Things used to be pretty simple when it came to basic etiquette rules. Always say “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”, offer your seat to someone older, hold the door for the person behind you and so on. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of your lives, including the way we perceive certain things that were once considered ill-mannered.
It’s ok to be a little rude if that’s what keeps you safe and healthy. That being said, read on to find out what was considered an etiquette faux pas in the past but is now just a safety measure against the novel coronavirus.
Not accepting hugs
We might feel the need to give our family members and friends a good squeeze, especially after not seeing each other for a while, but health authorities recommend social-distancing measures that discourage hugging. No matter how awkward it might seem to shy away from someone greeting you with a hug, it’s one of the things we need to do to protect ourselves from the virus.
“I won’t hug my patients anymore because I think the thought of a human touch scares anyone these days!” says Tanya Kormeili, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist with the Derm & Rejuvenation Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. “As much as I miss hugs, I am scared that we would be potentially infecting one another, and everyone we touch thereafter.”
Not shaking hands
Similar to hugging or kissing on the cheek, handshaking is off-limits in light of the coronavirus pandemic. You might have seemed rude a few months ago, but nowadays, refusing to shake hands is just a safety precaution. “You want to avoid close personal contact, including not shaking hands when you greet someone,” explains board-certified family physician Monique May, MD.
“I don’t think we should ever shake hands again,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country.”
The fact that we need to keep up with social distancing measures doesn’t rule out other forms of greeting such as waving, for instance. “Use a wave of the hand in greeting,” recommends etiquette expert Marie Betts-Johnson, president of the International Protocol Institute of California, who also says you can express your gratitude by placing your hand over your heart instead of a handshake or hug.
Not sharing food
You might have ordered something that tastes absolutely amazing and want to share it with your friend, but it’s one of the worst things you could do. “Sharing food or drinks—even just a small bite or taste—can facilitate the spread of infection,” explains Gary Linkov, MD, an ENT and facial reconstructive surgeon with City Facial Plastics. “If an individual is infected with coronavirus, he or she may contaminate their food, plate, cutlery, and drinking glasses,” he adds.
Not offering food might have been considered rude at one point, but amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s better to be rude than sick. For more off-limits things, check out these 7 Risky Activities You Shouldn’t Be Doing With Friends Right Now.
Not giving your business card
Another social etiquette rule you can kiss goodbye because of COVID-19 is exchanging business cards. Given that the new coronavirus can last for several hours on paper and cardboard, “you won’t want to receive or present your business card even when asked”, says etiquette expert Maryanne Parker, founder of Manor of Manners. “There are many other forms of digital communication that are utilized very successfully by all of us.”
With all the technological advances nowadays, it’s easy to save someone’s professional information on a smartphone, tablet or even computer.
Not tipping in cash
This one is tricky. While it’s true that restaurant or delivery workers, drivers, couriers etc. are facing greater health risks to deliver essentials to you, tipping in cash is one such risk. Although health experts say the risk of getting the virus from cash is low, coronavirus can still survive on paper currency.
“Instead, you should use digital currencies,” says Parker. “You won’t want for the person in front of you to have to reject the tip, especially when it is so much needed in these uncertain times.” However, the pandemic is no excuse to not show your gratitude at all. “This is the time when we should be generous if we can, but there is no hard and fast rule for how much extra to give,” says Diane Gottsman, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. Certified etiquette instructor Karen A. Thomas Tip also recommends tipping as often as you can at least 10% to 20%, either over the phone or online.
Not holding the door for others
The days of holding doors for others are kind of over. We all want to have as little social interaction with other people as possible, so, if you want to avoid any contact with a stranger while holding the door, just let it close behind you. It’s sad that we have to be so wary of one another, but it’s ultimately in everyone’s best interest.
“When you are not able to do a simple gesture like holding the door for someone, go through quickly,” recommends Jacquelyn Youst, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol. “Putting regular etiquette to the side doesn’t mean you’re being rude,” she adds. For more ways to stay safe, here are 7 Things You Shouldn’t Do in Public, According to Doctors.
Not letting others off the elevator first
Not that long time ago, when someone didn’t allow other people in an elevator to get off first, they would have been considered downright rude and ill-mannered. Nowadays, we’ve got other things to worry about (like a global virus!) than being considered uncivilized. It’s each to his own.
“You won’t want to give the right of way to people inside the elevator as before,” says Parker. “During COVID-19, the faster we leave the premises we occupy together, the better.” Speaking of elevators, apart from elevator buttons, here are other Ordinary Objects You Should Avoid Touching During Coronavirus Outbreak.
Not saying hello to others in the elevator
Another thing considered an elevator faux pas, was not greeting other people in the elevator. Today, it’s bad enough that you have to get in a confined space where social distancing is not an option, but speaking as well is downright risky. “It is hard to speak with a mask and this might prompt [someone] to remove it even for a brief moment,”, Parker explains.
If you want to stay on the safe side, check out Coronavirus & Elevators: How to Avoid Catching Coronavirus.
Not sharing office supplies
Sharing is caring, but not anymore, when it comes to office supplies. “People spend a large amount of their daily life in the confines of the office where shared spaces and high interaction with shared surfaces increases the number of microbes on surfaces and in the air,” says Krissi Hewitt, director of institutional research and strategic initiatives at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
This means a pen or a stapler you innocently lend to one of your coworkers might be returned to you with more than just gratitude. “In our reality, sharing is no longer caring [and can] increase the potential danger of spreading germs and viruses,” says Parker.
Using hand gestures to communicate
Too much gesturing and pointing were considered rude and sometimes even aggressive, but the coronavirus pandemic has made us all rethink certain traditional etiquette mistakes. Face masks may protect us against COVID-19 but they have affected the way we communicate and interact with each other.
To make sure your interlocutors understand what you want to say, it’s ok to use hand gestures. “Hand gestures are always a good way to accentuate a conversation,” says Thomas.