The Unwritten Rules of London High Society
For anyone looking to gain access to the glittering world of London high society, here are 10 rules we've learned from Ladies of London.
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Wealth Cannot Buy Status
In Britain, breeding is everything. You do not rise to your station, you are born into it. As Ladies of London star Caroline Stanbury explains, "Britain is one of the toughest societies in the world to crack, for both nobles and newcomers alike. In other countries you can buy your way into society. England isn't like that. You can buy your seat at the table but it doesn't mean you are going to be accepted into it."
Practice Proper Etiquette
While most of us enjoy a more liberal social etiquette, in the United Kingdom the social mores are much more rigid.
For instance, table manners are of the utmost importance. Talking with food in your mouth, scraping your plate or even spooning your soup toward yourself is considered very rude.
When the ladies take a trip to the regal Mapperton estate to dine with the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, it is as though some of the ladies completely forgot their breeding and behaved with terrible table manners.
Not All Press is Good Press
In fact, bad press is very bad press. One significant difference between North American and British society is that the tabloids can literally destroy you. The press is like a sacred voting comittee that can either condemn you to social leprosy or make you the darling of London.
Caprice explains, "The press in this country can build you up and they can tear you down." Luckily, Caprice is well-versed in this arena. She knows just how to work the media in order to be the talk of the town ... in a good way.
Not All Press is Good Press
Noelle has not had such luck. Because of boyfriend Scot Young's controvercial bankruptcy claims and messy divorce, both him and Noelle have been utterly disgraced in the tabloids. Noelle hopes "I really admire Caprice," Noelle says. "I would love to build up a name for myself in business, in the press, on my own right, like she has."
Whereas in North American being the loud, fun, life of the party may make you seem cool, in British high society it is much cooler to actually be cool, in the calm and reserved sense.
Caroline explains, "In Britain, we aren’t meant to get that excited about things, or at least show your excitement. [With straight face] Look, this is me excited now. You don’t know."
This is why Juliet finds it difficult to fit in with this group of ladies. But she doesn't want to conform. In fact, she thinks she could teach the Brits a lesson or two in being cool: "The Brits need to lighten up. I'm flamboyant. I'm outspoken. I am who I am. And you can like it or not, but step aside if you don't."
New to British citizenship is Marissa Hermer. She takes the middle ground, agreeing that, "Americans always have a little bit more fun than Brits."
Insults and Sarcasm Are Signs of Affection
... But only if they say it to your face.
Caroline often gives Noelle a hard time, whether it's knocking her fascinator or poking fun at her scandalous relationship. But Noelle knows that when Caroline does this it is her way of showing her that she likes her. Juliet explains, "When Caroline is rude and sarcastic and puts you down, it's her way of telling you she likes you."
British and American humour can be quite different. While Americans are more silly, or straight-up and blunt with their jokes, the Brits prefer dry irony and scathing sarcasm. Sarcastic jabs and cynicism may be percieved as nasty if you don't know this.
But beware, sometimes these remarks are not to be taken in jest. Pay attention to the delivery and consider the source.
Don't Show Your Knickers in Public
It might seem harmless, but apparently flagging your underwear in public is a no-no in London, regardless of whether it is a gift or a joke.
At Juliet and Marissa's 4th of July party, Juliet gifts her friend with some fun and fancy underwear. She ends up waving them around, much to Annabelle's disapproval, who says, "It seems quite inappropriate to be throwing underwear around at a party. Even clean underwear. It's a little too in my face."
Make Time For Tea
English teatime is a lovely tradition. The ladies are often seen gathered around a tea spread, complete with scones, jams and cream. Although elaborate tea parties are more of an aristocratic tradition, tea is still a prominent beverage of choice for the Brits. Marissa, Annabelle and Caroline are daily partakers.
When Juliet scoffs at Marissa's impressive tea collection, Marissa informs her of the proprietary guest greeting: "When you come over it's 'Would you like some tea? Can I take your coat? Would you like some tea?'"
Do Attend Spectator Sports
... even if you don't care about them.
While hockey, baseball and football dominate spectator sporting in North America, London's upper crust attends equestrian sports. Polo and horse racing feature prominently in Ladies of London. Before she is seriously injured, Annabelle herself was training for a horse racing event.
Breeding horses for showing and racing began with the Roman army, but became a pastime of Great Britain's aristrocracy. Because the Brits often emphasize 'good breeding,' it is no surprise that equestrian sports belong in the sphere of the wealthy.
Not to mention, it's bloody expensive to own a horse.
Plan Events Far in Advance
Juliet is the all-American girl and she likes to plan things spontaneously, so when Annabelle is absent from Juliet's hat party, Caroline has to explain that it was too last minute: "The Brits don't do last minute. We need at least a month or two before."
Actually, one of the most heinous social faux pas one can commit in England is failing to respond to an R.S.V.P. Think of that the next time you fail to either accept or reject an event invite on Facebook.
Fascinators Don't Always Make You Look Posh
Fascinator headpieces, and millinery in general, is often considered a British fashion trend. This adornments can be the cherry on top of a divine outfit, but it can also look more frumpy than fascinating if it us too over the top or out of place.
Poor Noelle commits this fashion crime at Polo in the Park. Caroline tells her, "You look so, uh, smart. I feel like this outfit is wasted here." Marissa sees the doublespeak here immediately. "That's what we call a posh put-down," she explains.
In fact, many Brits share Caprice's opinon: "I just don't give a sh** about hats."