The New Social Norms Of Living In The COVID World From Harlem To Hollywood

May 6, 2020

By Sharon Schweitzer

The way we interact with people continues to change in the COVID-19 world. Everything from personal space and petting someone’s dog to tipping and greeting friends and family is all different now and will continue to be different.

What are the new social norms we need to abide by?

Sharon Schweitzer is an international etiquette and culture expert, and founder of the firm ‘Access to Culture.’

A few new etiquette rules she can speak about:

1. Asking for 6 feet or more of space

Before Covid-19, asking someone to step-back, stepping back from them, or reminding them of your personal space would have been a faux pas—or at least felt awkward in U.S. culture. However, today, it’s expected and if you don’t do it, be prepared for someone else to do so or say something to you.

2. Petting my Dog

Walking a friendly dog before Covid-19 was time-consuming because canines are social animals who seek out human interaction. Of course, having a chat with fluffy about the Coronavirus is tough – she still wants all the attention she’s been receiving. If a walker or neighbor tries to pet Fluffy, consider walking her earlier or later in the day or in a different neighborhood. If someone doesn’t respect the recommended 6-foot distance, politely say, “Fluffy and I are both social distancing. Please greet us from at least 6 feet away. We look forward to seeing you after this all resolves. You’ll be more than welcome to pet her then!”

3. Putting on a Mask

Not only is wearing a mask in public the new norm, but it’s also the law in many places. Don’t even question this one. Just do it. Studies show that there are individuals who test positive for the virus, yet, don’t show any symptoms. These individuals, who aren’t suffering from the illness physically, are the ones potentially spreading the virus even more because they don’t know they are carrying it in the first place. Always put on your mask when going out for now.

4. Changing your RSVP from yes to no

Longstanding etiquette and basic social graces dictate if you responded that you would attend an event, you must. However, in light of the Coronavirus, changing your RSVP to decline and skipping an event is appropriate if it’s done immediately. Send a note to the host explaining you regret missing the event but it’s safest for all.

5. Greetings

Global greetings vary by culture. The most unsanitary have been the cheek kiss, handshake and hug due to potentially dangerous bacteria or a deadly virus. The CDC recommends reducing all physical contact with others, so germ-free gestures should be considered like a nod, smile, bow, wave, and of course a verbal exchange.

6. Tipping

When placing a curbside, pick-up, to-go, carryout, or delivery order, ask whether it’s possible to leave a tip in advance on your credit card. Many companies and restaurants have established “contactless delivery” to safeguard the health of everyone in the chain; their customers, staff, employees, and vendors. If tipping in advance isn’t an option, place cash inside a clean envelope and write a short thank-you message outside the envelope.

Sharon Schweitzer is an internationally recognized cross-cultural business expert, trainer, and speaker and is the founder of Access to Culture. She is an award-winning entrepreneur and author of the Amazon #1 best-selling book in International Business, Access to Asia (3rd printing), named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. Sharon has worked with brands such as CBS, Hilton Hotels, JPMorgan, Lexus, MD Anderson, Toyota, as well as sports athletes, and student leaders, to provide practical techniques for improving business communication and increasing revenue.

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