Open Thread

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This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.


  1. Gertrude

    I am a proud, nursing mother of a 6 month baby. I am also a scientist and professional. I have a 5-day-long scientific conference next week, 8 hours away, with roughly 2 thousand attendees. I am going as a representative of my company, a working professional, and will be networking with colleagues, clients and product providers constantly. I have business meetings for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, and will be wearing my company logo every day.

    Our lactation consultant has recommended that I bring the baby with me to the conference, and not leave her home with my excellent, stay-at-home husband. Exclusively pumping, and giving the baby bottles while I am away at the conference may cause the baby to wean from the breast, which I do not want. Therefore, we have made the decision for our family to go to the conference together so that my husband can occasionally bring her by, and I can nurse her occasionally throughout the day and at night, when she wakes up.

    Do you have recommendations on how to politely have a baby at a scientific conference, balancing between being Mommy and Doctor? I plan to not have the baby or my husband at business meetings, but there is a lot of gray area.

    There are 15-minute long scientific sessions. Would it be inappropriate to bring her to the scientific sessions? I would of course leave if she made any noise.

    There is an “arena” with hundreds of scientific posters, and vendor booths. Would it be inappropriate to bring her to the vendor booths and posters as I browsed?

    I plan to nurse her as discreetly and privately as possible, in order to maintain my professional image.

    What other tips do you have?

    • Elizabeth

      I can certainly empathize with your situation, and commend you for working hard to find a good balance. I think you have already thought through many of the situations you will encounter. Do you currently feed the baby both by breast and by bottle? If so, there may be times (such as when you are in a business meeting) that your husband can feed the baby pumped milk and other times that you can directly breastfeed. I support the rights of women to breastfeed in any situation, and if I were in attendance at your conference I would think nothing but positively about seeing you nursing your child. However, there is a difference between the legal right to do something and its cultural acceptance. I fear that there are many who do not think as I do, and that others will perceive you negatively if they see you with your child at a professional conference, whether you are feeding the baby or not. It might be best for you to simply skip some of the paper sessions/scientific sessions and go back to your room to feed. Or, if the distance between the hotel and the conference location does not allow that, perhaps there is a lounge that would afford you some privacy. The presence of a baby in and of itself is the unusual thing, and would probably draw a lot of attention, some positive, some likely not. It is my guess that it would be best for the baby to stay with your husband as much as possible and for you to return to him/her for feedings. The arena area you mentioned sounds lively, busy and sometimes noisy, so the baby would be far less of a distraction there. The vendor booths are set up, I assume, in order to sell things to you. Since you are in the more powerful position, I doubt anyone would say anything if you were simply carrying the baby as you walked around and talked to people. The question in my mind is whether the baby will be distracting to you – that is, whether you’ll be able to take in what you need to and have the conversations you need to if you are attending to the baby. Perhaps if your husband walked with you and carried the baby, that would leave you free to focus. Best of luck.

  2. Laura

    I overhead this and it made me very uncomfortable but I wanted to ask if this is a well-mannered thing to do.

    A sales representative visiting our non-profit went into a discussion that she intentionally asks East Asians to adopt a Western name (e.g. Jane, John) because she finds it easier to pronounce. Mind you, this is a twenty-something white woman asking this of East Asian colleagues and customers in 21st century America. I found this to be very, well, self-centered and ethnocentric of her. How hard is a name like Li Chen, Han Sung to remember and pronounce? It’s not like she was working with Prince Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poraminthra Maha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua, so what is the big deal, I think. But my first thought was more like ‘what right do you have to ask someone to adopt a FOREIGN NAME to make it easier for YOU to pronounce their name?’ A name is so personal, a sign of identity that I don’t think a third party has a right to ask you to change it for their convenience.

    But, I wanted to ask, is this a breach of etiquette? If I were on the receiving side, I would say “It’s not so hard once you try to pronounce my name. It’s C-h-…”. But I would be thinking, what a lazy moron you are in the back of my mind…

    • Elizabeth

      That is appalling for all the resins you list. I hope the people she asks this of express their shock and then refuse.

  3. Camille

    Please help me with because I feel as though I am surrounded by club carrying cave people… My niece is expecting and of course a shower is in order. I received a “text” from my brothers sister in law saying the “aunts” would like throw her a shower.. Yes I am one of her “aunts”. They had already booked a very exclusive restaurant . A date and menu, and headcount and and my financial portion.

    I can only guess my only contribution required was financial . I feel this lacks and good manners and is incredibly rude?

    • Elizabeth

      It seems that you have been voluntold to host. You are absolutely right that this was inappropriate. You should have been asked, not told, to participate, and this request should have come before all the details were set so you could let them know what your budget was and also participated in the planning. At this point, if the amount requested is within your means, go along with it for the sake of your niece, but you can tell the organizer in no uncertain terms that you do not appreciate how this was handled. You can also contribute a lesser amount, explaining that if you’d been included earlier you could have told them how much they could count on from you.

    • Jody

      I agree, that’s incredibly rude. If the amount you’re told is your share is beyond your budget, I think it’s perfectly acceptable for you to email the organizers and tell them so; the same goes if the date does not fit your schedule. I do think that in any case the organizers need to know you did not appreciate how it was handled. If you are able to share in hosting this event, it would be a good time to say “I do not appreciate the way you told me to host rather than ask; I’d appreciate knowing something ahead of time so I don’t have any further surprises.”

  4. Ellen

    Hosting a milestone birthday party in a restaurant for family and close friends. There will be a beautiful flower arrangement on each of three tables. Need an idea, please for how to graciously decide who takes home the flowers. Thank you.

    • Ruth Peltier

      If you are not assigning seats, then tape a “marker” under one chair at each table. At the end of the meal, tell them to look under their chair. The person with the marker gets the flowers.

      If you do assign seats then put numbers on the chairs and draw 3 numbers out of a “hat”.

    • Elizabeth

      They could also serve as prizes for some kind of game, although that is more typical of showers than birthdays.

  5. Ann

    How do I politely decline an open-ended play date invitation from a coworker? We have sons who are around the same age, and they had the same sitter last year, so they are ok playing together. In the past, we have attended parties they have hosted and had play dates before, but for various reasons I am not interested in continuing this friendship.

    • Elizabeth

      You are in a difficult position because this person is a coworker, and you want to keep the relationship cordial and professional so you don’t have trouble at work. It sounds like you used to be friends, but now you want to take a big step back from that. Friendships either end abruptly, or they slowly fade out. I would recommend the latter for you. When she asks if you want to have a playdate, just be ready with a few excuses. After she asks you a few times, she will eventually stop asking. Alternatively, if she asks “if you want to have a playdate sometime?” you can say, “that sounds nice, let me check my schedule and get back with you” or “things are busy for us in the next couple of weeks, let’s revisit next month.” or similar. If you said something more definite, I would fear that your professional relationship would change. But there may be some other excuse that you could call upon: “you know, the distance between our houses makes the drive so long, the playdates are more trouble than they’re worth. maybe in the fall, once my schedule changes…”

  6. Yelena Kondaurova

    Good day! Such a situation: Suppose I go to the elevator. And next to the elevator unfamiliar foreigners talking about something in their own language. For example, I speak their language. If, for example, I accidentally stepped on the leg or something, what language to apologize? In their language? Pretend that I do not understand them and apologize in English? Thank you!

    • Alicia

      If you meet a stranger in any situation you address them in the language they most likely understand. So if speaking another language earlier speak that. If no reason to expect another language then in the language of the country you are in.

  7. Sandra

    My Question:

    Do you think it’s appropiate for a bride to have bridal shower if she lives with her fiance and has a child by him? It will be their first marriage and they have been living together for at least 4-5 yrs.

    Thank you.

  8. Jean

    My son and his fiance are planning their wedding. They were to be married about 3 years ago and cancelled to resolve some issues. Happily, they have worked through their problems and are moving forward. At the time of the cancelled wedding, most gifts were returned, but some could not (opened/used). (Thank you notes were sent out upon receipt of gifts, of course).

    As they are preparing their guest list, and getting ready to send out invitations, do they acknowledge the gift orginally given and indicate they do not expect another, or do they assume, as with any invitation, that gift giving is up to the recipient?

    • Alicia

      There is no need to mention gifts in the invite but of course as they have already recieved wedding gifts from some people they should not expect any further gifts. FYI this is why one should never use a wedding gift prior to the wedding taking place.

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