Etiquette Faux Pas

Etiquette Faux Pas

What is an Etiquette Faux Pas?

The term faux pas is a French word which means “misstep” or “false step.”  The expression originated during the 1600’s with King Louis XIV.  During his reign, dance was highly regarded.  To make a false step was one of the greatest errors a courtier could make at the Palace of Versailles.  Wikipedia defines faux pas (pronounced fo pa) as a violation of accepted social norms, standard customs or etiquette rules.  An example of a fashion faux pas is a female guest wearing all white to a wedding ceremony.  This is often frowned upon and viewed as unacceptable attire for anyone other than the bride.

This month, I am sharing faux pas (the spelling is the same for the plural form of the word). Etiquette consultants often hear accounts of others’ faux pas or we are asked to clarify and provide guidance on etiquette misconceptions.

Dining faux pas

Someone once shared that he was served a bowl with warm water after a meal in Japan.  Not realizing it was a finger bowl, he picked it up and drank the water (I laughed a while).  Finger bowls are often served after eating shelled seafood or after a formal meal.  The proper use of a finger bowl is to dip only the tips of your fingers in the bowl, then pat them dry with a napkin.  If a lemon accompanies the finger bowl, first slide the lemon across your fingertips before dipping them in the warm water.

Another dining out etiquette faux pas is the use of toothpicks after a meal.  Toothpicks are not to be used in public places.  If something becomes lodged in your teeth, extract the food in a private area.

Before I became an etiquette consultant, I thought it was acceptable to quietly blow my nose at the table as long as I completely turned my body away from other diners (yikes).  I cringe as I reminisce on my etiquette faux pas.  Instead, I should have excused myself from the table first.  Friends, family and business associates, please accept this delayed apology; I just didn’t know better.

Wedding faux pas

As an invited guest to a wedding, an etiquette faux pas would be to add additional people to your response card or to show up with an uninvited guest.

A wedding faux pas also occurs when one is assigned a seat at a reception and rearranges the place cards to satisfy his personal preference.

Business faux pas

Hugging business associates can be viewed as a business faux pas.  The professional and accepted greeting between two business associates is a properly executed handshake.

Birthday celebration faux pas

Attending a birthday celebration and not acknowledging the guest of honor with a gift or card would be considered an etiquette faux pas (unless no gifts were requested).  Even teens hosting party celebrations at clubs should be presented with gifts before, during or after the event.

Have you ever committed an etiquette faux pas?

I have shared my personal etiquette faux pas and other faux pas that you should have been able to relate to.  Now it’s your turn.  Expose one of your etiquette faux pas that you have shamefully executed.  Use the comment section below and feature your story.  We can all learn from previous mistakes made by others.

Share this article

Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.