Topic 28: August 18 2017 Good and Bad Manners - When is it rude to be rude?

An idiom from older English says "manners maketh* man" [*maketh = make. It comes from an earlier form of English grammar and is not used in modern English, except for a few idioms]

The idiom means that the quality of a person can be judged by whether they have good manners.

1. What is an example of good manners in Australia that might be bad manners in your home culture? Now what about the opposite?

2. Why are manners considered important (or not important) by different kinds of people?

3. Are good & bad manners related in any way to honesty? If so, can you think of an example?

4. Sometimes it is wise to break your own personal code of good manners. What would be an example of this?

5. When you are not sure of whether somebody is being deliberately rude to you, what is the best way to manage the situation?

6. How would the good (or bad) manners of a politician influence your vote?

7. Normally people in Australia walk on the left side of the footpath (there are even council by-laws requiring this). However I often come face to face with people walking on the right hand side who refuse to move. Usually I can guess they are foreigners. Why? Is this just bad manners or are they ignorant of the custom? How should I react?

8. We know what to expect from people in our family, and usually learn to tolerate their habits. On the other hand, we often "judge" strangers instantly. How can we calibrate what we expect from strangers, and only after that judge their intentions?

9. A lot of people are uncomfortable with being "politically correct", and want to express their true feelings. That is, they are told it is wrong to express racist/sexist/ageist opinions etc, even if they feel strongly. What is the best balance between public and private expression? [ example: this conflict seems to have influenced the vote for many Americans in the last presidential election.]

10. Newcomers to Australia are often told that "Australians are very direct". This is only sometimes true, and there are small language signals showing politeness which English learners can miss. New Australians, trying to speak "directly" like old Australians, can actually be quite rude. How can you solve this problem?


Extra reading:

I worked in South Korea for 7 years. Koreans often found me rude, for cultural reasons, and I often found them rude, even if our intentions were good. I wrote an article about this: A colleague, a Korean professor, also translated the article into Korean: "When Is It Rude To Be Rude? - Politeness Across Cultures and Subcultures" -
and 언제 무례하여 무례해지는가?" at


28. Good and Bad Manners ©Thor May 2017