Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - The Ins and Outs of Dining Etiquette
Dining etiquette in Charleston has its own unique rhythm and rules. This storied Southern city is known for its genteel manners and hospitality, so minding your p's and q's at the table is a must. Understanding the etiquette around Charleston's famous lowcountry cuisine will ensure you don't make any faux pas.
One key dining custom is passing dishes counterclockwise around the table. This tradition dates back centuries and is still practiced today in many Charleston homes and restaurants. Be sure to pass platters and bowls to the left, even if it feels unnatural at first. Locals may look askance if you break this long-held tradition.
Pacing yourself during the multicourse Lowcountry meals is also essential. You'll want to fully savor the complex flavors in each dish, from silky she-crab soup to decadent shrimp and grits. Wolfing your food down would be considered poor form. Sip your sweet tea and enjoy the languid tempo of the meal.
Use the correct cutlery for each course, working your way in from the outside with each new plate. And keep your elbows off the table - resting them is a no-go. Between courses, place your silverware at an angle across your plate to signal you are finished.
Napkin etiquette warrants attention as well. Drape it across your lap before the meal begins. Dabbing your mouth with your napkin frequently is expected here. And never tuck it into your shirt collar or wave it like a flag - that's a serious blunder.
When dining family-style, don't hog all the servings. Take reasonable portions and allow everyone at the table to enjoy the bounty. And don't reach across the table for a dish - kindly ask someone to pass it to you.
Turning down second helpings can be taken as an insult to the chef. At least taste a spoonful of refills before declining more. And be sure to use "ma'am" and "sir" when addressing servers to show respect.
What else is in this post?
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - The Ins and Outs of Dining Etiquette
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Making Polite Conversation
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Dressing for the Occasion
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Minding Your Manners on a Carriage Ride
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Behaving at Plantations and Historic Homes
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Proper Protocol for Walking Tours
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Gracious Gestures Around Town
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Respecting Local Customs and Traditions
- Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Savvy Tips for Being a Considerate Traveler
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Making Polite Conversation
Making polite conversation is an integral part of Charleston's genteel culture. Locals place a high value on courteous discussion, so minding your manners when chatting is key. Avoid controversial topics, listen more than you speak, and show interest in your conversation partner. You'll charm Charlestonians by following these guidelines.
To start, steer clear of divisive subjects like politics, religion, money or other sensitive issues. You never know who you're speaking with, so play it safe with neutral topics. Delight your new acquaintances by asking about local cuisine, architecture, history or customs. Charlestonians love sharing info about their city.
Next, focus more on listening than talking. Let your conversation partner do most of the speaking. Ask thoughtful questions about what they tell you and refrain from interrupting. Locals will appreciate your rapt attention during discourse. Resist the urge to redirect the chat back to yourself.
You should also demonstrate genuine interest in the person you're speaking with. Make eye contact, smile and lean in slightly to show you're engaged. Charleston has a strong sense of community, so locals will warm to you if you focus completely on them. Avoid scanning the room or checking your phone, which can come off as rude.
Southerners tend to speak at a slower pace, so adjust your speed accordingly. Matching the relaxed tempo of conversation here will prevent you from dominating the exchange. And don't be alarmed by small talk about family or the weather - this chattiness is just Southern hospitality.
Humility is valued in Charleston, so refrain from bragging or one-upping. Self-deprecation and witty humor are smiled upon though. Just don't overdo the jokes - you want to charm, not perform stand-up. And take care not to be overly familiar with new acquaintances - use formal names until invited to do otherwise.
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Dressing for the Occasion
The sartorial standards in this stylish Southern city are collared shirts for the gents and dresses for the ladies. While Charlestonians aren't as formally dressed as in decades past, you'll still want to step up your apparel game here. Locals do have a penchant for preppy-chic ensembles and dressing for the occasion, so follow their lead.
For sightseeing, opt for polished casual attire like a breezy sundress or linen pants paired with a collared shirt. This classics-with-a-twist look blends right into Charleston's scenery. Just don't wear flip flops, graphic tees or shorts - you'll stick out as an obvious tourist.
When dining at the city's acclaimed restaurants, smart-casual is the way to go. For men, break out those pressed khakis or non-jean trousers and pair them with a button-down, polo or nice sweater. Ladies should don a day dress, blouse and skirt, or dark jeans combined with nice footwear and jewelry.
Jackets are optional for gentlemen at dinner, but certainly not frowned upon - when in doubt, bring one. And while dress codes have relaxed over time, some of Charleston's more formal restaurants still require them. Ask your hotel concierge for guidance if you're unsure.
If your trip coincides with the season's busy party circuit, you may find yourself at soiree or two. Opt for cocktail attire - think summery sundresses and ironed trousers. Strapless or very short hemlines are a no-go though. Men should break out a sport coat or suit for these glittering affairs.
You can tell much about Southern gentility through footwear. Well-shined dress shoes for men and leather wedges or low pumps for women fit the genteel bill. Sandals won't work for evening engagements, but are fine during the day.
Hats may be dapper, but men should still remove them when indoors. For the ladies, statement hats are ubiquitous at Charleston's big events - the more theatrical the better. A chic fascinator always deliciously completes an ensemble.
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Minding Your Manners on a Carriage Ride
A leisurely carriage ride is one of the most memorable ways to see Charleston's elegant antebellum architecture and gardens in bloom. But these quintessential Southern experiences come with their own set of etiquette rules. Knowing how to mind your manners while aboard a carriage will ensure you don't commit any faux pas during your ride.
First impressions matter, so be punctual for your scheduled tour. Arriving late is considered impolite and can delay the ride for your fellow passengers. Give yourself ample extra time to arrive promptly. Greet your guide and driver upon boarding with friendliness and eye contact. Avoid immediately whipping out your phone or camera to snap pics - you'll have photo ops galore during the ride itself.
When boarding, let ladies enter the carriage first, then gentlemen. Inside, sit up straight but not rigidly. Crossing your legs is fine, just don't splay them open wide. Leaning dramatically out of the carriage is a no-no for safety reasons. Refrain from excessive selfie-taking as well - you don't want to annoy fellow riders or distract the horse.
As you clip-clop through the charming streets, listen attentively to your guide. Save chitchat and photos for pauses in the narration so you don't miss any history nuggets. If you have a question, wait politely until your guide wraps up his or her talking point. Shouting out or interrupting is considered rude.
Since carriages amble down residential streets, keep your voice low out of respect for locals. Yelling or horseplay gives tourists a bad name. The same goes for raucous laughing or other disruptive sounds. Soft-spoken exchanges with your travel companions are best.
When pausing for photos, be mindful not to delay the tour too long for other passengers. Hop down, snap a few pics, then promptly climb back aboard. You'll have opportunities for lots of Instagram-worthy stops, so avoid bogging down each one.
Littering is an obvious no-no. Keep all trash with you until you can properly dispose of it after disembarking. Food, drinks and especially alcohol are prohibited on board. Using electronic cigarettes or other tobacco products is also forbidden, for safety and courtesy.
Be sure to thank your guide and driver afterward for the educational experience. If you feel your carriage driver or guide provided excellent service, an extra cash tip beyond what's prepaid is a thoughtful gesture. But don't feel obligated - it's not necessarily expected here as it is in some cities.
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Behaving at Plantations and Historic Homes
Charleston's rich history is reflected in its many antebellum plantations and historic homes open to visitors. When touring these impressive estates, be sure your behavior is equally polished. Manners matter profoundly when interacting with costumed guides and walking in the footsteps of former occupants. Follow the etiquette standards of the period to show respect.
Mind that your attire is respectable, not casual. Opt for sundresses or button-downs rather than shorts or flip flops. Your clothing should fit the historic surroundings. Ladies may even don hats or gloves for an added touch of Southern charm. Refrain from wearing revealing necklines or hemlines, as modesty rules the day.
Speak softly inside the estates, where voices carry easily through the airy rooms. Even outdoors, avoid loud talking or sudden shouts that could disturb the tranquil atmosphere. Whispering questions to guides rather than interrupting a presentation is the polite way to go.
Stay with your guided tour at all times rather than wandering off alone. Stick to designated visitor routes only, as many parts of the homes are roped off. Guests should never open any doors or enter any private rooms unless explicitly invited to do so. Hands must be kept to yourself to prevent any accidental damage to the fragile antiques and artworks.
Photography is permitted in most areas but may be restricted in certain spaces, so listen to each home's policy. If taking pictures, be sure not to use flash, tripods or selfie sticks that could disrupt the tour. And always ask before photographing the guides or other visitors.
Food, drinks, smoking and chewing gum are prohibited inside these historic spaces. Wait until the outdoor portions of your tour for snacks or refreshments. Only bottled water is allowed, never beverages that could spill or stain. Littering is also unacceptable grounds.
While touring the former slave quarters, do not ask the guides to act out or emulate how enslaved individuals worked or lived. This trivializes their brutal experiences. Instead, ask thoughtful questions about daily life to deepen your understanding.
When purchasing tickets online, carefully review all policies related to cancellations, groups, children, etc. to avoid issues or surprises later on. Arrive promptly at your designated tour time. And be sure to thank your guide afterward for the educational experience.
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Proper Protocol for Walking Tours
Charleston's streets are ripe for wandering. But when joining a walking tour, knowing the proper protocol helps everything go smoothly. Minding your manners while exploring on foot shows respect for your guide, fellow tourists and the city itself.
To start, arrive 10-15 minutes early for your scheduled tour time. Snapping pics of nearby landmarks while waiting beats being tardy and disrupting the kickoff. Once the guide starts the introduction, stop shooting selfies and listen up. Actively paying attention trumps tuning them out and scrolling on your phone. Guides appreciate eye contact and listeners who seem genuinely interested in what they share. Interrupting with random questions also demonstrates you aren't really listening before they can provide context first. Save your queries for pauses between talking points. Shouting out isn't kosher either - merely raise your hand if you have urgent clarifications during the narration.
When crossing streets, do so swiftly as a group so you don't obstruct traffic or cause frustrating stops and starts. Ambling slowly across roads while still peering around isn't just dangerous, but gives walking tours a bad reputation. Head to the sidewalk promptly after crossing too, instead of lingering in the street that holds everyone up. Once the tour pauses, avoid blocking access to homes, stores and restaurants' entrances while listening and snapping photos. Be flexible if your guide suggests moving the group out of the way if locals need to pass by.
Aim to maintain a reasonable pace that suits the whole group, not speed-walking way ahead or dragging far behind. Doing your own off-the-beaten path detours and short-cutting the established route is a no-go that could leave you lost. If you desperately need a quick restroom or water break, politely inform your guide instead of disappearing, which could derail the entire tour's timing and cohesion.
When occupying space outside homes or historic buildings, keep noise levels respectful since you are essentially in residents' "backyards." Laughing loudly, shouting or horseplay don't fit the genteel tone. Let your guide serve as the mouthpiece for the group at each stop. Only call out questions or requests to them rather than yelling directly at homeowners if issues arise.
Since tours traverse high foot traffic areas, smart spacing helps avoid collisions with passersby. Don't crowd directly behind or next to the guide - stagger yourself throughout the group so everyone can hear. Umbrellas should be tilted horizontally when walking and kept down in open areas. Backpacks should be worn on both shoulders, not dangling from one that swings and wallops other tourists. Strollers and wheelchairs may require extra room, so accommodate them.
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Gracious Gestures Around Town
Graciousness greases the wheels of society in genteel Charleston, so thoughtful gestures around town will charm locals and reflect well on you. From holding doors to giving up your restaurant seat, practicing common courtesies shows you’re an honorable guest. Locals will direct their own acts of kindness back your way in this hospitable city.
Charleston still clings to mannerly customs many modern cities have shed. So proactively putting others first makes positive impressions here. Small acts like allowing pedestrians to exit elevators before you enter exhibit polished behavior. If you encounter locals carrying packages or bags, offer to hold the door open rather than letting it slam behind you. Rush hour lines at cafés try locals’ patience, so motion for the hurried woman behind you juggling Starbucks and a laptop to go ahead.
In restaurants, graciously give up your outdoor table if patrons get caught in an unexpected downpour. The hostess will find you alternate seating indoors while those folks dry off. If you witness a couple celebrating a special occasion without fanfare, kindly alert the staff so they can surprise them with a special treat or champagne toast. Your thoughtfulness will make their night.
Insist on giving up your barstool or high-top seat to elderly patrons rather than making them balance precariously on backless stools. They may initially refuse your offer, but politely reiterate that you don’t mind relocating. If seated near boisterous kids’ birthday parties or loud bachelorette groups, discreetly ask the host to relocate you somewhere quieter so as not to ruin their fun.
Charlestonians queue in orderly lines without cutting or hovering too near strangers. Follow their lead, even if you’re itching to get your lunch order in faster. If you notice tourists unknowingly standing in the wrong place, gently direct them to the back of the line so locals don’t have to police it.
Patience and generosity of spirit rule in Charleston. Locals are never rushed or curt. So allow stressed valets ample time to fetch your vehicle from crowded garages, and greet them with a relaxed tone and smile. Tip bellhops, bartenders and waitstaff generously. Charleston thrives on hospitality, so reward those dishing it out.
Charlestonians have mastered the art of peripheral awareness. They remain alert to the needs of those around them, then inconspicuously move to assist if required. Aimlessly checking your phone prevents you from noticing tourists puzzling over maps or locals struggling to carry packages up stairs. Lift your eyes and help unobtrusively if called for.
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Respecting Local Customs and Traditions
Charleston prides itself on preserving long-held customs and traditions that shape its genteel culture. As visitors, showing respect for these beloved local ways demonstrates your graciousness and keeps you in Charlestonians’ good graces. Understanding the origins and meanings behind the city’s time-honored rituals also enhances your experience. Signs of disrespect like mocking or disregarding them will swiftly sour locals’ impressions of you.
You’ll often spot bowls of pecans on Charleston restaurant tables - they represent Southern hospitality. Cracking and snacking on them as you wait shows you’re at ease. At dinnertime, families and parties join hands and say grace before mealtime - a revered regional custom. Folded hands and bowed heads exhibit respect, even if you don’t participate in the blessing yourself.
In the evening, pause to watch as Charlestonians gather to witness the “dance of the mosquitoes” - when they swarm en masse at dusk. Locals have admired this pattern for generations. Attempting to squash them would show scorn for this quaint custom.
Charlestonians sipping cocktails at dusk on piazza porches is another longstanding tradition. While it may seem tempting to snap illicit photos of them, resist doing so without permission - you’d disrupt this peaceful daily ritual.
At the beach, politely avoid massive sandcastles locals painstakingly built. They reflect treasured childhood memories passed down by generations who’ve frolicked on these shores. Knocking them over damages those community bonds.
In Charleston it’s also customary to make conversation with fellow travelers. Introduce yourself and speak amiably rather than avoiding eye contact. Locals find it rude when visitors seem standoffish or uninterested in exchanging pleasantries.
Giving a firm, warm handshake while looking people in the eyes shows sincerity. Charlestonians distrust light or distracted grips, so make yours confident. Use your right hand though - the left is considered impolite here.
Charlestonians expects you to don your Sunday best when attending church services, as modesty and decorum reign in their historic houses of worship. Clueless tourists in shorts and flip flops stick out like sore thumbs.
Mind Your Manners: The Essential Guide to Charleston Etiquette for Savvy Travelers - Savvy Tips for Being a Considerate Traveler
Sound escapist? That mindfulness helps travelers connect meaningfully too. Discovering hidden gems and local insights rewards. Building bonds through cross-cultural exchange creates wondrous memories. And leaving rave reviews and recommendations makes future journeys easier for fellow adventurers.
Venture off the beaten path to uncover places not trampled by tourists. Trekking to that remote national park instead of the packed one nearby prevents straining overloaded resources. Seek lesser-known neighborhoods and mom-and-pop shops away from crowds. You’ll gain immersive experiences travelers racing between top attractions miss.
When visiting popular sights, go early or late to avoid peak times. For example, arrive when historic sites open to enjoy them peacefully before buses unload. Or tour after the last waves leave. You’ll beat crowds and heat while still glimpsing majestic temples.
Research cultural customs before trips and respect them on the ground. Dress and behave appropriately for religious venues. Ask before snapping photos of locals. Learn basic greetings and phrases in the local language. Locals will appreciate your efforts to follow etiquette.
Patronize small businesses over big chains. Seek out family-run restaurants, indie shops stocking handmade wares, and boutique hotels with character. Your dollars make a meaningful impact on these community enterprises. And you often enjoy charming insider experiences money can’t buy at megabrands catering to masses.
Choose sustainable and ethical activities benefiting locals economically and environmentally. For instance, select tour companies employing trained guides from the region. Avoid venues exploiting animals for entertainment. Seek eco-conscious hotels taking steps like minimizing water waste. Make conscientious decisions with long-term positive impacts.
When bargaining at markets, don’t aggressively haggle vendors’ displayed prices down to a pittance. Offer fair sums that account for their time and costs. Pay what handmade textiles, fresh produce, and other wares are reasonably worth. Your livelihood doesn’t depend on buying a sarong for pennies; theirs might.
Dispose of waste properly and recycle when possible. Carry reusable bottles for refills instead of purchasing endless plastic ones. Pick up any trash you see and pack it out. Follow Leave No Trace principles in nature. Keep pristine places clean for future visitors and locals who call it home.
Skip polluting activities like releasing sky lanterns. Opt for eco-conscious choices like biking tours over ATVs tearing through forests. Consider carbon offsetting through vetted organizations to counter inevitable air travel emissions. Make sustainable decisions ensuring treasured communities endure for generations.
Patronize only humane venues promoting animal welfare when wildlife interactions are involved. Shun tiger selfies, elephant rides, and other exploitative or unethical activities disguised as “conservation.” Perform due diligence to assess animal-related excursions claiming to be sanctuaries. Ensure your tourism helps, not harms.