When did we stop addressing people formally? After moving to Australia, one of the things I struggled most with was the informality with which people addressed each other. As an Englishman, receiving a phone call from my bank and being addressed by my first name still sends shivers of discomfort through my body. I am of the firm belief that until invited to do so, a formal relationship should be maintained where one is addressed by surname or title. This is even more important if you are trying to sell me something…
I recall when I started university, how awkward I felt calling lecturers by their first name. I came from a time where at school, you wore a shirt, tie and blazer at all times. If you wished to remove your blazer during class, you asked the teacher (Sir, Miss, Mr X or Mrs X… obviously) before doing so. I miss this – it instills a degree of respect and a hierarchy that is imperative to early life. I find it bizarre that schools now ask pupils to call teachers by their first names – apparently it fosters a more relaxed environment and encourages students to feel teachers are more approachable. I wonder in what way this will impact on the future etiquette of these children. Does it foster a sub-conscious feeling of entitlement?
Whilst we are on the topic, it frightens me how many people are unaware of how to correctly respond to the introduction of “How do you do?”… The correct answer, needless to say, is not “Yeah mate, not bad…”
Maybe I am a dinosaur in a changing world. I imagine that if a Victorian gentleman was to meet the modern day cultural exchange, they would be horrified at how disrespectful our conversing is by comparison.
Maybe it’s time to change?