A good understanding of Chinese and Western etiquette can assist young people to socialise more comfortably in cosmopolitan Hong Kong.
Many local parents recognise the potential future benefits for their children and are enrolling them in Western-style etiquette classes in increasing numbers.
'Demand in Western etiquette classes for children has been increasing year by year,' says Gordon Wong, executive trainer at Di and Cooke. 'Back in the old days, we learned etiquette from our parents when we were small. However, young parents nowadays are not able to devote that much time to educating their kids at home because of their long working hours.
'Western-style etiquette has always been highly promoted in Hong Kong because of the city's colonial background, the fact that Western etiquette is a universal protocol for interacting with people from most other countries and as it is quite easy to learn.' Di and Cooke (www.dicooke.com.hk) offers single classes in social and dining etiquette for children aged eight to 12 years, accompanied by a parent.
Classes run for two hours and include topics such as using napkins and tableware appropriately, correct sitting posture at a table, biting and chewing politely, food and knowledge of courses and social manners at the table.
The classes cost HK$500 for a parent and a child. This includes a three-course meal, during which children are expected to demonstrate what they have learned.
'Learning Western-style etiquette can empower a young person's self-esteem and self-confidence in communicating with the world around them,' says Claudia Chow, brand manager at Franche.
'It can also help with making a good impression in interviews for entrance into a prestigious school and being accepted into the adult world.'
Franche (www.franche.com.hk) offers two-hour etiquette classes for children aged four to 12 and 13-16 years. Each class aims to teach the main principles in a fun and positive way. Children leave feeling good about themselves, gain more self-confidence and feel ready to tackle new and different situations in an adult way.
Topics include greetings and handshakes, table manners, use of utensils, serving and receiving food, common courtesies, behaviour in public spaces, sitting and walking properly, making polite conversation and personal hygiene.
Children younger than 12 should be accompanied by a parent, and classes are conducted in English and Cantonese.
'Each student is expected to demonstrate what they have learned in class through group exercises and individual presentations,' Chow says. 'By the end of the class, parents usually appreciate the improvement they see in their children, like ceasing to bite their fingernails, eating without making sounds and sitting up straight at the table.'
The YMCA (www.ymcahk.org.hk) is offering a five-day programme called Children's Etiquette Training Workshop in July, for children aged five to six years.
The course comprises five, two-hour classes conducted in Cantonese. Cost is HK$2,350 for members and HK$2,550 for non-members.
The programme encourages young children to express themselves in a polite way, learn how to interact with others with an appropriate attitude and tone, and building self-confidence.