TO do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others, sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstanceswhether staying at home or traveling. But in order to do nothing that can annoy or give offense, it is necessary for us to consider the point of view of those with whom we come in contact; and in traveling abroad it is necessary to know something of foreign customs which affect the foreign point of view, if we would be thought a cultivated and charming people instead of an uncivilized and objectionable one. Before going abroad, however, let us first take up the subject of travel at home.
Since it is not likely that any one would go around the world being deliberately offensive to others, it may be taken for granted that obnoxious behavior is either the fault of thoughtlessness or ignoranceand for the former there is no excuse.
On a railroad train you should be careful not to assail the nostrils of fellow passengers with strong odors of any kind. An odor that may seem to you refreshing, may cause others who dislike it and are poor travelers to suffer really great distress. There is a combination of banana and the leather smell of a valise containing food, that is to many people an immediate emetic. The smell of a banana or an orange, is in fact to nearly all bad travelers the last straw. In America where there are diners on every Pullman train, the food odors are seldom encountered in parlor cars, but in Europe where railroad carriages are small, one fruit enthusiast can make his traveling companions more utterly wretched than perhaps he can imagine. The cigar which is smoldering has, on most women, the same effect. Certain perfumes that are particularly heavy, make others ill. To at least half of an average trainful of people, strong odors of one kind or another are disagreeable if not actually nauseating.
People with children are most often the food-offenders. Any number not only let small children eat continuously so that the car is filled with food odors, but occasional mothers have been known to let a child with smeary fingers clutch a nearby passenger by the dress or coat and seemingly think it cunning! Those who can afford it, usually take the drawing-room and keep the children in it. Those who are to travel in seats should plan diversions for them ahead of time; since it is unreasonable to expect little children to sit quietly for hours on end by merely telling them to be good. Two little girls on the train to Washington the other day were crocheting dolls sweaters with balls of worsted in which were wound wrapped and disguised prizes. The amount of wool covering each might take perhaps a half hour to use up. They were allowed the prize only when the last strand of wool around it was used. They were then occupied for a while with whatever it wasa little book, or a puzzle, or a game. When they grew tired of its novelty, they crocheted again until they came to the next prize. In the end they had also new garments for their dolls.
In a curiously naïve book on etiquette appeared a chapter purporting to give advice to a lady traveling for an indefinite number of days with a gentleman escort! That any lady could go traveling for days under the protection of a gentleman is at least a novelty in etiquette. As said elsewhere, in fashionable society an escort is unheard of, and in decent society a lady doesnt go traveling around the country with a gentleman unless she is outside the pale of society, in which case social convention, at least, is not concerned with her.
If a lady traveling alone on a long journey, such as a trip across the continent, happens to find a gentleman on board whom she knows, she must not allow him to sit with her in the dining-car more often than a casual once or twice, nor must she allow him to sit with her or talk to her enough to give a possible impression that they are together. In fact she would be more prudent to take her meals by herself, as it is scarcely worth running the risk of other passengers criticism for the sake of having companionship at a meal or two. If, on a short trip, a gentleman asks a lady, whom he knows, to lunch with him in the dining-car, there is no reason why she shouldnt.
In America, a young woman can go across every one of our thousands upon thousands of railed miles without the slightest risk of a disagreeable occurrence if she is herself dignified and reserved. She should be particularly careful if she is young and pretty not to allow strange men to scrape an acquaintance with her. If a stranger happens to offer to open a window for her, or get her a chair on the observation platform, it does not give him the right to more than a civil thank you from her. If, in spite of etiquette, she should on a long journey drift into conversation with an obviously well-behaved youth, she should remember that talking with him at all is contrary to the proprieties, and that she must be doubly careful to keep him at a formal distance. There is little harm in talking of utterly impersonal subjectsbut she should avoid giving him information that is personal.
Every guardian should also warn a young girl that if, when she alights at her destination, her friends fail to meet her, she should on no account accept a strangers offer, whether man or woman, to drive her to her destination. The safest thing to do is to walk. If it is too far, and there is no official taxicab agent belonging to the railroad company, she should go to the ticket seller or some one wearing the railroad uniform and ask him to select a vehicle for her. She should neverabove all in a strange city where she does not even know her directiontake a taxi on the street.
He never enters his street and house number. Neither John Smith and Wife nor John Smith and Family are good form. If he does not like the Mr. before his name he can sign his own without, on one line, and then write Mrs. Smith on the one below. The whole family should be registered:
If you have never been in a hotel alone but you are of sufficient years, well behaved and dignified in appearance, you need have no fear as to the treatment you will receive. But you should write to the hotel in advancewhether here or in Europe. In this country you register in the office and are shown to your room, or rooms, by a bell-boyin some hotels by a bell-boy and a maid.
One piece of advice: You will not get good service unless you tip generously. If you do not care for elaborate meals, that is nothing to your discredit; but you should not go to an expensive hotel, hold a table that would otherwise be occupied by others who might order a long dinner, and expect your waiter to be contented with a tip of fifteen cents for your dollar supper! The rule is ten per cent, beginning with a meal costing about three or four dollars. A quarter is the smallest possible tip in a first class hotel. If your meal costs a quarteryou should give the waiter a quarter. If it costs two dollars or more than two dollars, you give thirty or thirty-five cents, and ten per cent on a bigger amount. In smaller hotels tips are less in proportion. Tipping is undoubtedly a bad system, but it happens to be in force, and that being the case, travelers have to pay their share of itif they like the way made smooth and comfortable.
A lady traveling alone with her maid (or without one), of necessity has her meals alone in her own sitting-room, if she has one. If she goes to the dining-room, she usually takes a book because hotel service seems endless to one used to meals at home and nothing is duller than to sit long alone with nothing to do but look at the tablecloth, which is scarcely diverting, or at other people, which is impolite.
In the days when our great-grandparents went to Europe on a clipper ship carrying at most a score of voyagers and taking a month perhaps to make the crossing, those who sat day after day together, and evening after evening around the cabin lamp, became necessarily friendly; and in many instances not only for the duration of the voyage but for life. More often than not, those who had endured the rigors of the Atlantic together, joined forces in engaging the courier who was in those days indispensable, and set out on their Continental travels in company. Dashing to Europe and back was scarcely to be imagined, and travelers who had ventured such a distance, stayed at least a year or more. Also in those slower days of crawling across the earths surface by post-chaise and diligence and horseback, travelers meeting in inns and elsewhere, fell literally on each others neck at the sound of an American accent! And each retailed to the other his news of home; to which was added the news of all whom they had encountered. It is also from these traveling ancestors that families inherit their Continental visiting lists. Friends they made in Europe, in turn gave letters of introduction to friends coming later to America. And to them again their American hosts sent letters by later American friends.
But to-day when going to Europe is of scarcely greater importance than going into another State, and when the passenger list numbers hundreds, making friends with strangers is the last thing the great-grandchildren of those earlier travelers would think of.
It may be pretty accurately said that the faster and bigger the ship, the less likely one is to speak to strangers, and yetas alwayscircumstances alter cases. Because the Worldlys, the Oldnames, the Eminents,all those who are innately exclusivenever pick up acquaintances on shipboard, it does not follow that no fashionable and well-born people ever drift into acquaintanceship on European-American steamers of to-daybut they are at least not apt to do so. Many in fact take the ocean-crossing as a rest-cure and stay in their cabins the whole voyage. The Worldlys always have their meals served in their own drawing-room and have their deck chairs placed so that no one is very near them, and keep to themselves except when they invite friends of their own to play bridge or take dinner or lunch with them.
But because the Worldlys and the Eminentsand the Snobsnifts who copy themstay in their cabins, sit in segregated chairs and speak to no one except the handful of their personal friends or acquaintances who happen to be on board, it does not follow that the Smiths, Joneses and Robinsons are not enlarging their acquaintance with every revolution of the screws. And if you happen to like to be talked to by strangers, and if they in turn like to talk to you, it can not be said that there is any rule of etiquette against it.
Very fashionable people as a rule travel a great deal, which means that they are known very well to the head steward, who reserves a table, or they engage a table for themselves when they get their tickets. Mr. and Mrs. Gilding for instance, if they know that friends of theirs are sailing on the same steamer, ask them to sit at their table and ask for a sufficiently large table on purpose. Or if they are traveling alone, they arrange to have one of the small tables for two, to themselves.
People of wide acquaintance in big cities are sure to find friends on board with whom they can arrange, if they choose, to sit on deck or in the dining saloon, but most people, unless really intimate friends are on board, sit wherever the head steward puts them. After a meal or two people always speak to those sitting next to them. None but the rudest snobs would sit through meal after meal without ever addressing a word to their table companions. Well-bred people are always courteous, but that does not mean that they establish friendships with any strangers who happen to be placed next to them.
In crossing the Pacific, people are more generally friendly because the voyage is so much longer, and on the other long voyages, such as those to India and South Africa, the entire ships company become almost as intimate as in the old clipper days.
There are certain constant travelers who, it is said, count on a European voyage to increase their social acquaintance by just so much each trip! Richan Vulgar, for instance, has his same especial table every time he crosses, which is four times a year! Walking through a steamer train he sees a celebrity, a brilliant, let us say, but unworldly man. Vulgar annexes him by saying, casually, Have you a seat at table? Better sit with me, I always have the table by the door; it is easy to get in and out. The celebrity accepts, since there is no evidence that he is to be featured, and the chances are that he remains unconscious to the end of time that he served as a decoy. Boarding the steamer, Vulgar sees the Lovejoys, and pounces: You must sit at my table! Celebrity and I are crossing togetherhe is the most delightful man! I want you to sit next to him. They think Celebrity sounds very interesting; so, not having engaged a table for themselves, they say they will be delighted. On the deck, the Smartleys appear and ask the Lovejoys to sit with them. Vulgar, who is standing by (he is always standing by) breaks in even without an introduction and says: Mr. and Mrs. Lovejoy and Celebrity are sitting at my table, wont you sit with me also? If the Smartlys protest they have a table, he is generally insistent and momentarily overpowering enough to make them join forces with him. As the Smartlys particularly want to sit next to the Lovejoys and also like the idea of meeting Celebrity, it ends in Vulgars table being a collection of fashionables whom he could not possibly have gotten together without just such a maneuver.
The question of what he gets out of it is puzzling since with each hour the really well-bred people dislike him more and more intensely, and at the end of a day or so, his tables company are all eating on deck to avoid him. Perhaps there is some recompense that does not appear on the surface, but to the casual observer the satisfaction of telling others that the Smartlys, Lovejoys and Wellborns sat at his table would scarcely seem worth the effort.
There is another type of steamer passenger and hotel guest who may, or may not, be a climber. This one searches out potential acquaintances on the passenger list and hotel register with the avidity of a bird searching for worms. You have scarcely found your own stateroom and had your deck chair placed, when one of them swoops upon you: I dont know whether you remember me? I met you in nineteen two, at Countess della Robbias in Florence. Your memory being wofully incomplete, there is nothing for you to say except, How do you do! If a few minutes of conversation, which should be sufficient, proves her to be a lady, you talk to her now and again throughout the voyage, and may end by liking her very much. If, however, her speech breaks into expressions which prove her not a lady, you become engrossed in your book or conversation with another when she approaches. Often these over-friendly people are grasping, calculating and objectionable, but sometimes like Ricki Ticki Tavi they are merely obsessed with a mania to run about and see what is going on in the world.
For instance, Miss Spinster is one of the best-bred, best-informed, most charming ladies imaginable. But her mania for people cannot fail on occasions to put her in a position to be snubbednever seriously because she is too obviously a lady for that. But to see her trotting along the deck and then darting upon a helpless reclining figure, is at least an illustration of the way some people make friends. It cant be done, of course, unless you have once known the person you are addressing, or unless you have a friend in common who, though absent, can serve in making the introduction.
As said in Introductions, introducing oneself is often perfectly correct. If you, sharing Miss Spinsters love of people, find yourself on a steamer with the intimate friend of a member of your family, you may very properly go up and say, I am going to speak to you because I am Celia Lovejoys cousinI am Mrs. Brown. And Mrs. Norman, who very much likes Celia Lovejoy, says cordially, I am so glad you spoke to me, do sit down, wont you? But to have your next chair neighbor on deck insist on talking to you, if you dont want to be talked to, is very annoying, and it is bad form for her to do so. If you are sitting hour after hour doing nothing but idly looking in front of you, your neighbor might address a few remarks to you, and if you receive them with any degree of enthusiasm, your response may be translated into a willingness to talk. But if you answer in the merest monosyllables, it should be taken to mean that you prefer to be left to your own diversions.
Even if you are agreeable, your neighbor should show tact in not speaking to you when you are reading or writing, or show no inclination for conversation. The point is really that no one must do anything to interfere with the enjoyment of another. Whoever is making the advance, whether your neighbor or yourself, it must never be more than tentative; if not at least met halfway, it must be withdrawn at once. That is really the only rule there is. It should merely be granted that those who do not care to meet others have just as much right to their seclusion as those who delight in others have a right to be delightedas long as that delight is unmistakably mutual.
Each ordinary first class passenger, now as always, gives ten shillings ($2.50) to the room steward or stewardess, ten shillings to the dining-room steward, ten shillings to the deck steward, ten shillings to the lounge steward. Your tip to the head steward and to one of the chefs depends on whether they have done anything especial for you. If not, you do not tip them. If you are a bad sailor and have been taking your meals in your room, you give twenty shillings ($5.00) at least to the stewardess (or steward, if you are a man). Or if you have eaten your meals on deck, you give twenty shillings to the deck steward, and ten to his assistant, and you give five to the bath steward. To any steward who takes pains to please you, you show by your manner in thanking him that you appreciate his efforts, as well as by giving him a somewhat more generous tip when you leave the ship.
If you like your bath at a certain hour, you would do well to ask your bath steward for it as soon as you go on board (unless you have a private bath of your own), since the last persons to speak get the inconvenient hoursnaturally. To many the daily salt bath is the most delightful feature of the trip. The water is always wonderfully clear and the towels are heated.
If you have been ill on the voyage, some ships doctors send in a bill; others do not. In the latter case you are not actually obliged to give them anything, but the generously inclined put the amount of an average fee in an envelope and leave it for the doctor at the pursers office.
On the de luxe steamers nearly every one dresses for dinner; some actually in ball dresses, which is in worst possible taste, and, like all overdressing in public places, indicates that they have no other place to show their finery. People of position never put on formal evening dress on a steamer, not even in the à la carte restaurant, which is a feature of the de luxe steamer of size. In the dining saloon they wear afternoon house dresseswithout hatsfor dinner. In the restaurant they wear semi-dinner dresses. Some smart men on the ordinary steamers put on a dark sack suit for dinner after wearing country clothes all day, but in the de luxe restaurant they wear Tuxedo coats. No gentleman wears a tail-coat on shipboard under any circumstances whatsoever.
Just as one discordant note makes more impression than all the others that are correctly played in an entire symphony, so does a discordant incident stand out and dominate a hundred others that are above criticism, and therefore unnoticed.
In every country of Europe and Asia are Americans who combine the brilliancy which none can deny is the birthright of the newer world, with the cultivation and good breeding of the old. These Americans of the best type go all over the world, fitting in so perfectly with their background that not even the inhabitants notice they are strangers; in other words they achieve the highest accomplishment possible.
But in contrast to these, the numberless discordant ones are only too familiar; one sees them swarming over Europe in bunches, sometimes in hordes, on regular professionally run tours. This, of course, does not mean that all personally conducted tourists are anything like them. The objectionables are loud of voice, loud in manner; they always attract as much attention as possible to themselves, and wave American flags on all occasions.
The American flag is the most wonderful emblem in the whole world, and ours is the most glorious country too, but that does not mean that it is good taste to wave our flag for no reason whatever. At a parade or on an especial day when other people are waving flags, then let us wave ours by all meansbut not otherwise. It does not dignify our flag to make it an object of ridicule to others, and that is exactly the result of the ceaseless flaunting of it by a group of people who talk at the top of their voices, who deliberately assume that the atmosphere belongs to them, and who behave like noisy, untrained savages trying to show off. In hotels, on excursions, steamers and trains, they insist on talking to everyone, whether everyone wants to talk or not. They are all over the placethere is no other way to express itand they allow privacy to no one if they can help it.
Numberless cultivated Americans traveling in Europe never by any chance speak English or carry English books on railroad trains, as a protection against the other type of American who allows no one to travel in the same compartment and escape conversation. The only way to avoid unwelcome importunities is literally to take refuge in assuming another nationality.
Strangely enough, these irrepressibles are seldom encountered at home; they seem to develop on the steamer and burst into full bloom only on the beaten tourist trailswhich is a pity, because if they only developed at home instead, we might be intensely annoyed but at least we should not be mortified before our own citizens about other fellow-citizens. But to a sensitive American it is far from pleasant to have the country he loves represented by a tableful of vulgarians noisily attracting the attention of a whole dining-room, and to have a European say mockingly, Ah, and those are your compatriots?
Your country puzzles me! How can it be possible that it holds without explosion such antagonistic types as the many charming Americans we are constantly meeting, and at the same time looking at a group who were actually singing and beating time on their glasses with knives and forksthose!
You an American? Impossible! Why, you speak French like a Parisian, you have the manner of a great gentleman! (un grand seigneur,) which would indicate that the average American does not speak perfect French nor have beautiful manners. There is much excuse for not speaking foreign languages, but there is no excuse whatever for having offensive manners and riding rough-shod over people who own the landnot we, who seem to think we do.
As for souvenir hunters, perhaps they can explain wherein their pilfering of anothers property differs from petty thievinga distinction which the owner can scarcely be expected to understand. Those who write their names, defacing objects of beauty with their vainglorious smudges and scribblings, are scarcely less culpable.
In France, in Spain, in Italy, grace and politeness of manner is as essential to merest decency as being clothed. In the hotels that are used to us (something of a commentary!) our lack of politeness is tolerated; but dont think for a moment it is not paid for! The officer referred to above, who had had the advantage of summer after summer spent in Europe as a boy, was charged just about half what another must pay who has the rudeness of a savage.
But good manners are good manners everywhere, except that in Latin and Asiatic countries we must, as it seems to us, exaggerate politeness. We must, in France and Italy, bow smilingly; we must, in Spain and the East, bow gravely; but in any event, it is necessary everywhere, except under the American and British flags, to bowthough your bow is often little more than a slight inclination of the head, and a smileand to show some ceremony in addressing people.
When you go into a shop in France or Italy, you must smile and bow and say, Good morning, madam, or Good evening, monsieur, and Until we meet again, when you leave. If you cant say Au revoir, say Good afternoon in English, but at all events say something in a polite tone of voice, which is much more important than the words themselves. To be civilly polite is not difficultit is merely a matter of remembering. To fail to say good morning to a concierge, a chambermaid, or a small tradesman in France, treating him (or her) as though he did not exist, is not evidence of your grandeur but of your ignorance. A French duchess would not think of entering the littlest store without saying, Good morning, madame, to its proprietress, and if she is known to her at all, without making enquiries concerning the health of the various members of her family. Nor would she fail to say, Good morning, Auguste, or Marie, to her own servants.
For years we Americans have swarmed over the face of the world, taking it for granted that the earths surface belongs to us because we can pay for it, and it is rather worse than ever since the war, when the advantages of exchange add bitterness to irritation.
And yet there are many who are highly indignant when told that, as a type, we are not at all admired abroad. Instead of being indignant, how much simpler and better it would be to make ourselves admirable, especially since it is those who most lack cultivation who are most indignant. The very well-bred may be mortified and abashed, but they cant be indignant except with their fellow countrymen who by their shocking behavior make Europes criticism just.
Understanding of, and kind-hearted consideration for the feelings of others are the basic attributes of good manners. Without observation, understanding is impossibleeven in our own country where the attitude of our neighbors is much the same as our own. It is not hard to appreciate, therefore, that to understand the point of view of people entirely foreign to ourselves, requires intuitive perception as well as cultivation in a very high degree.
It is only in musical comedy that one can go into a strange city and be picked out of the crowd and invited to the tables of the high of the land, because one looks as though one might be agreeable! To see anything of society in the actual world it is necessary to have friends, either Americans living or stationed or married abroad; or to take letters of introduction. Taking letters of introduction should never be done carelessly, because of the obligation that they impose. But to go to a strange country and see nothing of its social life, is like a blind persons going to the theater, and the only way a stranger can know people is through the letters he brings.
Under ordinary circumstances no knowledge whatsoever beyond the social amenities the world over are necessary. A dinner abroad is exactly the same as one here. You enter a room, you bow, you shake hands, you say, How do you do. You sit at table, you talk of impersonal things, say Good-by and Thank you to your hostess, and you leave.
The matter of addressing people of title correctly is of little importance. The beautiful Lady Oldworld (who was Alice Town) was asked one day by a fellow countryman, what she called this person of title and that one, and she replied:
Im not sure that I know! Why should I call them at all? which was a perfectly sensible answer. One never says anything but you to the person spoken to; and it might be an excellent thing not to know how to speak about anyone with a title, as it would prevent ones mentioning them.
Having gone into the subject thus far, however, it may be added that if at a dinner you are put next to a Duke, if it is necessary to call him anything except you, you would say Duke. Unless you are waiting on the table instead of sitting at it, you would not say, Your Grace and not even then My Lord Duke. Neither, unless you are a valet or a chambermaid, would you say Your Lordship to an Earl! If you are a lady, you call him Lord Arlington. If you know him really well, you call him Arlington. To a knight you say, Sir Arthur, which sounds familiar, but there is nothing else you can call him.
In England a stranger is not supposed to introduce anyone, so that titles of address are not necessary then either; but if you happen to be the hostess and French or Americans are present, who like introductions, you introduce Sir Arthur Dryden to the Duke and Duchess of Overthere, or to Prince and Princess Capri. In talking to her, the latter would be called Princess and her husband Prince Capri or Prince or by those who know him well, Capri.
Frequently American men are presented at the British Court at levees held by the King for the purpose. Such men are of course distinguished citizens who have been in some branch of public service, or who have contributed something to art, science, history or progress.
An American lady to be eligible for presentation at a foreign Court should be either the wife or daughter of a distinguished American citizen or be herself notable in some branch of learning or accomplishment.
It is absolutely necessary that such a candidate take letters of introduction to the American Ambassador,* or Minister if in a country where we have a Legation instead of an Embassy. She would enclose her letters in a note to the Ambassadress asking that her name be put on the list for presentation. The propriety of this request is a very difficult subject to advise upon, in that it is better that the suggestion come from the Ambassador rather than from oneself. It is, however, perfectly permissible for one whose presentation is appropriate, but who may perhaps not know the Ambassador or his wife personally, to do as suggested above. It must also be remembered that rarely more than three or perhaps five persons are presented at any one time, so that the difficulty of obtaining a place on the list is obvious. [* In South America alone, where out of courtesy to those who also consider themselves Americans, the Embassies and Legations of our country are known as those of The United States of America. But in all other countries of the world we are known simply as Americansit is the only name we have. We are not United Staters or United Statiansthere is not even a word to apply to us! To speak of the American Minister to this country or that, and of the American Embassy in Paris for instance, is entirely correct.]
An American lady is presented by the American Ambassadress (or the wife of the American Minister) or by the wife of the Chargé dAffaires if the Ambassadress be absent; or occasionally by the Doyenne of the diplomatic corps at the request of the American Embassy.
It would be futile to attempt giving details of full court dress or especial details of etiquette, as these vary not alone with countries, but with time! If you are about to be presented, you will surely be told all that is necessary by the person presenting you. These details, after all, merely comprise the exact length of train or other particulars of dress, the hour you are to be at such and such a door, where you are to stand, and how many curtsies or bows you are to make. In all other and essential particulars you behave as you would in any and every circumstance of formality. In general outline, however, it would be safe to say that on the day of the ceremony you drive to the Palace at a specified hour, wearing specified clothes and carrying your card of invitation in your hand. Your wraps are left in the carriage (or motor-car), you enter the Palace and are shown into a room where you wait, and wait and WAIT! until at last you are admitted to the Audience Chamber where you approach the receiving Royalties; you curtsy deeply before them and then back out.
If you are spoken to at length, you answer as under any other circumstances, exactly as a polite child answers his elders. You do not speak unless spoken to. If your answer is long you need say nothing except the answer; if short, you add Sir to the King and Madam to the Queen. This seemingly democratic title is as a matter of fact the correct one for all Royalty. Yes, sir. Very much indeed, Madam. I think so, Madam.
In the Latin countries, grace and facility of speech is an object of life-long cultivationand no one is considered an educated person who can not speak several languages well. Those who speak many fluently, by the way, are seldom those who constantly interlard their own tongue with words from another.
Not to understand any foreign languages would be a decided handicap in European society, where conversation is very apt to turn polyglot, beginning in one tongue and going on in a second and ending in a third. So that one who knows only English is often in the position of a deaf person, even though Europeans are invariably polite and never let a conversation run long in a language which all those present do not understand. It might easily happen that a French lady and an American, neither understanding the tongue of the other, meet at the house of an Italian, where there is also an Italian monolinguist, so that the hostess has to talk in three languages at once.
It is unreasonable to expect the average American to be a linguist; we are too far removed from foreign countries. As a matter of fact, if you would make yourself agreeable, it is much better (unless your facility was acquired as a child or you have a talent amounting to genius for accent and construction), to make it a rule when you lunch or dine with Europeans to talk English, since all Latins acutely suffer at hearing their language distorted. English, on the other hand, is not beautiful in sound to the foreign ear; it is a series of esses and shushes, lumped with consonants like an iron-wheeled cart bumping over a cobble-stoned street. The Latins accent in English is annoying even to us at times, but the English accent in French, Italian or Spanish is murderous! Furthermore, the Latin passionately loves his language in the way the Westerner loves his city; he simply can not endure to have it abused, and execrates the person who does so. And, proportionately, he loves the few who prove they share his love by speaking it creditably.
If you want to improve your accent, nothing can so help you as going to the theater abroad until your ears literally absorb the sounds! All people are imitative. There are few who do not gradually lose the purity of a good foreign accent when long away from Europe, and all speak more fluently when their ears become accustomed to the sound.
The theater is not only the best possible place to hear correctly enunciated speech, but a play of contemporary life is equally valuable as a study in manners. There is also a suavity of grace in the way Europeans bow and stand and sit, and in the way they speak, that is unconsciously imitated. These manners need notin fact, should notbe gushing or mincing, but you gradually perceive that jerking ramrod motions and stalking into a drawing-room like a grenadier are less impressive than awkward.
The subject of American manners, as they appear to Europeans, cannot be dismissed without comment on a reprehensible type of American girl who flourishes on shipboard, on tours, and in public places generallybut most particularly in the large and expensive hotels of Continental resorts.
If she and her family have a home, they are never in it, and if they have any object in life other than letting her follow her own unhampered inclinations, it is not apparent to the ordinary observer. Such a girl is always overdressed, she wears every fashion in its extremest exaggeration, she sparkles with jewelry, and reeks of scent, she switches herself this way and that, and is always posing in public view and playing to the public gallery. She generally has a small brother who refuses to go to bed at night, or to stop making the piazza chairs into a train of cars, or to use the public halls as a skating rink. When he is not making a noise, he is eating. And his elegant sister looks upon him with disdain.
Sister, meanwhile, jingling with chains and bangles, decked in scarfs and tulle and earrings, leans on or against whatever happens to be convenient, flirting with any casual stranger who comes along. She invariably goes to her meals aloneevidently thinking her parents should be kept apart from her. She is never away from the Kurhaus or Casino, abroad or the hotel lobby in America. She is nearly always alone, and the book she is perpetually reading is always opened at the same page, and she is sure to look up as you pass. She is very ready to be picked up and to confide her lifes history, past, present and future, to any stranger, especially a young one of the opposite sex. She is rude only to her mother and father. She is also (we know, but Europe doesnt) a perfectly good girl. Her lack of etiquette is shocking, but her morals are above reproach. She does not even mean to be rude to her parents, and she has no idea that the things she does are exactly those which condemn her in the opinion of strangers. If she were constantly with, and obviously devoted to her mother, she would make an infinitely better impression, both as to good form and as to heart, than by segregating herself so that she can be joined by any haphazard youth who strolls into view, and thereby cheapening not only herself but the name of the American girl in general.
Curiously enough, if she marries in Europe, she is apt to settle down and become an altogether admirable example of American-European womanhood, because she is sound fruit at heartmerely wrapped in tawdry gilt paper trimming by her adoring but ignorantly unwise parents who, in their effort to show her off, disguise the very qualities which should have been accentuated.
Europeans can not possibly understand how any lady of social position can be without a maid. A lady traveling alone, therefore, has this trifling handicap to start with. It is a very snobbish opinion, and one who has the temerity to attempt traveling all by herself has undoubtedly the ability to see it through. She need after all merely behave with extreme quietness and dignity and she can go from one end of the world to the other without molestation or even difficultyespecially if she is anything of a linguist.
In going from one place to another, it is wiser to write as long as possible ahead for accommodationspossibly giving the name of the one (if any) who recommended the hotel. But in going far off into Asia or other difficult countries, she would better join friends or at least a personally conducted tour, unless she has the mettle of a Burton or a Stanley.
Motoring in Europe is perfectly feasible and easy. A car has to be put in a crate to cross the ocean, but in crossing the channel between England and France, no difficulty whatever is experienced. All information necessary can be had at any of the automobile clubs, and in going from one country to another, you have merely to show your passports at the border properly viséd and pay a deposit to insure your not selling the car out of the country, which is refunded when you come back.
Once off the beaten track, a tourist who has not a working knowledge of the language of the country he is driving through, is at a disadvantage, but plenty of people constantly do it, so it is at least not insurmountable. With English you can go to most placeswith English and French nearly everywhere. The Michelin guide shows you in a little drawing, exactly the type of hotels you will find in each approaching town and the price of accommodation, so that you can choose your own stopping places accordingly.
And etiquette? you ask. There is no etiquette of motoring that differs from all other etiquette. Except of course not to be a road hogor a road pig! People who take up the entire road are not half the offenders that others are who picnic along the side of it and leave their old papers and food all over everywhere. For that matter, any one who shoves himself forward in any situation in life, he who pushes past, bumping into you, walking over you, in order to get a first seat on a train, or to be the first off a boat, any one who pushes himself out of his turn, or takes more than his share, anywhere or of anythingis precisely that sort of an animal.
Europeans usually prefer to ride backwards, and as an American prefers to face the engine, it works out beautifully. It is not etiquette to talk with fellow passengers, in fact it is very middle-class. If you are in a smoking carriage (all European carriages are smoking unless marked Ladies alone or No smoking) and ladies are present, it is polite to ask if you may smoke. Language is not necessary, as you need merely to look at your cigar and bow with an interrogatory expression, whereupon your fellow passengers bow assent and you smoke.
One might say the perfect traveler is one whose digestion is perfect, whose disposition is cheerful, who can be enthusiastic under the most discouraging circumstances, to whom discomfort is of no moment, and who possesses at least a sense of the ridiculous, if not a real sense of humor! The perfect traveler furthermore, is one who possesses the virtue of punctuality; one who has not forgotten something at the last minute, and whose bags are all packed and down at the hour for the start. Those who fuss and flurry about being ready, or those whose disposition is easily upset or who are inclined to be gloomy, should not travelunless they go alone. Nothing can spoil a journey more than some one who is easily put out of temper and who always wants to do something the others do not. Whether traveling with your family or with comparative strangers, you must realize that your personal likes and dislikes have at least on occasion to be subordinated to the likes and dislikes of others; nor can you always be comfortable, or have good weather, or make perfect connections, or find everything to your personal satisfaction; and you only add to your own discomfort and chagrin, as well as to the discomfort of every one else, by refusing to be philosophical. Those who are bad sailors should not go on yachting parties; they are always abjectly wretched, and are of no use to themselves or any one else. Those who hate walking should not start out on a tramp that is much too far for them and expect others to turn back when they get tired. They need not start to begin with, but having once started, they must see it through.
There is no greater test of a mans (or a womans) wearing qualities than traveling with him. He who is always keen and ready for anything, delighted with every amusing incident, willing to overlook shortcomings, and apparently oblivious of discomfort, is, needless to say, the one first included on the next trip.