Moving Etiquette

Of course, Victoria has very neat and organized boxes.

Of course, Victoria has very neat and organized boxes.

Victoria moved recently, so we had a nice talk about how we tip movers and try not to abuse our friends when they help us out.


Victoria: I have something else for us to talk about! Moving etiquette! And tipping!

Jaya: Oooh! So what sorts of issues did you run into during your move?

Victoria: So I wish you had been here and not swanning around Europe when I was trying desperately to figure out how much would be a fair tip. Have you ever used movers?

Jaya: I completely forget what we did when we moved last. Technically we had them,  though by “movers” it was more like “three Russian 20 year olds from craigslist with a van.”

Victoria: Matt said that you guys gave them like $20-30/guy.

Jaya: I think that’s about right, and made sure to offer them lots of water.

Victoria: Haha I didn’t really do the water thing, well I sort of did- in our original place, I left out a bunch of plastic cups and said they could help themselves. at the second place, we didn’t have anything. But anyway, my roommate and I had originally agreed that like, $60/guy would be fine. But then, they were SO AWESOME, like literally finished the ENTIRE move in 3 hours and were super nice and jokey the whole time, and never made any gross sexist remarks or anything, that we were like, JK, $80/each sounds better. Which ended up being 20% of the total move cost, which seemed like a good place. But SOME people have told me that that’s crazy high. (ed: but then, isn’t the definition of a tip to be extremely generous when called for?)

Jaya: Interesting. Obviously it depends on the company, but I do think movers are generally paid well, so that tipping a mover is not a requirement like it is for a waiter or hairdresser. According to this, the industry standard is 5%

Victoria: Ahh but other things online told me they are NOT paid well and tips are essential. Basically what I found is that no one agrees. Some things said 15-20% of the total move, some things said $20 per person.

Jaya: Interesting, The couple links I just pulled up said 5%, but yeah, it varies. I think if you’re going with a moving company, you should absolutely call and ask a manager.

Victoria: But yeah, i think basically you should also go with what feels right, like they also didn’t break or damage a single thing. And like I said, really fast and professional. Whereas if they had been slow and sloppy, the tip would go down.

Jaya: Absolutely. Yeah, I would probably call a manager earlier and ask what the standard is, and then keep that in mind as they do things. If they’re breaking stuff and being jerks, you don’t have to meet that.

Victoria: Yeah, that probably would have been a good idea. Haha, although, I was such a stressball during this move that I think the manager was getting tired of talking to me. Everything was at the absolute last minute and I changed the date once, haha.

Jaya: The other thing I always think about is how moving affects your neighbors. There have been many times when someone is moving into or out of the building where they prop the doors open to get stuff in, but nobody is there watching the doors.

Victoria : The door thing doesn’t bother me so much because usually there’s a steady stream of people in and out.

Oh yeah! My new ~*fancy*~ building has rules- we had to move in on a weekday before 4pm so as not to inconvenience other tenants. AND they made the movers bring everything into the garage and put it in the elevator there instead of going through the lobby which also makes sense.

Jaya: Ooh that makes sense.

Victoria: So what about when your friends help you move? Beer and pizza? What age is it no longer quite cool to make your friends move and you should really be hiring movers? For me, I was definitely not going to be having anyone help me move because I have a TON of stuff and lots of heavy furniture. We had, i think, about 57 boxes. Oh! And our movers mentioned they were happy we put all our books into little boxes so they weren’t too heavy and we were like duh, and they said that not everyone thinks of that.

Jaya: Ooh that’s true! I mean really, I think you can always ask your friends for help, but as we get older you gotta realize not as many people will be able to.

Victoria: Yeah, definitely. Although, I did actually have some friend help this time! So due to the terrible complexity of the situation, I had to sign my lease at 9am on the day of my move and the movers ALSO wanted to arrive at 9am. Luckily, a friend didn’t have to be at work until noon that day, so he came and sat in my apartment to let the movers in until I got back. I bought him a doughnut the day of and I plan to buy him dinner sometime soon.

Jaya: Aww that’s nice! Yeah, I just helped another friend move, but by that I mean I waited in the van and made sure they didn’t get towed while he and his brother carried all his furniture.

Victoria: Hahah yeah. That type of help is always good to give. Also, the building I moved into works with a broker to fill the apartments, so we had to do everything through him (and pay a fee, grrr) but he did come by with a couple of bottles of wine as a housewarming present, which I thought was pretty nice.

Jaya: Hahah that is like, nobody’s experience. I mean that’s amazing but don’t get anyone’s hopes up.

Victoria: Hahaha I know! It was so strange. Also, my previous landlord returned my deposit within 3 days of me requesting it with no fuss.

Jaya: Are you a witch or something?

Victoria: I guess! Maybe it’s karmic retribution for having literally the most stressful move ever. And I basically live in a castle now, so.

Thank Goodness, Wait, Worrying About Reputation Is Still A Woman’s Responsibility

Joan-Jett-4The more I read old etiquette books, the more I realize just how much was in the wheelhouse of etiquette. I never thought that “leaning awkwardly when sitting” was a matter of manners, but at its broadest, etiquette is just about how to live your life as nicely as you can. In a lot of ways that’s good, but of course, we are all products of our time, and etiquette rules are always heavily influenced by prejudice and respectability politics.

Take this chapter in No Nice Girl Swears, called “You’re The First Man I Ever Kissed.” It’s a cheekily-written guide for women on how to flirt, date and socialize with men while maintaining one’s reputation. Author Alice Leone-Moats at least recognizes that “petting” is a pretty natural part of human interaction, and that doing it well is a matter of what you can get away with. Still, the fact is that it’s something you have to “get away with.” “Anyone will admit that in the long run a reputation for being a heavy necker doesn’t really add to a girl’s popularity,” she writes, striking a clear difference between giving into romance and “petting for petting’s sake.” Of course, a man’s reputation is never sullied no matter how much he pets or for whose sake.

The etiquette rules here become a woman’s line to walk, finding a way to “keep a man on the string and yet never let him get an opportunity to make a direct pass.” She goes on to explain how to defer a physical pass in the back of a taxi, to rarely dine with married men (even if you have the wife’s permission), and to always act like it’s your first time in a man’s apartment, no matter how many times you’ve been there. Which seems like it would inspire more awkwardness than anything. “Ooh what a lovely home!” “Janet you’ve been here at least a dozen times before.” “HOW YOU JEST, DEAR BOY, MY WHAT A FETCHING RUG.” But it is the woman’s job to ensure nothing bad happens. She is the enforcer of boundaries. A “no” must be pressed rather than a “yes” offered, and if something does happen it’s on the woman. She either should have fought harder or not gotten herself into that situation in the first place. And if this sounds familiar, well, not much has changed.

There’s a wistfulness to the chapter, as if Leone-Moats wishes she didn’t have to write it. “Of course it seems all wrong that in this world appearances count for more than actions, but it has always been so and we can do nothing but accept it.” It’s the ultimate double standard–consent to making out in the back of a cab and your reputation is ruined, don’t consent and you get taken advantage of, and your reputation is still ruined. Better to hold in your desires for the sake of propriety than not and subject yourself to judgment and, possibly, violence. It’s a decision no woman should have to make, and certainly should not be a matter of etiquette. Unfortunately, it’s still a matter of survival.

In My Opinion The Best Wedding Favors Are Edible

First let me state that wedding favors are purely optional. But if you do want to do them, don’t waste your money on stupid trinkets that your guests are going to throw away. Do something edible so that they can snack on the way home or shortly after the wedding. Here is a list of edible favors that I think are great (some are from real weddings!)

  • Beach wedding: salt water taffy
  • Barn/ranch/southwestern wedding: trail mix or some kind of cutesy Cowboy mix
  • Theater wedding: popcorn
  • Related to your honeymoon destination: biscotti for Italy (real wedding!), British candy for Britain, baklava for Greece, etc.
  • Vineyard: local olive oil (real wedding!)
  • Fall wedding: caramel apples if you have $$$$, apple chips or other apple-y themed snacks
  • Winter wedding: hot chocolate (real wedding!)
  • Summer wedding: honey (real wedding!)
  • State fair/circus wedding: cotton candy
  • Baseball wedding: Cracker Jack
  • Colorful/rainbow wedding: Skittles (taste the rainbow)
  • Camping wedding: s’mores
  • NYC wedding: black and white cookies

What If I’m Not a Hugger?

200_sHi Uncommon Courtesy,

What is your stance on hugs as a hello or goodbye?

I, personally, hate hugs, unless they’re with all but the closest of family and friends- and even then, just for a) comfort in the direst of emotional states or b) when this is goodbye for at least a few weeks to a month, or before some kind of trying endeavour. I don’t even particularly enjoy a hug with anyone but my husband, but I will do it because I’m not a monster and know when someone wants one.

This is obviously an idiosyncratic thing, perhaps set in place by my undemonstrative Irish family, but they make my skin crawl, and when I see an acquaintance/parent of a friend/colleague who I’m friendly with but don’t want to touch coming in for one, I’m like, oh god oh god no. Especially, because I feel like I tend to be forced into hugging while my husband gets to shake hands! 

Leaving aside the gendered complexity of hugging, I ask you two things.

1. What is your opinion on hugs (is my dislike of hugs my own cross to bear, or is there some merit to it), and, 2. considering I can’t avoid all hugs and must occasionally wrap my arms around semi-strangers, what would a modern guide to social hug etiquette look like?

Thanks for any light you can shed on this matter.

Yours faithfully,

Not feeling it


Official Etiquette

Emily Post didn’t really say much on hugging, but according to MTV Lauren Conrad is the Emily Post of hugging (???). She lays down some rules here, but says to save the big, two-armed hugs for close family and friends.


Our Take

Jaya: So how do we navigate an increasingly hug-friendly world? I was caught by LW’s mention of how gendered this can be. I hadn’t really thought of it, but that totally happens.

Victoria: Ugh yes, this happened to me once! With a young guy–he was shaking hands with all the guys and then I go to shake his hand and he’s like, “I think we can hug.”  I did because I don’t really care, but ugh! Not if it’s just the girls that you hug!

Jaya: That’s ridiculous, especially if it’s a professional setting. Though I admit, I’m a total hugger.

Victoria: Me too. I guess I am somewhat sexist about hugging–I will hug strange women more than strange men. Like friend’s parents, I will hug the mom but not the dad.

Jaya: I find myself doing that as well. I guess it comes from an assumption that it won’t be taken sexually, which obviously it can be no matter who you hug. I do my best to read body language and see if someone is uncomfortable with it. And honestly some days I don’t feel like hugging, or there are some people I don’t want that level of intimacy with, and try to quickly get my hand out there for a handshake.

Victoria: I also think that social hugs can be like, gentle, quick hugs that leave a fair amount of space between the people. But it’s perfectly fine to say “I’m not a hugger” and stick out your hand.

Jaya: Is it though? I mean, it should be, but I feel like if everyone is hugging and you say no it’s gonna turn into like “who’s the ice queen?” situation. Which is just to say that huggers need to be more aware of those personal boundaries.

Victoria: Yeah, if someone’s giving you pressure you don’t want to be friends with them anyway. I guess you try to read the situation and see if you can get away with not hugging. Also a good time to take up Irish exits–if you don’t say goodbye, they can’t force you to hug.

Jaya: Hahaha yes. I think sticking out your hand first is key, and if someone comes in for a hug anyway do your best to make it quick and create as much space as possible, to send the message that you’re uncomfortable. Also, this question got me thinking a lot about a few articles I’ve read about not forcing children to hug anyone, even family members. This is a good example, but basically it comes down to teaching children body autonomy at an early age, and understanding that something like a hug can be very intimate. And maybe we’re forgetting that applies to adults too.

Victoria: Absolutely. You should teach kids how to politely greet people and not hide and stuff, but they should get to choose. Plus, get them started early on firm handshakes and maybe there won’t be so many people with terrible handshakes.

Jaya: Ugh preach.

Victoria: Want to hear how I learned to shake hands? So I went to Take Your Daughters To Work Day with my mom when I was 11 or 12, and she was introducing me to people and I was shaking their hands, and she observes my weak handshake a few times and tells me that no one likes shaking a dead fish. And thus I have always shook hands pretty well (I think!).

Jaya: That’s amazing! I do not remember how I learned, but I think I’m good at it. But handshakes are great because they’re very neutral. Like yes, we live in a society where if you refuse any sort of accepted greeting you’re going to be a bit ostracized, but you should feel free to decline a hug.

Victoria: Definitely, and people should be very understanding.

Jaya: What do you think could be said if someone gives you shit for it? I can imagine some jovial fellow coming in for a hug, me saying “I’m sorry, I’m not really a hugger,” and getting a lot of pressure to just lighten up.

Victoria: I mean, to an extent you either play it serious or act even jokier, depending on the situation. Alot of situations, you probably won’t be able to get out of though. I guess the more people who make a stink about it, the more people who will get it that some people don’t like hugging.

Jaya: Yeah, if you’re willing to be that person.

Victoria: I mean, you can feel the moral superiority that the person who is pressuring is the rude one. Which is cold comfort, I realize. My thoughts come down to: say you aren’t a hugger, and if they insist, decide if you are going to fight that battle, and if you are not, try to give a brief, light hug or whatever makes you comfortable. My bugaboo is the cheek kissing thing–I never know when its going to happen! Especially the double kiss! I’m always like, hey, oh, are we doing this? Okay then.

Jaya: That happened to me in France with a French guy, and I made the biggest American idiot of myself.

Regional Wedding Traditions: Cookie Table

Previously: Cake Pulls

This is a regional wedding tradition I can get behind- a cookie table!

This tradition is regional to southern Pennsylvania/Pittsburgh and some other industrial East Coast cities that have large Catholic populations of Italian or Eastern European groups, says Wikipedia. I can’t remember where I first read about it, but it always struck me as a particularly nice tradition. In addition to your usual wedding cake, there is a table full of cookies at the wedding for the guests to enjoy. The great thing is that the relatives of the couple bake the cookies, giving it a great community feeling and something that hasn’t been totally Pinterestified like it’s cousin (and another favorite of mine- the candy buffet). Supposedly the tradition started before wedding cakes were a big thing and it was a way to spread out the cost of the reception between many family members.

These cookie tables aren’t playing around, either. I read about one wedding that had 500 dozen cookies!  That’s 6000 cookies, and unless these weddings have a thousand guests, that’s an awful lot of cookies per person. This wedding had 200 guests- which is 30 cookies per guest. That’s so many! Even a sweet fiend like me would have a hard time with that. Luckily, you get to take them home to enjoy at your leisure.

There is a bit of etiquette involved- are you really allowed to take them home (apparently these days it’s all good and some families even provide containers)? When can you start eating them, from the beginning of the reception or do you have to wait until dessert time (definitely not until after they’ve been revealed, but it depends on what the couple wants)?

So, let’s definitely bring this tradition to other weddings because unlike cash bars, who doesn’t love a good, homemade cookie?