The art and necessity of using good manners to show respect to the other individuals in our society

Galateois the Italian word for polite social behavior. The word, which is now commonly used, was first coined by Giovanni Della Casa (1503-1556). It is the Latinized name of his hero’s, bishop Galeazzo Florimonte, that he used as the title of his book published posthumously in 1558. In his work, addressed to his nephew, the ecclesiastical diplomat codified for the first time all the customs and rules of behavior that a man of his class had to follow.

Della Casa’s explanation for his rules of speech, table manners, and gestures is the need to avoid offending others. That is the basic bargain required to live in peaceful communities.

Nowadays, customs have evolved and most of the etiquette rules Della Casa wrote are no longer apply to modern or different cultural contexts. However, others, as well as new ones that follow the same principles are still fundamental for harmony and common life. Thus, although many people tend to think about etiquette only on formal occasions, Galateo should be applied also to daily activities. Some etiquette problems found in the original text unfortunately still survive including checking mail when in the company, grooming in public, joking about disabilities, and monitoring what others are eating.

But the Galateo also teaches: how to eat; how to use cutlery; what to do when you are hosted; and how to entertain conversations between diners. There are also rules for every social aspect, from the relationship with the neighbors to the various festive events. Smoking and mobile phones, for example, are banned from any meal just to respect other diners. The correct posture, even in more informal moments, requires that each person must always keep their feet under the table and never rest the elbows on it. Also leaning over the dish, to talk with food in the mouth, or chewing with the mouth open are big no-no’s.

In conclusion, customs may have changed and evolved but the purpose of Galateo is always the same: respect for others, a pleasant coexistence between individuals, and a more harmonious society for the well-being of all.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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