Etiquette in Europe  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
The Book of the Courtier, etiquette, manners, European culture

Etiquette in Europe is not uniform. Even the regions of Europe do not have common manners. Even within a single country there may be different customs, especially when there are different linguistic groups, as in Switzerland where there are French, German and Italian speakers.

Age may determine the level and details of the customs which are followed. This is especially true of eastern Europe where there is a generational divide between those who grew up in the Communist era and those who did not. For example, those used to communist practises will use the egalitarian salutation for comrade while others will tend to use the older form equivalent to Sir.


Language and forms of address

Some European languages such as Portuguese, French, Italian, Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian, Spanish, Dutch and German use different forms of pronouns to denote formality or familiarity when addressing people (the T-V distinction). This also applies to common phrases such as "how are you?". Addressing people with an inappropriately familiar form may be seen as derogatory, insulting or even aggressive. Conversely, forms that are inappropriately formal may be seen as impolitely snobbish or distant.

The way politeness is expressed in language varies greatly with language and region. For example, addressing a person with an honorific or title may be expected in some languages, but seen as intrusive or too formal in others.

In many parts of Europe, using someone's first name also denotes a certain level of friendship. In social interactions with strangers the last name and/or more formal mode of address is used, usually until the people involved agree to move to an informal level. Even in areas where this holds true it may not apply among people below a certain age, member of particular groups (e.g. students) or in informal settings.


In many areas of Europe, even numbers of flowers fewer than a dozen are appropriate only for funerals. This rule does not apply to larger arrangements. Also, certain flowers (such as chrysanthemums) are given only at funerals and most florists will advise against them. As red roses typically connote romantic feeling, they are inappropriate for other circumstances. However, in Finland abiturs are often given red roses for finishing their matriculation examination.


Shaking hands while wearing gloves is widely considered impolite. This does not apply to gloves for women designed to be worn indoors (e.g. long gloves worn during a ball).

Hats and coats

Among many segments of the European population, it is considered rude for men to wear hats or other head coverings indoors, especially in regard to churches, private homes and respected public institutions. Anyone wearing coats, boots and other outer garments inside someone’s home is often frowned upon as well. Sitting down at the table to eat with a hat, outerwear or other inappropriate attire is even worse. Additionally taking the hat off is expected when showing deference. It is also a form of greeting. The origin of this was that knights were expected to remove their helmets when meeting their king; not doing so would be a sign of mistrust and hostility.


In many European countries you are supposed to wear your shoes indoors, but in others, such as Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, Iceland, Ukraine, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey it is considered ignorant not to take your shoes off, unless you are told to keep them on. It is common in parts of the United Kingdom to remove one's shoes when one feels they are wet and/or dirty in some other way, when entering someone's home.


Some things formerly prohibited by superstitions surrounding bad luck remain as examples of bad manners. Opening an umbrella indoors and accepting a light for a cigarette after two others are two examples.


Talking or asking about one's personal wealth, possessions or success in business is widely viewed as vulgar. People will rarely say how much money they make or have in the bank nor will they request such information from someone else. It is impolite to ask colleagues about their salary and in some places of work it is forbidden. Even in other places, for example where government employees' salary are publicly known, it is still considered extremely rude to ask individuals about how much they earn.


In Europe, what qualifies as indecent exposure includes generally at least the exposure of genitalia or anus. In case of women, exposing nipples is not seen as proper conduct, but this is not considered criminal. For the particular issue of breastfeeding babies in public, see Breastfeeding in public. The intentional exposure of bare buttocks towards someone, mooning, is a deliberate insult. However, public nudity may be allowed in some circumstances, which varies by country.Template:Citation needed An example is the sauna, where the rules regarding nudity vary according to the country.


Table manners in Europe vary widely according to region and social context. Placing one's elbows on the table may be considered rude, as is speaking with one's mouth full. Generally the fork is held in the left hand, using the right to cut food into pieces. In some places stretching at the table is rude.

Bodily functions

The bodily functions of exhibiting flatulence, urinating, defecating, picking one's nose and inadequate personal hygiene resulting in body odour are considered vulgar in public.In many areas, it is considered impolite not to cover one's mouth while yawning.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Etiquette in Europe" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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