In simple terms, etiquette is a code of behaviour deemed polite among members of a particular group.
In more complex terms, etiquette is a set of rules that differentiates proper social behaviours from improper ones. These rules are determined by elite members of a group and they change with time and location.
Etiquette as a code of behaviour, began like any study… as a way to produce better humans.
Earlier codes focused on respect, consideration, kindness, and self-control. But as social interactions became more complex, technology advanced, and more products were invented – etiquette developed into a more complicated system of codified behaviours.
By the 19th century, etiquette covered every aspect of life, from how one ate to how one walked, spoke, wrote, and dressed.
Again, etiquette does change with time. It started basic and developed into something much more complex. Currently, it is in a reverse spin. It is un-developing. Many rules from the Victorian age – like ladies being required to wear hats when in public or mourning attire after a relative’s death (sometimes as long as a year) – are no longer deemed necessary to follow.
As mentioned earlier, etiquette also varies according to location. China does not have the same set of etiquette rules as the United States, nor does France and the United Kingdom. Each country has their own variation.