We tried a $1,000 Royal Etiquette Class

  • INSIDER’s Emily Christian tries a $1,000 etiquette course at the Plaza Hotel.
  • The course promises to teach you the graces of a duchess. 
  • Emily finds out why the class is being frequented by young professionals. 
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

The following is a transcription of the video. 

Emily Christian: I think this is, like, it’s really a finger thing, because it’s too far away now.

Myka Meier: OK, so now it’s…

Christian: It’s…

Meier: OK, go.

Christian: I’m so sorry, that was, like, the worst thing I could have done.

Today I’m at the Plaza Hotel to take a etiquette class. And, let me tell you, I am not the most graceful person. I’m a messy eater, I’ve never walked in heels before, and I would not know how to conduct myself at a formal dinner. So we’re gonna see if this class can truly give me a full etiquette makeover today, and I can walk out of here ready to have dinner with the Queen.

Meier: Etiquette is simply respect. That’s all it is. If you really deconstruct everything, and the core of what it is, it’s just simply respect.

Christian: A private etiquette course at Beaumont Etiquette taught at the Plaza Hotel can cost over $1,000 and promises to teach you all the graces of a duchess in just a few hours. Etiquette is something that seems so old-fashioned to me, but this school’s founder, Myka Meier, says business is booming, and maybe not for who you’d think. While Myka has worked with members of England’s royal family, today her clients are mostly young professionals willing to dish out a month’s rent to learn manners. So I wanted to pay her a visit to learn why.

Meier: It’s more relevant now than ever before, because we communicate mostly electronically now. So we’re losing some of those soft skills that are still important when you meet somebody face to face.

Christian: At this point, I was a little more nervous than confident that I could pull it off, but the time had finally come to see if I could be at least a little bit graceful for a day. Meier: In front of you here we’ve got, this is just a very simple, one-course table setting. You have your water glass, which is always directly above your knife.

Christian: Oh.

Meier: Then you have your bread plate on your left. So you put your index to your thumb on both sides. This is a lowercase B for bread.

Christian: OK.

Meier: The right is a lowercase D for drinks.

Christian: Oh.

Meier: So, if you put it down, your bread plate’s always on your left and your drinks will always be on your right. So, the moment you get to a restaurant, you want to take that napkin off of the plate, and then just gently, to the side, just unfold it, and then refold it in half so that the seams are both down, like that, and then the crease faces toward you. Excellent.

Christian: Oh no, mine looks terrible.

Meier: No. You never go down to your napkin, because it looks like you’re kind of, like, hiding something under the table. So just open here, and you bring the napkin up to your face, and then, oh, just the inside.

Christian: Oh.

Meier: Hold the inside. And you’re actually putting all of your stains in the inside of the napkin. We just dab, dab, dab, and then you close the napkin so all the stains stay contained in the inside of the napkin.

Christian: Wow.

Meier: Now, at the end of the meal, then we would pinch in the middle and we would leave it to the left of the place setting to show that we were finished with the meal, we are done, we are not coming back to the table. Never do that. So, if you take nothing away from this course, I want you to remember this. So, in American dining, we often hold cutlery like this, and we cut, cut, cut, and we rest our knives, and then we switch, and then we eat. At the moment I would say in business or in any formal social situation, I want you to elevate and switch to what we call continental dining. So, the blade faces up, perfect, so you’re holding with your thumb, your index is out, wrap and twist, and then, keeping the prongs down, they go into your mouth. So this is break, I’m taking a break, and then when I’m finished with my meal, to signify to the server I am finished, then prongs are up, and then handles are at four o’clock. If it has a stem you hold it by the stem. You never want to heat the liquid inside the glass.

Christian: I always just, I just stick my hand right on there, the full thing. Also, this is heavy.

Meier: And also for fingerprints, right? And then when you’re drinking, you’re drinking from the same point of the glass every single time, so that you avoid that lip ring. And then back down directly over the knife.

Christian: And I’m guessing you don’t go, aah. Meier: Oh, we’ll see about that. But, typically speaking, the lower to the stem we hold, the more sophisticated a holder becomes. Beautiful.

Christian: What about, is this, like, the most sophisticated? Meier: Whatever it is you’re drinking, we never go past 45 degrees. OK, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up. See, so you pretty much get…

Christian: OK, that’s enough.

Meier: right, and so you just don’t wanna go. Crew member: Have you ever done that at the bar?

Christian: Yes, absolutely, I have done that, at a bar, and at dinner, and at all over town, really, I’ve been going like this.

Meier: So what you would do, you would take your tea, and then it’s not clockwise or counterclockwise, it’s actually just 12 o’clock to six o’clock, and then, making no noise, I want you to pinch through and support. Perfect, and when you’re sipping you sip down, you look down into the tea. Arms up, one down, two down. OK, now I want you to go ahead and try it again. You have to keep the napkins, and don’t do this in public, ever. Go ahead and take another sip of your tea.

Christian: How…?

Meier: Beautiful, now take that sip, see, you’re nice and in.

Christian: I’m very hungry, so my first instinct is gonna be just to kind of tear into it, but I know that’s not what we’re here to do.

Meier: So as much fun as it is to put everything on your plate at once, that’s not the correct etiquette.

Christian: That’s what I’d do.

Meier: I know. And you always let your guests choose first. One thing with any kind of communal food to remember is that you never take straight off and put it into your mouth. So you should take a bite that’s not overly large. Like, the whole goal of afternoon tea is to stay social. You can take up to four bites before you break again.

Christian: So you only take four bites of food, and then you break.

Meier: Exactly.

Christian: OK.

Meier: And that’s just to not eat too fast.

Christian: I eat so fast.

Meier: It’s normal, it’s very normal. Christian: I don’t think I breathe when I eat, normally. [Emily mumbles] Meier: Some modern-day icons of etiquette, I think, easily the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, I think are constantly, we see them, you know, very polished and respectful to everybody and everybody that they work with. I think Michelle Obama is a really great example of etiquette.

Christian: Now that I knew how to talk the talk, it was time to learn to walk the walk, quite literally.

Meier: And now, I would like you to put on heels.

Christian: Uh-oh, OK.

Meier: So we’re gonna, don’t be scared, I’ll walk you through everything.

Christian: I’ve never walked in heels, not a single time. This was truly the final test of whether or not this class could really give me a royal makeover.

Meier: Go ahead and just give me your first attempt, straight through and back.

Christian: And we’re off.

Meier: OK, all right. What I’m gonna do for you, because you’re not comfortable wearing heels, I’m going to give you something to do with your hands to help you, and it also helps with balance at first, too. So now I’m just, you can put that to your side or in front, it can be whatever you want, and if you’re an awkward heel person, always hold something, because then you’re almost not, like, teeter-tottering, or you actually have something to hold your balance. So go ahead and, now, with your new technique, a little bit larger stride, nice, rolled-back shoulders, hands, fingers together, and come on right toward me. Much better.

Christian: That felt better.

Meier: Night and day.

Christian: Maybe I wasn’t going to be a pro at the heels right away, but Myka had given me the confidence that I could become an etiquette expert with practice.

Meier: Now a quiz, pop quiz. OK, queen’s pose. Duchess slant. Cambridge cross. Sussex slant. Beautiful.

Christian: Yay! I’m basically a royal now. It’s not a big deal.

Meier: Practically, right?

Christian: While I opted for their most exclusive and intensive class, Beaumont Etiquette offers many different options, including a group course for $150. By the end of the class I realized why young people are so eager to learn Myka’s techniques. Something that sounded outdated to me at first became a skill I could use in my office to be more professional and even with my friends, just to show respect.

Meier: And the whole goal of our courses is that when they leave, they leave more confident than when they walked in. OK. OK, never lick your fingers, never lick your fingers.

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