Remember - it's the twirly bird that gets the spaghetti

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 September, 2004, 12:00am

Now then, this is a whisky glass and this one's for brandy, which is an after dinner drink. It goes with the cigars, the lecturer told diners at the Grand Hyatt last weekend.

Sound advice indeed, except that Jean Wong's audience was aged between five and 12.

With a six-year-old nodding off and most of the rest more interested in their grub than goblets, Jean Wong, principal of the JMW For Arts Summer School and Jean M. Wong School of Ballet, was trying to teach the youngsters table manners.

'Twist your spaghetti into a ball with a fork before you devour it,' she told the group, some accompanied by their parents. 'Make none of those slurping sounds when you eat your soup. Don't shake your legs.'

There was, of course, a lot of slurping, and children shake their legs whatever you tell them to do, but the advice was well intentioned.

It was all part of a two-day course - costing $850 a head including lunch - on table manners, social etiquette, grooming and social dance.

Ms Wong said her aim was to try to bring back a culture of respect by reminding Hong Kong youngsters how to behave properly. 'I am appalled by the fact that young people don't know how to say 'please' or 'thank you'. I don't expect them to remember all the nitty gritty rules. I just hope to build a concept that they have to be considerate.'

Claire Law Chi-yuen, the youngest student in the class at five, said she wanted to learn to be 'a lady'.

'I like being a lady because it feels pretty,' she said, choreographing her words with movements to indicate how a lady should and should not sit, while juggling awkwardly with what must have seemed like giant-sized knives and forks. 'I've learnt that you can't shake your legs or prop your elbows on the table, but should sit cross-legged with your hands folded on your lap instead.'

A 10-year-old boy, who asked not to be named, had a more ulterior motive for wanting to learn to do things 'properly'. He was out to impress his girlfriend.

'We have been going out for a couple of months and I think she will be happy if I dress, talk and eat properly. Girls feel proud when boyfriends behave like gentlemen, don't they?'

Of course they do ... don't they?