The Etiquette of Smoking at the Formal Dining Table

Cigarettes and Ash Trays
There was a time when it was fashionable to smoke; and smoking at the dinner table—even during dinner—was acceptable. Elizabeth L. Post, in the The New Emily Post’s Etiquette (1975), writes in the book’s section on formal dinners, “Whether or not the hostess and her husband smoke, she sees that her guests are supplied with ashtrays and cigarettes. A small ashtray is put at each place, and cigarettes are found on the table, either in a small holder in front of each diner or in larger holders spaced evenly about the table. Smokers should follow the usual rules of good smoking manners more strictly at the table than at any other time.” Amy Vanderbilt, however, in her Amy Vanderbilt’s New Complete Book of Etiquette (1967), states what would prove to become the prevailing attitude towards smoking at the 21st-century dinner table: “It is poor manners for a guest to sit down to a table, formally set or otherwise, with a lighted cigarette in his hand. At a formal table he may well find no place for the ashes or finished cigarette (if the hostess takes pride in her cuisine) and will be forced to leave the table with his cigarette or ask for an ash tray. At formal dinners cigarettes are usually not placed on the table until the dessert is served, if then.” Vanderbilt does go on to say, however, in a chapter dedicated to international customs, that “In England at public dinners there is no smoking before the ‘Queen’s Toast,’ the first toast offered. This is a rule foreigners are certainly expected to know and must observe.”

Today, smoking during a meal is almost unheard of—even amongst smokers. And non-smokers are afforded veto powers at the dinner table, even when dining alfresco.

The Correct Way to Eat a Sandwich in a Formal Setting


To insist that a sandwich be eaten with knife and fork is to misunderstand the logic behind the invention of the sandwich in the first place.

While the use of  word “sandwich” to describe meat or some other ingredient placed between two or more slices of bread to be conveniently eaten in the hands is attributed to the 18th-century English aristocrat John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who, according to legend, one evening, while playing cards and not inclined towards interrupting the game or soiling his hands in the process of eating requested that his servant bring him a “piece of meat tucked between two slabs of bread,” the concept of conveying food to the mouth held between bread is much more ancient, as evidenced by the traditional cuisines of North Africa and the Middle East which routinely use flat breads, in lieu of forks and spoons, to pick up meats and other ingredients from the plate in order to convey them to the mouth.  But if the birthplace of the concept of the sandwich is the ancient world, certainly its international success is due to America—perhaps because of that country’s casual, fast-paced approach to life.

It is unlikely that sandwiches will be served as a course during a formal dinner. But they are oftentimes presented as options on the menus of many formal restaurants—especially those in America or in regions of the world influenced by her. And even in those venues, as formal as they may be, a gentleman is totally in compliance with the laws of etiquette to pick up his sandwich with his hands even though a fork and knife may have been provided—and they invariably will be. But again, common sense should prevail, for one can be “wrong” even though he is within his rights. The purpose of manners is to make others feel comfortable, not to prove social points. So, for example, if the sandwich is exceptionally large, it should first be halved or even quartered with a knife and fork and then eaten in the fingers; likewise, if the sandwich is particularly messy or unstable, it should be eaten in its entirety with a knife and fork.  At the end of the day, a gentleman should make sure that his method of eating does not offend or disrupt the comfort of those in his company or immediate vicinity.

The Etiquette of Giving and Receiving Gifts in Japan

The Gift-Giving Etiquette of Japan


-When visiting a person’s home, a gift should be given to the host/hostess.

-Gifts should be unwrapped carefully in front of the giver.  One should not rip open the wrapping; it should be carefully undone (Rationale: The Japanese history of origami and the love of paper).

-The numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky. Number 4 is “shi,” which is the same word used for “death”; and the number 9 is “ku,” which is the same word as “suffering.”  Gifts in sets of four or nine, therefore, should never be given.

-Items should be given and received with both hands.

The Etiquette of Giving and Receiving Gifts in India

The Gift-Giving/-Receiving Etiquette of India

-It is believed that the giving of gifts eases transition to the next life. (The sincerity of the gift, therefore, is of paramount importance).-It is customary to give gifts of cash to celebrate life’s major events.

-Yellow, red, and green are regarded as lucky colors. Those colors are therefore typically used for gift-wrapping paper.

-It is not necessary to appear at a house with a gift for the host/hostess.

-Never give gifts of frangipani or other white flowers; white flowers are associated with funerals.

-Gifts are not opened immediately upon receipt.

-If a man gives a gift to a lady, he must say it is from him and a female relative.

-Gifts should be presented or received with both hands or the right hand only.  Gifts should never be presented or received with only the left hand.

Arab Faux Pas: 8 Things One Should NEVER Do In The Arab World

Arab Faux Pas

-The left hand is considered “unclean” since it is the hand traditionally used for personal hygiene (as when cleaning oneself after a movement of the bowels at the bidet). It is therefore impolite to eat, drink, shake hands, or present gifts with the left hand. Even a left-handed person is expected to eat with his right hand in the Arab World.

-Displaying the sole of one’s feet or shoes is considered impolite as it suggests that the person to whom the sole is displayed is “dirt.” It is, therefore, impolite for a gentleman to cross his legs (as is the custom in the Western World) such that an ankle is placed atop the knee of his other leg.  It is also impolite to touch the foot of another person. Walking or jumping over (thus exposing one’s feet to another person’s body) a person’s reclining body or extremities is also prohibited.

-Non-Muslims should not enter holy sites in or surrounding Mecca or Medina. No non-Muslim should enter a mosque anywhere in the world without first asking permission.

-People should not be beckoned with a finger: That gesture is reserved for the beckoning of dogs.

-During Ramadan, non-Muslims should not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, embrace, or engage in affectionate or celebratory activity in the presence of Muslims during the hours between sunrise and sunset.

-A Muslim should not be offered alcohol or pork unless he is known to consume those items.

-One should not step upon a prayer mat or walk in front of anyone who is engaged in prayer.

-One should not express admiration for another’s personal possessions as to do so obligates the person complimented to offer the item to the person who gave the compliment. (And when the admired object is given, the recipient is then obligated to reciprocate by giving a gift of greater value).

Denmark’s Klavs Graae–Makers of the World’s Finest Leather Belts and Hunting Accessories

Klavs Graae’s The Soul of LeatherMakers of the World’s Most Luxurious Belts and Hunting Accessories.

In the real estate business, there is the adage, “location, location, location.” In the leather goods business, there is the phrase “material, material, material.” And for Danish-born leather designer Klavs Graae, the phrase transcends business philosophy and enters the realm of business religion.

When Klavs Graae uses calf and buffalo leathers, they must be from Scandinavian-bred-and-raised animals, the cold, northern climate and the region’s special breeds producing an exceedingly durable, yet supple, leather. And Graae’s exotic leathers—alligator, crocodile, lizard, elephant, and ostrich—are all tanned in Italy with CITES certificates guaranteeing that the skins have met the conditions of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. All of Graae’s leathers are vegetable-tanned and aniline-dyed (as opposed to chrome-tanned) in Italy using the absolute highest standards, thereby producing materials that endure and patinate beautifully. Graae’s aim is to produce luxurious leather items that last a lifetime and beyond.

But of all Graae’s products—from hunting bags to business card holders to knife sheaths—he is most revered for his handmade belts with their trademark solid sterling silver buckles. A Klavs Graae belt is designed and crafted such that a young gentleman can wear a belt once worn by his father.

Graae hand-selects each skin from the world’s best tanneries, including Italy’s Tempesti, supplier of the vegetable-tanned and aniline-dyed skins used to produce the belts. Tanned from natural plant extracts such as oak bark, rhubarb, eucalyptus, and acacia bark, the skins attain rich hues that age and patinate beautifully. The handmade collection is made-to-measure, one customer at a time; and each element of the construction of each belt—the design, the pattern-making, the cutting, and the sewing—begins and ends at the Copenhagen workshop. Klavs Graae—himself—crafts each belt, from beginning to end and each step in between. And customers are offered the options of selecting specific buckles, thread color, leather color, etc., thereby individualizing their purchases. Each belt is interlined to create contour and lined with Scandinavian calfskin for suppleness and durability. Serafina silk thread is used to finely stitch the perimeter of the skin, and the belt’s beveled edge is hand-rubbed. Dyed, elliptically shaped buckle holes called “double holes”—a “trademark” invented by Graae—allow for a more forgiving fit, and the Graae-designed buckles are made of hand-polished sterling silver. A Graae belt is crafted to become an heirloom piece, improving with age. He offers a custom-dye option, allowing clients to match the color of their belts to their shoes or some other accessory. Each belt is sold in a pouch made of leather of the Scandinavian elk. A certificate verifying the authenticity and origin of the skin from which it is made, and a silver-polishing cloth is provided with each belt.


The History

But one does not just “become” or “declare oneself” the world’s greatest maker of belts; it requires a lifetime commitment to the trade. Klavs Graae entered the leather trade in 1967, fresh out of high school, when he worked at “Bit ov Sole,” the first European leather shop in Copenhagen, craftsmen from all over Europe collaborating and sharing their ideas there. There, Graae designed and made leather garments for such music luminaries as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Then two years later, in 1969, he moved to the enchanting Balearic island of Ibiza, where his handmade leather products became immediately popular with Americans who had sought refuge on the island in their attempts to avoid the Vietnam War. But after one year in Franco-era Spain, Graae returned to Scandinavia, where he lived for 14 years in the forests of Småland, Sweden, breeding wild boar, amongst other things. And it is there, amidst the noble wild boar, that he received the inspiration for his present-day logo, which incorporates the boar’s head.

In 1984 Graae “returned to the civilized world” and founded Graae Design, a company specializing in handmade belts and leather goods. (During those years he was also commissioned by Royal Copenhagen to create special leather cases for the company’s luxurious “Flora Danica” porcelain line). But to a large degree, it was Graae’s decision in 2001 to launch the “Klavs Graae Solid Silver Collection,” a series of exquisite leather belts featuring exotic skins and solid silver buckles, that began solidifying his claim as the maker of the world’s most luxurious belts. In 2009, Graae Design became Graae Copenhagen, the new company expanding its product line to include such items as weekend bags and iPad cases. In 2014, after five years with the newly organized Graae Copenhagen, Klavs Graae left the company and established Klavs Graae—The Soul of Leather in 2016 ( ) . It is his hope to pass on his more than half-century experience in fine leather-making to the next generation.

Japanese Faux Pas: 8 Things One Should NEVER Do In Japan


Japanese Faux Pas

-One should not put one’s hands in one’s pockets; to do so is regarded as a sign of boredom or a lack of interest.

-One should not say “chin-chin” as a drinking salute in Japan, for in the Japanese language that expression is a slang for describing the male genitals.

-A person should not blow his nose in public. (He should do it in the bathroom or outside).  Sniffling, however, is acceptable.  (Chinese culture allows for the blowing of one’s nose in public).

-Pointing at people is considered impolite.

-Shoes must be removed upon entering a person’s home.  (Socks, however, should be kept on since being barefoot in someone’s home is not acceptable). House slippers will be provided by the host/hostess.  But the house slippers should not be worn into the toilet. (Special toilet slippers are provided).

-All slippers should be removed when sitting on tatami mats.  A gentleman visiting a Japanese home should be sure to wear clean, hole-free socks.

-Tattoos (“irezami” is the Japanese word for tattoo) are taboo in most of Japan.  Persons (even foreigners) with visible tattoos are typically banned from certain public places, especially swimming pools, gymnasiums, hot springs, resorts, etc. People with visible tattoos are also banned from or may be asked to leave places such as restaurants and retail establishments. In Japan, tattoos are associated with “yakuza”:  hoodlums and the criminal underworld. The negative connotations associated with tattoos in Japanese culture seem to date from around 300-600 CE (the Kofun period), when tattoos were placed upon criminals as a means of punishment. However, prior to the Kofun period, for example in the Yayoi period (ca. 300 BCE-300 CE), tattoos were acquired for ritual or status purposes.

-Food should never be passed from one set of chopsticks to another. (The only time an item or object is passed from one set of chopsticks to another is when family members use ceremonial chopsticks to pick up the bones of the deceased after the cremation, passing the bones from one family member to another until the bones are placed into the urn).