What does it mean to be an etiquette teacher in the 21st Century? In this interview, Julia Esteve Boyd reveals some of her unique experiences as an etiquette consultant whilst sharing her thoughts on some important modern day issues.
The word ‘etiquette’ has become synonymous with learning how to sip tea, eat soup, and address a member of the Royal family correctly.
In a world that seems to revolve around instant messaging and gaining Instagram followers, these rules can appear a little unnecessary or outdated.
However, etiquette consultant (and modern day feminist) Julia Esteve Boyd, believes that etiquette today is so much more than learning how to sip tea, instead it’s about real life communication and respectfulness.
Discover more in this interview, as Julia sheds some light onto what it means to be a modern day etiquette teacher.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well I am British mother of five, married to a Spaniard. We are currently based in Switzerland although I also work part time in London. We have spent many years living in other countries such as Spain (Madrid), the US (Manhattan) and more recently Mexico (City). My life is typically chaotic, with three pets, school runs, homework and a husband who travels more than I do!
What do you love most about your job?
I love that I am continually learning from the people that I meet and even clients. Just when I think I know about one culture I meet someone who tells me something I didn’t know, it’s great!
What steered your career path towards becoming an etiquette teacher?
I was living nearby the prestigious finishing school, Institut Villa Pierrefeu, in Switzerland and noticed an advert for an Etiquette Teacher. I applied because I wanted more regular hours as I had young twins (I was managing a boutique hotel at the time) and I thought with my hospitality background I would be a good fit. I got the job and discovered that I knew absolutely nothing about etiquette! At IVP, I was trained directly by the principal until I was able to teach my own classes.
Why do you think it is important to have a proper etiquette in this era?
Despite the changes in modern society, we are all still human and want to be treated with consideration, and that’s really what etiquette is all about. Also the world is a smaller place than ever before with so many forms of communication at our fingertips.
Many people don’t know or understand that modern ways of communicating such as social media platforms also require a certain etiquette or consideration for others. We are now exposed to so many different cultures, whether in the workplace or during our travels, it’s easier than ever to offend someone.
Only a small part of etiquette is about how to drink tea correctly, it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake doing that, it might be a bigger problem if you inadvertently offend a potential business client by doing the the wrong thing. Etiquette today is about real life communication and respectfulness.
Why do you mainly teach women etiquette over men’s?
Men are increasingly becoming more interested. It’s true that previously, it was only women that were looking to add refinement and elegance. Nowadays, many men are looking for the same thing, they are realising that it’s not old fashioned to have great manners and in fact it really gives them an edge on their overall image!
What has been your favourite country to work in?
The great thing about what I do is that I can travel anywhere so it doesn’t matter too much the location. That said, I love Asia. The cultures are so interesting and so different from ours, and the people are very hospitable.
You have worked with several royal family members and politicians, what was it like to work with them? Who did you teach?
Well it’s not something that I do on a regular basis but I have had a few interesting experiences. Can you imagine the expectations placed upon a woman who is married to a politician when he suddenly gets a more senior prominent position? Having to learn how to formally entertain according to protocol? Where to seat the most important guests? That was intense training!
I remember I had a very funny experience teaching a Saudi Princess how to iron and fold fitted sheets at IVP, we laughed the entire time. (Why would she need to learn that you may ask?) Well having been brought up never having to do these kind of tasks, she needed to know how to do these things in order to run her own household efficiently.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Apart from general rudeness? I would say that’s all… however my children would disagree. Apparently I dislike bad drivers, people who wear too much perfume, people who don’t know how to queue, using cutlery incorrectly and much much more!! I do think they’re exaggerating though!
If you could choose one problem to fix in the world, what would it be?
Only one? I couldn’t choose one. There are too many.
What is your opinion on the change of men’s role in society?
It is evolving, just has the women’s role is evolving and that’s not a bad thing. Traditional values, and family values are just as important, but modern society gives both men and women more gender equality so that’s good.
What does being a modern lady mean to you?
I think a modern lady has self respect, is respectful of others, is independent, secure and confident in herself. At least that’s what I tell my four daughters.
Would you consider yourself a modern day feminist?
Yes, if we consider that there are different waves of feminism with the overall focus on equality.
What time period would you live in other than the 21st century?
Well, as a modern day feminist, I would not like to have lived in any other period in history, I am where I should be. I would like to go back as a “fly on the wall” to the 18th Century or perhaps Ancient Egypt but only for a quick visit!
What does the future hold for you?
I’m currently in the process of developing a very interesting international collaboration which I am very excited about! It’s still very much in the planning stages at the moment but it looks like it will be keeping me quite busy. I’m also going to publish my first book in a series titled ‘A Dash Of Decorum’.