Pandemic Etiquette

by Mariana Meriles

I think many of us spent our childhoods being taught social etiquette—you know, things like chewing with your mouth closed, giving a proper handshake, avoiding (and on my end, failing to avoid) crying in public, etc—but I feel like this pandemic has made most of that stuff obsolete and has introduced a new set of rules we need to follow. And sure, etiquette might seem pointless during the end of the world, but then, etiquette always did seem pointless. So here’s a comprehensive guide to etiquette during the pandemic, because as the world seems to collapse in on itself, we might as well stay classy. 

  1. Greeting people

A few things have changed with the way we’re supposed to greet each other. For one, there’s been a lot of debate about the “death of the handshake” after the pandemic, but then, there always have been contactless ways to greet people in the first place. My main concern is that with masks on, waving at another person from six feet away tends to look more contentious than friendly. To counteract that, squinting with your eyes is necessary so that they know you’re smiling. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to smile if you don’t want to—that’s the beauty of mask wearing—but squinting will usually suffice. You’re also going to want to make sure you’re talking at least two decibels louder than you normally would so they can hear you through your mask. Don’t worry about overshooting it—if you end up yelling, they’ll just assume you’re frustrated with the pandemic, and aren’t we all? Screaming, then, has now become socially acceptable.

  1. Table manners

On the off chance that you’re eating out with other people, there’s a few things you’re going to want to keep in mind during meals. Though most table etiquette has remained the same, there’s a few new additions to the list. For one, make sure to always keep your mask on when you aren’t eating. You’re also going to want to make sure the space you’re eating in isn’t too crowded, ideally being outside (who doesn’t love a good picnic?). Lastly, forget about the nice silverware—cleaning them from the virus can be such a hassle! Paper plates have become the new chic. And that obsession with eating with your mouth closed you learned as a kid? Yeah, there are some benefits to wearing masks.

  1. Zoom

Now that most of our human interaction has moved online, it’s important to go over the way we should act on Zoom calls. Firstly, you’re going to want to unmute yourself in smaller discussion groups so that the conversation is a bit more organic—it really makes the whole online interaction a bit less awkward. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll still be awkward, just lesserso. But more importantly, turn your camera on—I know it can be such a hassle, especially if you’re still in bed (hey, I am too!), but it shows respect for the other person’s time and again helps with the awkwardness. Just please make sure you’re wearing pants before you stand up.

  1. Dating

For single people, the pandemic has only made it harder to find love—whether you decided to settle for that one annoying-but-slightly-good-looking kid in your math class or you finally gave into downloading Tinder, new relationships during the pandemic are difficult to navigate. There’s a few important things to keep in mind here: make sure to get tested before dates (yes, both tests); keep dates outdoors (more picnics! Okay, I think I’m starting to get tired of them); and most importantly, make sure you’re not mask-fishing (trust me, he looks cute in class, but have you seen him without his mask on?) But honestly, if you’re even able to find someone new, you’ve already succeeded in half the battle. 

  1. Mask wearing

Just wear your damn mask, it’s not that hard.

And that’s all there is to it! The pandemic has definitely thrown the world into a frenzy, but hopefully with these guidelines you can avoid making a fool of yourself in front of those you respect—even if it is online.

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