Your social etiquette guide to navigating the ‘new normal’

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By Alice Hall

Freedom is nigh − until you realise the new normal brings an unfamiliar set of social rules to grapple with. How do we greet our hairdressers? Are your barbecue guests allowed to use the toilet? There’s much to think about, but we’ve got you covered.

Say hello. Back in the old normal, as it shall now be named, handshakes and hugs were customary. Now, extending a palm is near-criminal. But we’ve dearly missed our hairdressers (and our friends, of course, but our hairdressers most of all), so let’s look to royal protocol for inspiration. From waves to curtsies, the monarchy has a long list of socially distanced greetings perfect for these times. If you’re feeling flamboyant, try a bow on entry to the salon; for a more cordial approach, a nod will suffice. The “namaste” pose − demonstrated by Prince Charles at an awards ceremony in March − involves a small head bow with the hands clasped together in a prayer-like position. Polite and fuss-free, it’s a perfect way to say a warm hello while avoiding pesky airborne droplets.

Choose the right face mask. Pre-lockdown, we made statements through our outfits. Now, everything is about the cloth over your face; with smiles off limits, your choice of PPE speaks a thousand words. The Beckham clan have opted for streamlined black coverings. Or try the “man of the people” approach as seen on Prince Harry, who donned a blue snood while strolling through LA.

Pass the time in a queue. A study by researchers at University College London in 2017 found that people will wait for an average of six minutes in a queue before giving up in frustration. It goes without saying that in-store socialising is now taboo and congestion-causing; opt for a smile instead, and keep any complaints − or judgments on the contents of fellow shoppers’ baskets − in your head.

Ask someone entering your house to cover up. The key here is to treat face coverings in the same way you would requests for shoe removal. Perhaps it will take the form of a snazzy slogan doormat, even if it means becoming that person who has a “keep calm and put your mask on” print in your home. If you’re the labrador-on-the-bed and wellies-in-the-kitchen type who wouldn’t dream of shoe removal on entry, try hanging them (shoes, not guests) on the dog lead rack by the door as a gentle means of encouragement. Sort of like hotel slippers, but for the pandemic age.

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