Newly rich women in China seek to match their high-end lifestyles with high-class etiquette. This includes learning how to properly peel an orange, hold an oyster fork and pronounce their favorite luxury brand names.
At the Institute Sarita, in Beijing, the newly open etiquette school, a two-week course cost 100,000 Yuan ($16,000.) But this has not discouraged the China’s wealthy.
Institute Sarita’s founder Sarah Ho says “What my clients want is really a guide, a new Confucius. What they need is a frame of reference and this is what I provide.”
Most of Institute Sarita’s students are women in their 40′s, says Sarah Ho. Parents of these women suffered a great deal under late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, while their children grow up in a different Chinese culture exposed to Western concepts. And they are caught in a constantly changing culture, added Ho.
Participants who easily spend three times the amount to buy their furs or jewelry, the price tag to acquire such knowledge as wine appreciation, elite sports such as golf and riding, English tea service, floral art, and table decorating is trivial, Ho said.
Ho, herself attended the Institut Villa Pierrefeu, often called the last Swiss finishing school. She’s also a Harvard graduate who speaks five languages. She stressed the importance of learning etiquette by noting, her students also learn how to help their husbands when entertaining business associates. She teaches them the acceptable topics for small talk and chat. Teaching them to get rid of the habits of asking blunt inquiries such as “How much do you earn?” or “Why did you divorce your wife?”
Students also learn to keep their elbows close to the body and how close to stand to other. “Personal space is something new in China,” Ho says.
Many of her students decide they need help after finding themselves stumped at a fancy engagement, often a Western-style meal. One of the students, Jocelyn Wang, 24, says the intricacies of Western dining protocol were among the most valuable lessons of her 10-day course at Institute Sarita. ”I think the way someone eats — how they hold their fork and knife, the way they eat their food — can say a lot about their etiquette and their temperament,” she says, adding that such topics were not widely taught in China.
“They don’t dare start (eating) for fear of being ridiculed, for example, with escargot,” said the institute’s head chef, who she recruited from the French embassy.
Wang, during her sessions, learned how to laid forks and knives, she used rulers to measure the precise placements. One student erred on a recent lunch hostessing exam when she laid a knife with the blade facing out rather than in.
Students also tour art galleries, to learn to appreciate art. What they also learn is non-teachable qualities such as poise, taste, and confidence.
There are differences between aristocracy and nouveau riche, says Wang, who is studying globalization for a master’s degree in London. ”We have a really good life, at least materially speaking, so we can’t just be unrefined.” Harvard sociologist Martin Whyte said Chinese interest in etiquette was to be expected in a society enjoying newfound wealth but lacking a strong, recent “aristocratic tradition”. They “recognize that being viewed as ‘nouveau riche’ makes them vulnerable to popular criticism”, he said in an email, likening rich Chinese today to 19th century Americans.
Chinese are not only following 19th century ‘nouveau riche’ Americans, they are also following the footsteps of its Japanese neighbors. It wasn’t long ago, the newly rich Japanese desperate to learn Western etiquettes, flooded Swiss finishing schools to learn how to hold the oyster fork.
Source: Daily News