Manners...and generations...compatible or not?

I had an interview yesterday with relating to generational differences with regard to manners;  the way the young see the elderly and their more “traditional” manners, and the way the elderly see the youth of today with their “lack of manners and respect”.

After my recent vacation when taking a quiet walk along a nearby street with my dogs, an older gentleman (I think he would have been late 70 ) went past me on a bike, and then stopped suddenly to look at a new “McMansion” being built on the other side of the road.  I acknowledged him with a smile and a “good morning”, and he said: “I grew up in the house that used to be there”.  I remembered the previous house as being quite elegant, on a large block, filled with beautiful trees. He said: “I lived there for the whole of my childhood”...and then commenced to tell me about the suburb in those days and what he remembered of the area at that time.

After we had finished a really interesting conversation I continued my walk.  Along the way I passed a few young people (OK, about their 20s) and a few young couples, all connected to their iPhones, as I was, none of them acknowledging my eye contact and “good morning”.

Does this make me “old fashioned” in that I do acknowledge others on an early morning walk? I mean, I don't necessarily want a long chat at that time of solace and early morning light, but an acknowledgment is perhaps not a bad thing.

One of the musicians I am most enjoying at the moment is Amy MacDonald who has an insightful song “Youth of Today” on her great album “This is the Life”.  I was listening to it following my encounter with the old gentleman and it made me think. She is in her 20s and has a following around the world – 3 million albums – which, as a result of her insightful lyrics and wonderful melodies, crosses all age boundaries.

The traditional manners of those aged over 50 often seem disproportionate to the young, as do the casual manners of the young to those more mature.  The young find it difficult to deal with the formality of the manners which dictated for their parents  rigidly how people greeted each other, dated and certainly ate at the table in the days before McDonalds. But that doesn’t make the more formal manners of times gone by less realistic than the manners of our modern life.

The new manners guide us on whether we can make and break a first date by text;  and how we can date via internet introductions rather than friends; and  how to deal with a table laid with western cutlery and asian utsensils together; and  then dealing with the "modern manners" which guide parents divorcing with attendant partners, blended families and how the kids and their friends cope with those situations.

If common courtesy and respect for each other are by definition the basics of good manners, whether they are traditional or modern, we should all see the differences in standards not so much as difficulties but as opportunities to talk about the evolution of codes of behaviour for the times in which we live. 


  1. I find when out cycling the youngest to the oldest say bonjour to me regardless and I appreciate the manners around this area. This morning in the car park we parked next to an elderly man who was obviously waiting for his wife to do the shopping, as soon as I opened the car door I was greeted with bonjour. When we returned the poor old chap was still waiting and it was very hot, I did though get an au revoir. I love France this would never happen in the UK or South Africa for that matter. Have a good day, Diane

  2. Thanks for your comment I said in the post it is rare here in Australia as well. Part of my delight in visiting Europe is encountering such natural good manners, from all generations. Louise


Post a Comment