Kenyans generally have tabia mbaya, be it on the road at work or in restaurants. Our phone habits went out of the window years ago. Just recently, a picture of a public figure ‘attacking’ a lobster at a restaurant went viral and Kenyans thought it was not only hilarious, but also embarrassing.
Not many people take time to think about sharpening their etiquette skills, dismissing it as an odiero concept. But Meg Agatha does not. In fact, when it comes to matters etiquette, she literally means business. The graduate of Divine School Africa studied etiquette and protocol consultancy, and has turned the art into a business.
According to Agatha, Kenyans have a long way to go as far as decorum is concerned. “In Kenya, we litter aimlessly and talk on phone while walking,” Agatha says. She adds that texting or eating while walking, is a no-no. “But we do it all the time,” Agatha says, hoping that with some training, we can be a bit more orderly,” she says.
According to Agatha, “I did a couple of online courses and also polished my skills.”
Agatha’s job is to basically teach people how to behave at events and other occasions.
“I get clients who want tips on dates,” Agatha reveals. For such occasions, she advises women to always carry some cash.
“Even though the man is expected to pay the bill, sometimes there is an unwritten rule that people should split the cost,” she advises.
Men on the other hand are expected to pull a chair and hold doors for ladies. “If they don’t, do not blame them, you can politely hint it by standing next to the seat. If they miss the hint, maybe you should think again,” she says.
A majority of her clients are managers, corporate teams and privately sponsored men and women who wish to upgrade their manners.
“Interview presentation skills for instance costs KSh3,500 per hour. But charges vary depending on the needs of a client, number of people to be trained, as well as training duration,” she explained.
Generally, Agatha gives tips on holiday, funeral, dinner and interview etiquette among others. For funeral etiquette for instance, one is expected to respect the culture of the deceased.
“Watch before you act, dress conservatively and choose dark colours. You do not want to draw attention to yourself when people are mourning. Do not occupy reserved or front-row seats if you are not family. Read the programme and respect the timings,” she advises.
In the line of duty, Agatha has faced a couple of challenges.
“Most people who assume they know the tiny details about etiquette do no seek clarity and end up making a mess. Etiquette is also viewed as a mzungu (white man) thing,” she said.