Young people across Germany are trading in their summer vacations to brush up their etiquette. After all, no one gets a second chance to make a first impression. But what are they really learning?
Get your fingers out of there and use a fork!
The day starts off with a handshake. It shouldn't be a wet fish but not a bone breaker either -- and don't forget to look the person in the eye. That's the first lesson Meike Slaby-Sandte gives students when she meets them in her manners course for kids between 12 and 17 in Cologne. Other similar classes are offered in most big German cities.
"You get an opinion about someone before the first words are said," Slaby-Sandte explained. "A confident bearing and well-kept appearance are the golden rules for anybody who wants to come across as friendly."
Loop, twist and pull
The next lesson is aimed at the eight young men in her course. It's time to tie a tie and Slaby-Sandte had some explaining to do.
Now just pull gently and you've got it
"Through the loop and then take your fingers out," she said. "Now you have to hold the tie here on the knot and pull the narrow end."
It takes a while until Leon, a course participant, shows his appreciation of basics of clothing accessories with an "Aha, cool."
Then the students are escorted to the bar and a question is put to the room. What to do with the left over ice in the glass. Chew it? Slurp it up? As always, Slaby-Sandte had an answer ready.
"Never eat it, that makes noise and that's not pretty," she said. "When you've finished it you're also not allowed to slurp the liquid left over when the ice melts."
Bonus lesson: table manners
Class continues in the dining room. The absence of table manners is the biggest source of embarrassment: It's not just a matter of using a fork and knife, but which fork and knife to use when enjoying a three-course meal. The rule of thumb is to start with the cutlery on the outside and work your way in, just make sure you don't use a normal knife to slice into fish, Slaby-Sandte said.
Never forget, spoons for soup and forks for meat
When candles and rose petals finally covered the table, everyone was ready to eat. Not so fast you boys in the back! What does a real gentleman do with his jacket when he sits at the table? That's right, he unbuttons it, and of course remembers to close it before standing up -- with the bottom button, which always stays open, the exception that proves the rule.
Dinner has ended and so has the day's etiquette course. The students are stuffed with food and information that was fun to learn, and not even too difficult. Still they have some doubts concerning letting women climb up stairs first.But "all in all it's an experience where you learn useful things," one female participant said. " It's important later in life for work and things like that."