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How To Travel Like A Gentleman

Posted 22.04.16 - Culture

A 'gentleman'. Forget travelling like one for a moment - what does being a 'gentleman' really mean?

The word once specifically denoted a man of noble birth. Later, its use was extended to include a man from good stock. These days, it refers to a chivalrous, courteous or honourable individual. And herein lies the shift: it has evolved to describe a code of conduct that has nothing to do with how high or low your birth might be. Gentlemanly behaviour - what we commonly call 'manners' - is simply about being considerate towards others and putting them at their ease.

A survey showed that, in London, only 20 per cent of people would give up their seat for a pregnant woman.

Travelling anywhere generates its own stresses. While there are occasions when the journey is one to enjoy, smiles, 'please’s and 'thank you’s can go by the by as one wades through a sea of humanity to get to one's destination. So, is there still time for behaving like a gentleman? Absolutely.

We love our personal space, and if people get too close to us we tend to back away. However, on a boiling summer’s day on the train or bus with somebody’s armpit in our face, as unpleasant as that is, we have to accept it. We have little choice. In fact, it offers the ideal opportunity for a man to show his true colours. A recent survey concluded that, in London, only 20 per cent of people would give up their seat for a pregnant woman. A gentleman would certainly do this, however, and, while standing himself, might even ask a sitting passenger if he would be willing to give up his seat for the lady in question.

Travel by aircraft and, depending on one's purchase point, one will often be in no less confined a space. Add to that the trials of long-haul travel and one's tolerance of others can be tested to the max. One of the biggest irritations is the reclining seat – if a meal has been served, one should always consider the person seated behind before adjusting one's position. Getting up repeatedly and disturbing those either side at inappropriate times also falls within the realms of ungentlemanly behaviour - after all, enduring a flight seated next to a chatterer who turns into a fidgeter is enough to rile even the most relaxed of frequent fliers.

Who gains the armrest can end up as a veritable battle of wills; this silent fight for supremacy is not one in which a gentleman would ever engage.

We all like to mentally distance ourselves from the close proximity of strangers, and a gentleman would thus not listen to music via ear- or headphones at a level that would be injurious to others' peace. He would also be respectful of the airline's request that electronics should be switched off during take-off and landing. Who gains the armrest can end up as a veritable battle of wills, though never a word might be said; however, a silent fight for supremacy is not one in which a gentleman would ever engage, and any traveller sitting in the middle of three seats should in any case always be accorded priority.

Interaction between guests and staff defines the success of any hotel, but it also reveals much about a man's manners. A gentleman shows respect at all times and, while tipping etiquette may vary from nation to nation, he always acknowledges and rewards stellar service. When interacting within and without the establishment, he will observe local customs when it comes to both behaviour and dress.

In conclusion, being a gentleman, whether travelling on the Underground or 30,000ft up is straightforward: it demands courtesy, consideration and compromise. And there's nothing at all old-fashioned about that.

James Field Training Manager at Debrett's

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