Good manners are a set of behaviors which mark someone as a civilized and cultured member of a society. Manners are usually taught from a very young age, with some people receiving additional training in etiquette, formal rules of conduct which apply to a variety of situations. Someone who lacks good manners may be considered boorish or inappropriate, and he or she may be at a disadvantage in many social situations.
The precise behaviors involved in good manners vary from place to place. Cultural traditions play an important role in manners, as do religious beliefs, social status, and economic class. What may be proper behavior in the White House may be considered grossly inappropriate in the Kremlin, while a standard of behavior which is perfectly acceptable in rural Greece might not be considered appropriate in a meeting with the Queen of England. As a general rule, people learn the manners which pertain to their particular social, economic, and cultural situation, and travelers must learn specific rules of conduct to fit in as they visit other societies.
Manners pertain from everything from how to introduce people to how to eat. While the precise nature of proper manners may vary, the underlying principles do not. Good manners involve treating people with respect and courtesy, and in making sure that other people feel comfortable in a variety of situations. The old Biblical rule of “do as you would be done by” is sometimes used as an illustration of how manners are supposed to work.
Someone who has been properly trained will usually show more respect and deference to people who are older, as well as people who hold senior positions of authority. Proper manners usually involve using respectful forms of address, such as formal titles, and being attuned to social situations to use the activities of others as behavioral cues. For example, someone who has never eaten a formal dinner can still demonstrate appropriate manners by following the examples of others around the table.
Good manners go a long way in most societies. Mannerly people are more likely to get ahead in the world of business, and they also find themselves more commonly invited as guests and welcomed in society. In tense social situations, an awareness of good manners and social rules of behavior can help to diffuse tension, or at least to avoid a serious incident, and someone's attention to proper codes of conduct will be remembered. Travelers who take the time to learn about the codes of conduct in regions they are visiting will often find their way smoothed, and they will be welcomed back in the future.