Interview: Dinner at Downton

Are your manners good enough for dinner at Downton Abbey? We find out how to get the perfect etiquette, as seen in Downton Abbey, thanks to the Sydney School of Protocol.

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Julie Lamberg-Burnet (right) demonstrates to Rachel Fenwick how to shake hands.
Julie Lamberg-Burnet (right) demonstrates to Rachel Fenwick how to shake hands.

The word “protocol” conjures up some arcane concepts: How do I address a Cardinal? Should an Ambassador be seated to the left of a Bishop? Does the husband of a Lord Mayor have some sort of title other than “the Lord Mayor’s old man?”

With the release of Downton Abbey Season 5 on Blu-ray and DVD later this week, we had a chat to the founder of the Sydney School of Protocol, Julie Lamberg-Burnet who would, undoubtedly, know the answers to these burning issues and more. For her, however, protocol is more about the kind of etiquette we would all use on a regular, if not a daily, basis.

“Etiquette in the days of Downton Abbey was very stiff and formal, but it still has a role to play in today’s world, in building relationships,” she says. “A good way to think about this area is to say that manners are what we do, protocol is when we do it, ethics is why we do it, and etiquette is how we do it.”

Julie goes on to explain the difference between the Edwardian era of Downton Abbey and 2015.

“Etiquette really hasn’t changed that much since the Downton days, except that it’s less formal. It is also more complex, because we have a more complex life. It’s all about what’s appropriate and when – for instance, knowing when to hand-write a thank you note and when to send an email.”

DowntonAbbeyS5There are a number of classic rules of etiquette still relevant in today’s world, she explains, such as the handshake, which is as important now as it ever was: many people still have a limp handshake, which gives a poor first impression. People nowadays often find themselves in situations where they don’t know whether to kiss, hug or shake hands, but if you’re in control and you initiate a handshake, then that cuts down that awkwardness and puts the other person at ease.

Many of Julie’s clients at the Sydney School of Protocol are men and women who have been successful in the business or professional world and have now reached a level where they have to interact much more socially. They are often unsure how to make small-talk or how to host clients at dinner.

As Julie states, “many a deal can be broken over the dining table!” Downton Abbey fans will know this from the show: many a deal or a marriage has been made or broken over a ten-course dinner at the abbey.

Are your manners good enough for dinner at Downton? Check out the video below to find out!

Interviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Downton Abbey Season 5 will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on 4 June 2015.

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