead a confessional, familial voice of reason, especially when it comes to relationships.

Lauren Collins confesses that her American, hyper-friendly approach upon meeting people didn’t go over so well with Europeans, when she first arrived on the continent. Her newfound acquaintances were “likely to be more creeped out than charmed by a stranger’s habit of bounding over and sticking out her hand.”


Pages from Modern Manners
Pages from Modern Manners


Adapting to local customs wasn’t a cinch, either. “Is it two kisses? (French?) Three? (Swiss?) The variations are so dizzying that there is a website devoted to the question, and to that of what side of the face the kisser should start with. (The residents of the Vendée, in western France, for example, plump for four pecks and heavily favour a right-hand start; those in the neighbouring département of Deux-Sèvres favour a single kiss on the right.)”

The Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin had a little more luck in making friends via her first job, as a waitress in Glasgow. “I felt as if I’d finally found my tribe: hard-working, hard-drinking, hard-partying people. I made lifelong friends — and developed a healthy wariness of chefs.”

Maintaining friendships is just as tricky, though the book also offers quite a bit of guidance in this respect. Consider the difficult matter of saying sorry. “Apologising is easy, except when it’s important,” writes Seb Emina, editor in chief of The Happy Reader. “The classic mistake is to lose perspective and forget to ask the most important question at all: what would I expect in their situation? If this question is considered honestly, the answer is often difficult and awkward, but actually not that complicated.”


Modern Manners
Modern Manners


Of course good friendships can also be maintained at distance. The Paris Review’s Sadie Stein found a fun way to do this. “Myself and a number of friends around the country, and indeed the world, keep in touch almost exclusively via postcard,” she writes. “Granted, it keeps communication brief, but it leaves the recipient with a special keepsake to be treasured and one that, however economically, tells a story.”

And getting everyone together once in a while is a capital idea too. The British writer, historian and curator, Emily King, advises that “if the party is at home, the most practical approach is to envisage what’s likely to come to pass — even do a walk-through — and then prepare for it. Similarly, if you want your guests to be drinking champagne at 8 p.m., eating at 9 p.m. and dancing two hours later, tell them so on the invitation. People are much more likely to cooperate if they have been warned. Whatever your hopes, though, be prepared for something completely different to take place.”

Finally, if all else fails, perhaps take some from the Russian supermodel and philanthropist, Natalia Vodianova. When asked by The Gentlewoman what she offers as a thank-you gift, Vodianova replied, “I always give jewellery.” 

For more artfully conceived pearls of personal wisdom order a copy of Modern Manners here.