Thursday, May 07, 2009

Blog has moved

Thank you for reading my blog on Blogger. In an effort to consolidate my information I have focused on writing only on It's Apropos! on You can find it at . Please come and catch up on recent observations about etiquette and protocol.

Cynthia Lett

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Chinese Students Choosing Western over Chinese Etiquette

Professor: Students need more Chinese etiquette education

from 2008-12-04

BEIJING, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- A professor from Tsinghua University's Department of History in Beijing on Thursday called on educationalists to teach students traditional Chinese etiquette.

Peng Lin, whose courses "Ancient Chinese Etiquettes" and "Classic Cultural Relics and Chinese Culture" have been listed as "National Excellent Courses", said that universities and schools should offer more courses on traditional Chinese etiquette and customs.

"As China enjoys the fruit of economic growth, many Chinese people, especially the young, have lost some traditions because of influences of Western cultures, particularly the American culture," said 59-year-old Peng.

"Young people often look to Western customs and etiquette as being fashionable and overlook Chinese traditions," Peng said with great concern.

Being national excellent courses, a high honor from the Ministry of Education, Peng's courses attracted nearly 1,500 Tsinghua students, who have long been regarded as among the country's smartest, in this year's autumn term alone.

"Professor Peng's vivid way of teaching Chinese etiquette is very memorable," said a student named Li Jianbin. "I realized I have neglected many traditions, like wedding customs."

Traditional Chinese weddings feature red gowns for brides, and white is an absolute taboo as it is used in funerals. But, today, most young women choose to wear Western-style white dresses and veils at weddings.

To demonstrate his determination, Peng now only wears a commonly seen type of Chinese suit, with a front opening and a stand-up collar.

"I still have some Western suits in my closet," Peng said. "But I almost never wear them now."

According to Peng, 99 percent of Chinese college students have not had systematic training on etiquette, especially Chinese etiquette.

"Professors from some other universities, like Peking University, have also been trying to raise students' awareness of traditional etiquette," said Peng.

"The future of Chinese culture depends on whether the people can inherit and further develop it, most importantly the younger generation," Peng said.

Editor: Zheng E

Note from Cynthia: While understanding and accepting the cultures of others, I believe it is equally as important to respect and practice your own culture's etiquette.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What's Wrong with Swearing?

Swearing Imposes a Personal Penalty

It gives a bad impression.
It makes you unpleasant to be with.
It endangers your relationships.
It’s a tool for whiners and complainers.
It reduces respect people have for you.
It shows you don’t have control.
It’s a sign of a bad attitude.
It discloses a lack of character.
It’s immature.
It reflects ignorance.
It sets a bad example.

Swearing is Bad for Society

It contributes to the decline of civility
It represents the dumbing down of America.
It offends more people than you think.
It makes others uncomfortable.
It is disrespectful of others.
It turns discussions into arguments.
It can be a sign of hostility.
It can lead to violence.

Swearing Corrupts the English Language
It’s abrasive, lazy language.
It doesn’t communicate clearly.
It neglects more meaningful words.
It lacks imagination.
It has lost its effectiveness and if you swear, so have you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A few new quotes

Candor is a compliment; it implies equality. It's how true friends talk.
- Peggy Noonan, Author and Columnist

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.
- Ernest Benn (1887-1954), Publisher

A person who can't lead and won't follow makes a dandy roadblock.
- Author unknown

Thursday, June 21, 2007

displaying the US flag


Cynthia Lett wrote:

July 4th is coming soon and Americans will be displaying the US flag.  I am always appalled that many flags are incorrectly displayed so here are the guidelines to use:


Rules for Display of the American Flag

Display Outdoors

Over the Middle of the Street

It should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.

Flown at Half-staff

Should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. By "half-staff" is meant lowering the flag to one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. Crepe streamers may be affixed to spear heads or flagstaffs in a parade only by order of the President of the United States.

Flown on the Same Halyard with Non-Nation Flags

The American Flag should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the right of the flag of the United States.

Suspended Over a Sidewalk

The flag may be suspended from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.

From a Staff Projecting Horizontally or at an Angle

The flag may be projected from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, with the union of the flag placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff.

In a Parade with Other Flags

The flag, when carried in a procession with another flag, or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag's own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.

With Non-National Flags

The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.

With Other National Flags

When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

With Another Flag Against a Wall from Crossed Staffs

Should be on the right, the flag's own right which is the viewer's left, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

Display Indoors

From a Staff in a Church or Public Auditorium on a Podium

The flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker (to the right of the audience).

From a Staff in a Church or Public Auditorium off the Podium

Custom and not the flag code hold that the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence as part of the audience, in the position of honor at the audience's right.

Used to Cover a Casket

It should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.

Other than being Flown from a Staff

The flag should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. When festoons, rosettes or drapings are desired, bunting of blue, white and red should be used, but never the flag.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thank-you Note after State Dinner?

Savvy people know that after you have enjoyed the hospitality at a dinner party, the proper thing to do is to write a thank-you note to the hostess (or host is there wasn't a hostess). But, what if you are invited to the White House for a State Dinner? Do you send a thank-you note to the President? to Mrs. Bush? Do you send a thank-you at all?

Too often a dinner party is held and the guests have a marvelous time, enjoying the food, entertainment, enticing conversation and then go home and tell everyone what a great time they had. Why would anyone think that the host or hostess wouldn't want to hear that? If you were the host, would you not want your guests to express their appreciation of the event and their involvement? I dare say that you would. BUT, it would be my guess that the guest of honor and escort (in this case, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip) may be the only ones to send a thank-you.

If you have been a host, you know that there is a great deal of work involved in executing a simple dinner party. Imagine having to execute a white-tie affair. If I had been lucky enough to have been invited, I would have sent a messenger (I live in the Washington, DC metropolitan area) with my handwritten appreciation to the First Lady and to the Office of the Social Secretary of the White House this morning - first thing. A lot of work and worry went into staging such a lovely evening and while the gratitude of the guests as they left is nice, nothing beats knowing that at least one guest appreciated the efforts enough to put pen to paper.

Was President Bush Supposed to Sip after the Queen's Toast?

After watching Queen Elizabeth II's toast to President and Mrs. Bush at dinner last night on the news, I was glad that President Bush did not sip his wine. He did clink her glass however, which in the truest version of toasting protocol he shouldn't have done if the toast is just to you. When someone toasts to you, the correct behavior is to sit and smile and perhaps nod your head as a toast is made to you. A toast is a compliment and it is always bad form to compliment yourself.

President Bush clinked her glass which I will give him leeway for since half of her toast was to the American people and to Mrs. Bush. He is a non-drinker so he probably would not have drunk the wine (or was it champagne?) for that reason but I prefer to believe he was knowledgeable about protocol and chose not to drink to himself.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What does "Certified" mean in the etiquette business?

I am concerned about the "Certified" designation etiquette consultants have given themselves which demeans our field of training. It seems every day a new website goes up with the owner touting that they are a "Certified" Etiquette Consultant or Trainer.

The public would naturally believe that since they have "Certified" among their credentials, that they have passed an exam administered by a respected certifying organization proving they know a majority of what they need to know to be among the most knowledgeable in their field. After all, CPAs (Certified Public Accountants), CFPs (Certified Financial Planners) and Board Certified Physicians have all taken and passed a grueling examination to earn their "Certified" status.

You would assume that a CET (Certified Etiquette Trainer) or CPC (Certified Protocol Consultant) or similar acronyms after the name of someone who teaches etiquette would mean the same. But, the truth is, they most likely paid for and attended a three to five day Train the Trainer course offered by someone in the industry who has been teaching the subject for a while and has devised a method to teach others to do the same. Taking the course is a great start but it does not mean the same thing as proving you know the material by examination.

It started with the Protocol School of Washington advertising to prospective etiquette teachers that they could earn their "certification" credentials by taking their Train the Trainer course for a fee and three or four days in the classroom listening to their instructors teach. This started in the 1980's and since then several other professional etiquette trainers have devised their own Train the Trainer "Certification" courses. At the end of the courses, the students could then tout that they were "Certified" etiquette consultants. I believe that these training courses are valuable and wish there were more. But... they need to be promoted as what they really are - training courses with a license to use the company's materials in the students' own business.

In early 2002, the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals was started by me and a wonderful group of protocol and etiquette professionals I asked to be advisors after a string of phone calls from companies which had hired "Certified" etiquette consultants to teach their employees business etiquette. To a one, they told the same story. The consultant taught the course as if it were scripted and at the end could not adequately answer specific questions about situations the employees were up against. Their question to me was, "How can I tell if an etiquette consultant really knows his or her subject? I assumed since they advertised that they were "Certified" that they were at the top of the field."

I explained that up until then there was no professional designation for true professionals in the field.I explained that up until then there was no professional designation for true professionals in the field. That fact was why I started ISPEP.

Our field of training was growing exponentially and there was no way to tell the newbies from those of us who have been teaching the subjects for 15-30 years. The designation of "Certified" needed to mean what other professions respected - examination proof that the individual knows a great deal about the subject. With the assistance of professional certification writers, the CEP (Certified Etiquette Professional) and CPP (Certified Protocol Professional) exams were written and classified. They are four-hour long exams and difficult even for professionals who have been in the field for a while. There are minimum requirements to take the exam including at least 3 proven years of involvement in the field and positive feedback from clients whom they have taught.

There is another organization which offers a portfolio based certification but examination of a portfolio doesn't prove the individual knows the proper material - just that they have been paid to teach or use their knowledge of it. The companies which came to me in 2002 had hired teachers from their websites and from references in the media. These teachers had worked for others and grown their portfolio but proved in the classroom that they didn't have the level of knowledge to take care of the needs of their audiences. They were all "certified" however.

In the past six months, 98 people have taken the Sample Certified Etiquette Professional Exam (50 questions and free to take) and only two have passed. 90% of those who took the Sample exam I know are practising etiquette trainers/consultants. (I don't recognize the other 10% but they also could be teaching the subjects) Of those 85% state on their websites that they are "certified" etiquette consultants or trainers. I believe the public deserves better when it comes to being presented with a professional's credentials in our field. If the trainer/consultant attended a train the trainer course, they are not "certified" - they are no more than licensed to use the materials from the course to enhance their own business. The Sample Certified Protocol Professional Exam is also available free for the taking. 139 have taken the CPP Sample exam and only one has passed. ISPEP has 7 CPPs and 6 CEPs since the exam has been offered. There should be more and I hope the experienced professionals in our business will take the exam and earn their CEP or CPP.

I am also pleased that international governments and multi-national organizations have come to me and ISPEP and stated that they want their protocol officers to be certified by ISPEP because it means to them that their employees really know their business. Professional certification in protocol especially is more important it seems outside of the United States. I hope that changes with time and saturation of "experts" in the field.

I would love to hear from you if you have any comments about the certification of etiquette consultants and the growth of professionalism in our business.