Your etiquette guide for the post-lockdown New Normal

From July 4, England will see a large-scale relaxing of the rules, but we'll need to know how to comport ourselves

'Do dig in, and don't forget to bin your plate, cutlery, glass and chair before leaving'
'Do dig in, and don't forget to bin your plate, cutlery, glass and chair before leaving' Credit:  Maskot/Getty Images Contributor

It’s the end of the lockdown as we know it, and we feel fine. OK, maybe fine is too strong: how about nervously excited and residually anxious? But nothing to stop us from hunkering down in our local pub this weekend, ordering 12 pints and socialising with 29 other people. Not because we necessarily want to, but because we can. And who hasn’t missed drinking 12 pints with 29 other people? It’s what we as a nation do best. 

However, the easing of restrictions on July 4 isn’t quite the return to normality of which, back in March, we might naively have dreamed. This is a rebooted version, complete with extra paranoia. It will therefore require a new form of social etiquette, as Debrett’s has already made clear. New guidelines from the etiquette authority on how to handle the post-Covid era include several useful suggestions: “Greeting your guests with ‘I wish I could give you a hug’ lets them know to keep their distance”, it advises. And, “While saying ‘feel free to use the bathroom’ might have seemed ludicrous this time last year [it] has become an imperative.”

Other guidelines cover how to remain friendly and approachable while wearing a mask (smile with your eyes, apparently) and how to navigate thronged pavements.

But the challenges of the new normal will be both myriad and complex. So we’ve drawn up some further guidelines of our own. Following them is optional, but should you wish to join us for a socially distanced, totally legal indoor or outdoor gathering, with or without your support bubble, our arbitrary new rules will be mandatory:

A man works to affix a sign advertising the planned July 4 re-opening of a bar in Soho in London Credit: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Don’t arrive at someone’s house bearing homemade, edible gifts 

We don’t know how much you breathed on the food while making it and it could seem slightly rude to ask. We also can’t be sure if you washed your hands to a sufficient level of cleanliness. It’s lovely you’ve made your own biscuits, but please don’t bring us any, because although we’ll pretend to be pleased, we’d secretly rather order biscuits online and quarantine them on arrival.

Do provide assurances to your dinner guests

You might wish to say something reassuring like, “please do help yourself to salad, I have disinfected every leaf while wearing a full hazmat suit so if you do die shortly after this meal, you can safely assume that it won’t be my fault.”

Don’t be annoying in the pub

Yes, we know you’ve missed the pub, but don’t be all, “Maaate! Oi oi oi, make mine a double, one more shot and I’m taking my shirt off and singing.” This isn’t about coronavirus actually, it’s just annoying at any time. Although don’t be surprised if we politely interrupt your carousing to direct you to section one, subsection 23 of the new Government guidelines, which warns: “There may be an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are singing, chanting, shouting or conversing loudly.” You heard us. And more to the point, we heard you. 

Don’t take offence if your wedding invitation never arrives

Until further notice, weddings can only go ahead with a maximum of 30 people in attendance. If you used to work with the bride but can barely remember her fiance’s name, don’t expect to make the cut. Likewise if you’re a distant cousin of the groom who has only ever met him at other people’s weddings, back in the days when the only limit on numbers was the real possibility of the newlyweds’ bankruptcy. No hard feelings, but when the happy couple drew up the list of their 28 closest relatives and friends, you came in at number 107. 

Don’t cry at the hairdresser’s

It will be an emotional reunion, but for the love of Chris Whitty, please do show some self-restraint. This isn’t the final scene from An Officer and a Gentleman, and it would not be appropriate to stride into the salon in an aviator’s uniform, pick up your hairdresser and kiss her. Certainly against the spirit of the health and safety guidance. Quite possibly illegal.

For many of us, the reunion with hairdressers will be an emotional one Credit: Paul Faith / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images

Put overnight guests at ease

Suggested forms of welcome include: “Here’s your towel, and here’s my towel, and never the twain shall meet.” Or: “Do dig in, there’s plenty of food, just remember to throw your plate, cutlery, glass, napkin and chair in the bin after using.”