Modern Etiquette: Finer points of the British Summer Season

LONDON Wed Jun 12, 2013 5:06pm IST

An attendant sets out deckchairs on a sunny day on Brighton Beach in southern England June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

An attendant sets out deckchairs on a sunny day on Brighton Beach in southern England June 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - The British Summer Season is here, and the next few months are packed with special days and evenings out at sporting and cultural events. Here is some essential advice on etiquette and manners for some of the summer's finest occasions.


Be sure to applaud only when the conductor takes to the podium (at the very beginning and after the interval), after the overture (the musical introduction before curtain-up), at the end of an act, after an impressive aria and at the final bows. Avoid whooping, whistling or braying. Feet stamping is a definite no-no.

Surtitles provide an electronic rolling text of a summary translation above the stage and can help you to keep up during the performance.

Country House Opera

Generally the dress code is black tie. Guests arrive in good time before the start of the performance to bag a picnic spot in the grounds and enjoy a pre-performance glass of bubbly.

Performances begin in the late afternoon or early evening, but usually a little earlier than conventional theatre. There is an extended interval (90 mins) during which the picnic is enjoyed. Be sure to take a warm shawl to fend off the chill of the British summer evening.


Don't cut it too fine before curtain-up. Latecomers are made to wait. Arrive in good time and order any interval drinks in advance. Disengage all mobile phones. If you must eat sweets, decant and unwrap your ration before curtain-up, or wait for a roar of laughter to drown out rustling. No talking and don't lean forward, obscure the view of those behind you or put feet on seats. Join in the applause - cheering and whooping should be kept to a minimum and whistling avoided.


Different race meetings have various codes of conduct and levels of formality. It is essential to adhere to the correct dress code for the area of the racecourse (enclosure) for which you have a ticket. Dress codes range from full morning dress to suits and jackets. Have a flutter but moderate any excessive reactions. If you've staked your money on a loser, don't sulk and, equally, if you're a lucky winner, don't get too over-excited. Even if the race is a close call, keep loud shouting or excited screaming to the minimum - especially if you're very close to other people. Be careful to avoid blocking others' views of the track.


The world of polo is often viewed as glamorous and wealthy, especially as it is a sport enjoyed by many royals. The form is, however, relatively relaxed and informal compared to many other summer seasonal fixtures. Dress code is usually smart casual. Standards are rather smarter in members' enclosures, where a badge permitting entry should also be worn. Women should wear smart, flat shoes that suit both walking/standing on grass and divot stomping - the halftime tradition (only five minutes) where the turf kicked up by the ponies (never referred to as horses) is trodden back into place by spectators.


Tennis is a highlight of the British summer, whatever the weather. Be sure to be seated before the players come on court, and remember that you won't be allowed to leave or return to your seats until there is a change of ends. Avoid wearing a big hat that might obscure the view of any spectators sitting behind you. No talking or sudden, distracting movements during play.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

(Jo Bryant is an etiquette advisor and editor at Debrett's, the UK authority on etiquette and modern manners. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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