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Perhaps you consider yourself quite worldly and are well-versed in the basic rules of how to be a perfect gentleman, (or charming lady) at the table. But alas, a general knowledge of what’s considered proper and what not is often not enough when you’re in the company of the ultra-chic and posh diners. And not even those who can’t get enough of etiquette, those who keep the 16th Century manners manual by Monsignor Della Casa on their bedside table – even they should never let their guard down.
After all, while some behaviours are considered offensive regardless of era or place, social norms are in constant flux. So it’s crucial to stay updated with courses in proper etiquette – and to invest in some of the more recent books published on the subject. And while this technology driven day and age may seem more socially “casual” than other times, there ‘s been a massive boom worldwide in classes, seminars and lessons catering to all kinds of needs and situations: from work dinners for managers, to how to order, decant, pour and taste wine.
But alas, many of these teachers are nothing more than expert bluffers, and probably wouldn’t know which fork to use for salad or how to tell a bread plate from a saucer. Which is why, when seeking to learn about savoir-faire from a trusted name. Institut Villa Pierrefeu, is a world-famous private Swiss school that will help anyone bid adieu to gaffes forever. Opened in 1954 and now run by the third generation of the founding family, the Istituto Villa Pierrefeu (often abbreviated as IVP) has built itself an enviable reputation regarding international etiquette, whether the context is business or social.
That’s right, it’s not just debutants or young scions that come to the school, but managers and CEOs who want to feel confident at important lunch meetings, or even learn how to fire somebody with a certain grace.
This kind of context applied to bon ton is rather new, but with today’s global conglomerates and their billionaire, private-jet owning CEOs, good manners with business savvy is becoming one of the most popular requests.
Also new is the idea that one’s own family may not be the best place to learn proper social norms. Mothers who have been too permissive and fathers who no longer exert authority may find themselves forking over around 20,000 dollars for an intensive, six-week course in Switzerland with 216 hours of classes and 45 exams. It must be said, however, that it’s supposed to be worth every penny: IVF, after all, has had over sixty years’ of experience in teaching young ladies how to set an impeccable table or how to properly serve tea to the Queen herself.
For those who would prefer to go somewhere other than Switzerland, consider the world your oyster. The Hollywood types rely on classes at Beverly Hills Manners held by the etiquette expert Lisa Gaché. Italians turn to the “master of ceremonies”, Alberto Presutti.
For those who would like to live like a true lady or gentleman, More Than Good Manners offers a truly bespoke, exclusive service. Not only does the British aristocrat Veronica Joly de Lotbinière offer lessons in etiquette, but also will situate you as a guest in one of Great Britain’s Stately Homes. Surrounded by exquisite antiques, or against the backdrop of breathtaking English gardens, you’ll learn not only which fork to use, but how to manage a falcon, ride a horse, sip Scotch and play polo. The common denominator being the assurance of knowing exactly how to behave under any and all circumstances, in all kinds of situations.
From how to make introductions to personal dressing, from the well-mannered way to use a cell phone to how to behave at the table, all aspects of daily life are subject to refining if one wants to pass muster as a true gentleman or lady. But it’s never too late. While class may not be for sale, good manners can be taught. And learned.