February 15, 2010: Customs
Age is one of those demographics. Here are some age-related customs to take note of:
1. When I was twenty-nine years old, I learned that the first political candidate I had volunteered for (thirteen years earlier) had been admitted to the Chicago Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. I sent him a congratulatory note.
He sent me a thank you note for my congratulatory note, and expressed surprise that I would comment on his accomplishment since, he stated, young people usually didn't think of these things.
2. Upon concluding a consulting job, I e-mailed a note to five employees thanking them for the opportunity to work with them. The two older ones responded, the three younger ones did not.
3. The normal response to "thank you" is "you're welcome." Young people prefer, "no problem."
4. Expect late meals at social events hosted by young people. Attendees at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon may not be served an entree until 4:30 p.m. A 7:00 p.m. social event may not dish up dinner until after 10:00 p.m.
5. Older men (60s and over) will usually rise from a seat to shake hands with somebody. Older women (same age) often remain seated and may not offer a handshake even if they are already standing.
6. Older men (and some younger ones, too) hold doors open for women or let them pass through a doorway first, even though there is no reason to do so.
7. Older people (70s and over) often believe that the person who initiates a social interaction is expected to pay. Asking a person to have lunch is interpreted as an invitation, not a suggestion for a mutual outing.
8. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older relatives (70s and over) may be insulted when sent a printed invitation to an event at a family member's home. They expect a personal telephone call (no e-mail, text, or fax).
9. Those same people will call the day after the event to express gratitude for having been invited and to tell what a wonderful time they had.
You don't have to practice these customs or even agree with them. But you should recognize them so you don't run afoul of etiquette without realizing it.