Category Archives: Etiquette

“Etiquette” is a category that teaches and instructs young black males in how to conduct themselves in any environment. This category helps with traditional roles men hand down to their sons in relation to a skill or task.

Etiquette 101: HOW to travel.

Travel. Everyone talks about traveling; where to go, what to do, and why you should travel, but everyone doesn’t know HOW to travel. I’m not saying I’m a travel expert, not at all, but after visiting about twenty or more different cities and countries, I hope I can share some lessons learned. My opinion isn’t textbook, so I’ll share the emotional, spiritual, holistic aspects of travel that are more important than just visiting a country. I’m talking about embracing another culture, changing who you are on the inside.

Travel

 “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

The easy part of travel is preparation. When you plan a trip what do you do first?…think about what to pack, well, that’s not wrong but I first always check the weather where I’m visiting. I like to know if I need a long sleeve or short sleeve shirt, jacket vs light sweater, flip-flops vs covered shoes vs water shoes. Do NOT bring the most expensive Jordans you own! Depending on where you go, they will get dirty or stolen. Our American culture, in all representations, fetches a lot of money when you travel internationally. You really don’t want to bring or wear anything that’s a high dollar item in another country. You’ll quickly make yourself a target and possibly bring unwanted attention to yourself.  Also, check the currency rates for example if a United States Dollar (USD) = $1, What is the conversion rate to the Mexican Peso(MXN)=15.13, or Euro(EUR) = .89, South African Rand(ZAR)= 11.86Brazil Real(BRL)= 3.01.

“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor

I say that because when you tip someone in USD, be mindful that you may be giving them to much money. You may appear to be a wealthy American, and I’m not sure you want that image in a poor country.

An salsa dancer telling my friend that he was impressed by his salsa.

We were in South America and another salsa dancer told my friend that he was impressed by his salsa.

Work on being humble, you’ll be welcomed into more homes.

 

Regarding tips…I tip everyone. I keep my tip money in a separate back pocket, usually a bunch of $1 and $5 dollar bills. I keep my important id and dollars in my front pockets. I separate all my money for haggling with the vendors and appearing not to have money. I’ll say, “Sir I want to buy that $100 necklace for your sale price of $70 but all I have on me is this $40 and the, (recently counted) tip money of about $12. I may even show him my empty wallet with id in it to appear to prove all I have is $52, when I have a couple hundred in my sock…sold! Don’t get me wrong, I haggle on price but I don’t take advantage, everyone has to eat and sometimes you come across a piece of art that you can’t get anywhere else in the world, buy it! If it’s a sculptor or a painter, this is what they do for a living and they take pride in it. You won’t see “Made in China” on their works of art. Don’t lessen their value being cheap, and don’t be a sucker either. Spend the money, make a friend and go from there.

Getting into the important lessons…

Soapstone from Africa

Soapstone from Africa

For example on my Mozambique Africa trip last year I packed a bunch of t-shirts that I don’t wear anymore and some “Old Navy” and “Rugged Wearhouse” shirts that are really inexpensive but have American brands on them. I gave shirts, flip-flops, and clothes to the vendors kids on the beach. Later on my last day of the Mozambique leg of the Africa trip, this artist, Tawanda, showed me this soapstone piece that I loved and had to have.

After agreeing on a price that we both were comfortable with, I paid him. Then I saw this soapstone/jade turtle that I really wanted but I was out of money, really

Beach Vendors

Beach Vendors

out of money this time. At or around that moment this kid, wearing a shirt that I’d given him 3 days before, started talking to Tawanda. He was pointing at me and nodding his head approving.

Tawanda reached over and grabbed the turtle, wrapped in up and paper, putting the turtle in his fist, placing his fist over his heart and handing it to me saying, “You have good spirit, please have it.” I was blown away.

The Gift

The Gift

The Gift

 

SowetoLater in Soweto,  I helped this guy fix his yard for about 30 minutes while I was waiting for the bus to leave. Without me asking he gave me this copper bracelet that he had since he was a child, just gave it to me, I didn’t ask for it, talk about it or even look at it, he just gave it to me, saying, “Take it to the states” with a big smile on his face. Only because we talked and I helped him finish his gardening. Again, I was blown away.

You can meet new life long friends and create memories that you will never forget.

I had a GREAT time in Africa with many memories, but the impact of those moments were the most significant.  The actions of these two guys humbled me. It challenged me to be just as giving and selfless in my actions.

People always ask me, “How was Africa?” I would assume everyone has a different interpretation of Africa. I respond, “You can’t explain Africa, it reminded me of our basic identity, where we started, and at our core, who we are.  Africa gives back what you give it.”

Also, remember when buying unique pieces of art, etc, be mindful of the size and more importantly the weight. You have to carry that thing all the way back to the states. Your bags may be overweight!

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

There’s something else I notice outside of the states, in other cultures that I appreciate. The male / female roles are still present. As a male you have an inherent responsibility to take lead when you and your friends embark out in the new country. American women are very independent but when you’re traveling, it’s good to take the lead role in your group. That same independent woman will look at you like a lazy waste of space when you don’t help her hoist that bag of shoes into her overhead compartment on the plane.  I’m not saying that American women can’t look out for themselves, I’m NOT saying that. It’s just a natural role for the man to take certain actions, so get out of your seat and grab that bag so we can get this plane off the ground. Oh…especially when it’s an older woman, GET YOUR BUTT UP and GRAB THAT BAG. Don’t wait for her to ask, just get it. I believe it’s a way of respecting the women. Let your actions speak for themselves. Make reservations, plans, engage the personnel. Men from other countries may not speak to the women if you are with them, they’ll assume that they are “your women” and it could be viewed as disrespectful if they speak or approach “your women”. I don’t know, it may even be a safety issue. When I was in Africa, I jokingly referred to my friend Janis as my “second wife”. It’s hilarious, people always look at us like “What?!” As long as I was paying, she played along…figures. When eating out, pay for the dinner, get your money back from your friends later. Don’t sit there at the table arguing about who ordered the extra cheese. If someone is penny-pinching, then they shouldn’t have come on the trip. Look out for your party, take care of your female friends, protect them, pay for the taxi and sit up front, joke, learn the language, watch out for anything that seems off and make sure everyone gets home and safe. You left together, you arrive together.

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley

Another thing that’s probably most important, people in your party can be rude, ignorant, they can embarrass you, and make you regret you chose to travel with them. I don’t know what it is, immaturity or arrogance but some people, once they leave the states, act a complete fool. My rule is…once someone displays this negative, embarrassing, rude person, get away from them. Rent your own car, do your own thing, don’t allow this person another day of your vacation. Don’t make excuses, don’t sympathize or waste your time, just go!

I was on a trip where there was a language barrier and the very polite waiters were not sure of how to scramble eggs, well, medium or light. People in the group complained about the eggs! This is what people call a “First world

African Waiters in Tofu Beach

African Waiters in Tofu Beach

problem”. When you are complaining about the preparation of food, when people of the country can’t even afford to eat all their meals. I’m sure that the waiters didn’t know exactly what well, medium or light meant.

 

The group I was with just annoyed me so much that I couldn’t eat with them anymore. I was just disgusted and I just got up and sat by myself. So don’t be surprised if people behave totally differently when you’re out of the country. It’s just one of those things you can never prepare yourself for.

I’ve had experiences while traveling that helped me appreciate who I am and the quality of life. I’ve participated in activities that make me smile every time I think of them; reading the “Middle Passage” exhibit in the Dockyards of

Christian Rameshwar...best tour I've ever experienced!

Christian Rameshwar…best tour I’ve ever experienced!

Bermuda, listening to a history lesson from Christian Rameshwar a St. Kitts master tour guide, (If you EVER go to St. Kitts, find Christian!), playing soccer with African kids on Tofo beach, learning to samba on a rooftop in the favelas of Brazil, these experiences and shared wisdom amongst strangers and now friends, places I’ve been, people I’ve met, dinner and taxi conversations, all helped shaped me as a person. Traveling humbled me, to what I didn’t appreciate as an American. When you travel OUTSIDE of the United States, you will appreciate who you are, not just as a man, but a black man. I’ve gained an appreciation of being a black man that I would NEVER realize if I had stayed in the United States and NOT traveled.

“When overseas you learn more about your own country, than you do the place you’re visiting.” – Clint Borgen

My Amsterdam experience; I was walking with a female friend in the Netherlands, and getting pretty annoyed that I was being stared at. My female friend said, “They are looking at your face, your skin.” I immediately thought it was racial, she said, “No…your skin tone is different from the black Africans here, they’re dark.” Soon after this woman stopped us and spoke to me in Dutch saying, “De tint is prachtig.”  Puzzled, I looked at my friend she said, “Your hue is beautiful. I told you, your skin is copper brown, they don’t see that often.” I was like, “Oooohh, wow…thanks!” I was strolling the rest of the day like I was a celebrity. It was cool. Later that day or a couple of days later, I was partying with my friends Kyr and Doug, we went outside to talk. Five minutes later the cops came, “Oh boy”, I was telling Kyr, “I’m out man I don’t want no trouble.” He said, “Nah man, it’s cool.” The cops walked up and asked what was going on. Kyr, who lived in Amsterdam, told the cops that it was a friend’s birthday party. The cops were like, “Ok, please (Yes they said please) keep the door closed because the music comes out and disturbs the neighbors. You guys take it easy.” WHAT?!?!  No beat down, no guns in my face, no move NOW!…none of that! Kyr said, “Yeah man it’s totally different over here.”

The cops actually treated us like human beings, it was incredible. These are the experiences that give value to traveling. I just love it, and it’s not something that you can explain.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

My “brother” Omar left the United States to live in Amsterdam for about the last decade. Through his Facebook posts and pages, I’ve lived through his triumphs and struggles. I’ve felt his hunger at times when I could only sustain him with positive words. I asked him his opinion of life outside of the US as a black male. Without knowing what to expect or filtering his words, this is his statement;

“I have been blessed to be able to travel to many beautiful places in Europe while living in Amsterdam for ten years. And, I think the main thing to keep in mind traveling to foreign countries as a Black male is to keep an open mind about the country you are traveling to. Be open to new experiences. Live in the moment. Don’t let preconceived notions about how you are perceived by people of other ethnicity have an impact on your cultural experience.  I was really surprised that, in some places, I was considered an “American” and not a “Black American”. But be sure to learn about your destination. Study about the do’s and dont’s of the local culture, and how to interact with its people. And, remember that wherever you travel, you are representing the United States in one way or another. Be better than the bad stereotype put upon Americans. Represent yourself and your country with pride, but above all, be yourself and enjoy the experience. Keeping these things in mind will help to build great memories for a lifetime.”

Like I said earlier, being American makes us unaware of how privileged we are most times, we take for granted the freedoms we have. We Americans have so much but when you travel, you’ll come across people who have 5% of what you have but their life is so much richer in quality that you’ll start to learn what’s really important. Luxury cars, huge houses, tvs, etc, yes we have quantity but we don’t have quality. The luxury is not important, it really is not. Wait…it’s nice though, don’t get it twisted. It’s just that one’s focus should be friendships, family, relationships and love as the nucleus. I don’t know what to tell you but the sooner you get away from the hood, the sooner your life will change.

“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” – Shirley MacLaine

If you have the money to pay for an experience, do it. You will never remember how much you spent, but you’ll never forget the experience.

Last word…airplane orange juice is the best!

MPM

https://www.facebook.com/christian.rameshwar?fref=ts

 

Philadelphia Cheesesteak place in Cancun...wow.

Philadelphia Cheesesteak place in Cancun…wow.

My favorite destination...Bermuda, "The Rock"

My favorite destination…Bermuda, “The Rock”

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Etiquette 101: Social media

Etiquette: is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. _______________________________________________________________________________

Social media has become a part of our lives, it’s unavoidable. Now that it’s here, if you have an account, you might want to be aware of how you use your account. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, About.me, Blackplanet, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are just a few sites. Let’s try something…don’t look at them as media sites, look at them as windows to your life. If you have an account on these sites, you are granting access to your; opinions, moods, friends, successes, failures…your life. You’re opening windows and once they’re open, you may not be able to close them.

You want to be cautious about what you share on Facebook (864 million active daily users or 1.3 billion monthly users)…yes billion!   Different parts of your life can be shared, some things shouldn’t. There’s an implied etiquette to how you use social media but unfortunately there’s no class to help you post appropriately. There’s no rules or no one advising you of how to use social media.

Social media is like being your own paparazzi on your own life.   I’m not going to say what not to post but hopefully, you’ll understand and think about the impact and possible repercussion of what you share.  I think back to my teenage years and laugh at all the crazy things I did and how relieved I am that we did NOT have social media back then. I also reminisce on how much I didn’t know and my reckless actions. Luckily, many of those ignorant juvenile statements were not recorded on social media. I don’t have many regrets in my memories of my youth, but the ones I do have are not recorded somewhere on the internet. My militant Public Enemy(rap group) or college party days are not  recorded somewhere on the cloud. Fortunately for everyone the 80’s are only recorded on non digital photos. :o)

It’s easy to recover from something that could be embarrassing but to have something that you’re ashamed of, is a different animal. Those shameful things tend to have the most hits and seem to constantly reappear. A girlfriend at 16 years old that I professed to marry on Facebook could be kind of embarrassing knowing that we broke up days later, or being locked up for stolen tags on your uncles car that you borrowed to drive your cousin to Yeadon is shameful, funny but still shameful. Just like sitting on train tracks helping a cousin, the same cousin, try to put some clarity to his recent breakup. Yes I said, sitting on train tracks. I won’t say his name because it’s funny between us. It’s not for everyone to know it’s private.

Privacy (from Latin: privatus) is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share common themes.

That’s my point, you’ll find out quick who your real friends are by seeing what they share about you. There are people that are clueless and will post things not to be malicious but just didn’t consider what could happen. You could even go to jail over something shared over the internet. Read this post: https://middlepassagementor.com/2013/12/02/1-bad-decision-can-alter-your-life/

Also think about employers as a part of the billion users. Do you want the people that employ you to see your posts?

Epic FB Mistake

Epic FB Mistake

Do you want them to see you drinking at a party…how about drunk and passed out? Not a good look, just as the friend who posted the “passed out” you, is not your real friend. Can drinking be interpreted as reckless, irresponsible, or habit forming? Will your future employer understand your partying ways?

Can your associations be viewed the same as you? Will your white friends understand the racists or militant views of your friends? Will you black friends approve a Dixie flag on you friends page. Will it change your relationship? It shouldn’t but don’t be surprised if it does.

Even now with the Facebook privacy policies and facial recognition, it’s become scary to me.  Before you post anything, it comes down to one simple question: Can you be proud of everything you share?

MPM

“Just because something is publicly accessible does not mean that people want it to be publicized.” Unknown

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” – Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google

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Etiquette 101: Being bilingual, when and where to speak slang.

Etiquette: is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.

You are bilingual and you don’t even know it. I’m not saying you’re good at it yet, but you are bilingual.  When adults correct you telling you to say, “Yes” instead of “yea” when speaking, they are teaching you how to be bilingual. When someone answers the phone in that formal tone, much different from how they were just talking to you, that’s bilingual.

My mother use to yell at us from downstairs, the phone would ring, she would clear her voice, pick up the phone, then pleasantly say, “Hello”. For a while we didn’t understand what she was doing, but later in life I figured out why.

Tell you how I learned the hard way…I received a phone call one day, long time ago, when the Budweiser commercial was really popular. The commercial where the guys would pick up the phone and say, “Waaass  Uuuuaaaap” with their mouths wide open. Well, I received a phone call on Saturday about 1pm, I remember because the swing shift started at 2pm. It was a Saturday so I felt comfortable and assumed that it was a friend. Well, I answered the phone…just like the commercial, forgetting that I told my boss to call me if he wanted me to come in on Saturday.

ME:   “Waaasss  Uuuuuaaaaaap”

Mr. Geiger(MY BOSS):   “Robert?! Is Robert there?”

In a split second I went bilingual…”Good afternoon Mr. Geiger, you need me to come in?”

He paused, and said, “Oh, uuh yeah, can you come in?”

I said, “Yes, I can be there in an hour.”  

I had a good relationship with my boss, he was cool but not that cool. You must understand where to draw the line. He never mentioned it and neither did I. It was slightly embarrassing and I never did it again.

Anyway, when your friends accuse you of “sounding white” it’s evidence that you are speaking correctly.  Now, I really detest when people say you’re “sounding white” because that’s just dumb. It’s not “sounding white” it’s speaking correctly. As if people of color don’t know how to speak proper english or only white people are allowed to speak intelligently. To assume that white people or any skin color is smarter than any other skin color is just asinine.

You need to be comfortable speaking properly.

When you’re at the drive thru what kind of greeting do you usually hear?

Do you hear, “What’s up, what you want to eat?” or do you hear “Good morning, can I take your order?”

My point is, there’s a time and place to use your slang or street language and there’s a time to speak professionally. The trick at being bilingual is understanding when to adjust to your environment and act and speak appropriately. There’s artistic navigation between speaking in slang or speaking correctly, you can do both but you must know the time and place. I’m not saying “dumb down” your words to fit in but know it takes courage to be different. The quicker you face this small challenge, the more prepared you’ll be for the bigger challenges.

Consider your words.

What’s up                              vs           Good morning or Hello

Na, Mm mmph                    vs             No Thank you

Yea                                           vs             Yes, Please

Holla atcha boy                  vs             I’ll talk to you later

Shorty                                    vs             Excuse me, you have a minute or Please let me introduce myself

Another true story from another point of view. Me and my friends were going to a meeting when we arrived, it was crowded. I said something like, man it’s packed in here. Another friend said, they got us in here like runaway slaves…my bestfriend Dell said, “It’s congested in here.” (record scratch) All of us looked at him like, “What?!…you couldn’t just say crowded or packed or tight, you had to go all encyclopedia brown on us with “congested”. It was funny but we knew how he was, he’s a physician now so it makes sense. I think you get my point and that point is there’s a time and place because you never know who’s listening to you speak.

I began with, “You are bilingual and you don’t even know it. I’m not saying you’re good at it yet, but you are bilingual.” I want you to feel comfortable and get better at speaking properly.

MPM

To have another language is to possess a second soul.
‒Charlemagne

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Etiquette 101: Creating your own identity as a gentleman

Etiquette: is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.

This subject may not be, at its core, an etiquette subject but definitely a derivative. Our young men are slowly losing the masculine identity that I grew up inheriting from my role models. There a subtle traits that pour into a young man as he matures. You absorb them from your positive influences, an incorporate them into you own composite. These traits are your behavioral footprint. As a man, there are behaviors that isolate you from the pack. Hopefully they are good behaviors, I don’t need to even discuss the bad behaviors. Even if I did have enough time, why discuss them?! There are enough bad influences out there that shadow the positive people of color. Some men don’t know how to be a gentlemen or exercise some level of etiquette. They think is cool to be thuggish, uncultured, or ultra-masculine without any feelings because feelings make them weak. Well…that’s ignorant, it’s stupid and asinine. Regular people dress up for the occasion; church, weddings, proms…we dress up. If you want to be cool and you’re uncomfortable dressing up, don’t come to the function, stay your behind home. Don’t embarrass me with your ignorance or disrespect of the occasion. Yes you have the freedom to dress the way you want, but I have the freedom not to invite you next time.

Sorry…kinda trailed off into a rant there.

Being a gentleman is something that I picked up from all the males in my family and friends. Honestly, probably more from the women in my family I picked up instruction. Females usually instructed me, but I witnessed male behavior. The statements from my mother, aunts, or grandmother started out like, “A man is supposed to…” After I heard that, that’s what I did. Period. Any person, man or woman, has habits that they pick up from others. These habits or nuances of their persona that make them unique. There are people who feel safe being like everyone else, but that’s typical and boring. I want all of you to be gentlemen, and unique in your own definition.

I want to share some trait examples of what I’ve seen and possibly helped me create my own identity as a gentleman. I don’t have sole rights to any habit or characteristic but I’ve incorporated them into my own definition.

One of my “things” is… I don’t let the woman, any woman for that matter, touch a door. Getting in the car, getting out the car, I open the door. Walking in a restaurant, walking out of restaurant, I get the door. Walking in or out of the movie theater…I get the door. Getting on a roller coaster, carnival ride, photo booth…I GOT THE DOOR. I’m not trying to be special, I just want the woman who I’m with to feel special. She’s not just ‘with’ me…we’re together.

Years ago, my uncle Thurman, was dancing with my aunt Cheryl at their wedding on a cruise ship in New York. It was their first dance as husband and wife. My uncle Rusty and I were watching them dance and I noticed something weird. My uncle wasn’t touching my aunt with his fingers. I know, sounds funny but he was holding her with his palms, almost guiding her. I asked my uncle standing next to me about it. He said, “That’s old school, back in the day a man didn’t touch a woman with his fingers, it was seen as disrespectful.” I was blown. Watching my uncle guide and hold his new wife with his palms. That was the first time I saw it and I vowed the next time I would see it was when I was getting married.

Something similar, one time I was walking with a woman, holding her right hand with my left hand. We were walking to the car and a fight broke out to my right. As we continued to walk to the car, I kept my eyes on what was happening and put her in the car. I didn’t give it much thought until we were in the car and driving away. She said, “I feel protected when I’m with you.” I said, “Huh…where’d that come from?” She said, “The entire time the disturbance was going on, you were squeezing my hand.” She continued saying, “You kept yourself between me and the fight, you wouldn’t even let me see what was happening, and you never stop squeezing my hand and shielding me. I felt safe, protected.” I didn’t really know what I was doing, it came natural as her boyfriend. For some reason, we broke up later that year, but we remained friends, not close friends but we had an extended circle of friends. She called me and told me that she misses that in other men she’s dated, “feeling protected”. It was a compliment, I felt that I was doing something right, I felt like a gentlemen.

I’ll give you another example, from a another perspective. I had always attended cookouts or eating venues with girlfriends or a female companion. One time, I was at a cookout with a woman I was dating and she didn’t get me a plate of food. I never thought of it, I never knew I expected to receive a plate from my girlfriend but I know I didn’t like it. I thought it was disrespectful. I watched other women get their men a plate, and I sat there with a dry mouth. I was quite perturbed. We had a discussion about it on the way to her house, she was dismissive and flippant. Let’s just say, that was the last time I dropped her off…anywhere.

I started off this blog about our young men losing true masculinity to ignorance. Our young men don’t know how to be men. My mother always said, “If a person, doesn’t know, you can’t blame them.” So I write this blog to address an ignorance that seems to prevail with our young men. They are NOT being taught how to be gentlemen and that’s truly unfortunate.

MPM

“A gentleman is someone who does not what he wants to do, but what he should do.”
― Haruki Murakami

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