An Interview With Australian & Chinese Etiquette Expert Elizabeth Soos
Meet Elizabeth Soos, founder of Auersmont School of Etiquette based in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. For Elizabeth, etiquette was ‘king’ when at home; her parents had taught her the European standards. Together with self-directed studies, she completed the Train-the-Trainer course offered by Emma Dupont’s School of Etiquette in London. To further her education, Elizabeth became certified in Chinese Etiquette with Ms. Joy Koh at Image Avenue. Next, she completed her studies with Guillaume Rue de Bernadac at Academie de Bernadac, based in Paris and Shanghai, for excellence in customer service. And more so, becoming an expert in grooming through Makeup Mode Masterclass located in Sydney.
Elizabeth’s business offers a variety of etiquette services. These include coaching, private tutoring, and group training. She enjoys working with people of all ages, backgrounds and travels to meet her clients all over Australia. In addition, she has positioned herself as an etiquette coach voice of authority, featuring in The West Australian and The Sunday Times media outlets. She firmly believes that etiquette is a life-changing skill, an attainable precious possession that lasts a lifetime.
After connecting with Elizabeth virtually, I knew that she would have great tips to pass on to you. See her interview below:
Someone mentioned to me the other day when you are a child; no one says they want to become an etiquette consultant, and finding your path to the way there is a windy road. So please tell me, what was your journey like getting into the world of etiquette?
My mother expressed to me when I was young that she always wanted to attend Institut Villa Pierrefeu in Switzerland; I always kept that in the back of my mind. During school, I found that history, fine arts, geography, and sport were where my talents lay. I never made it to University; however, I was always interested in working for myself. Post-divorce, I now wanted to specialize in a subject that my family valued highly, which was etiquette. My parents were Hungarian immigrants that both came to Australia at different times. Hungarians, as I have come to know them, are very etiquette conscious. I started putting all the factors together, my mum's mention of Institut Villa Pierrefeu, my knowledge of etiquette, the rise of etiquette schools in the US and England; I thought, I can do this!
I started self-studying, and one of the places I started on was Google. I found a lot of conflicting information and then invested in etiquette books such as Debretts. Post-divorce, I enrolled in the Emma Dupont School of Etiquette, went back home to write my own workbooks so I could then teach them to others.
Melbourne is just one of the many Australian travel destinations for overseas visitors. So what are some helpful etiquette tips you can pass along for someone who may be planning a trip for business or pleasure?
Having been colonized by Great Britain, we have kept to British etiquette. Actually, Australians were speaking the Queen's English till the 1950s! So many of the etiquette traditions Australians have still kept such as being generally polite and using your usual greetings and thanking someone after they have answered questions for you. [Also,] not yelling while you speak to someone and not talking about yourself at rapid speed is a real put-off.
Building up trust is paramount. Australians love authenticity and genuineness. Once there is a level of trust, they will share and care. This also should be applied in business.
Being on time is expected and noted if there is not a good explanation for being late.
Tipping is not necessary for Australia; however, much appreciated.
Australians love to joke, have a laugh and shorten names… Do not be surprised when you are given a short nickname.
This is something that has stuck with me as an Australian expatriate – nicknaming everyone. A habit that has dissipated over time. So here's something interesting I noticed, it's that you are a tea specialist trained by the Dilmah School of Tea. How important is a tea ceremony and for which parts of the world, when it comes to business?
Through my studies, the tea or coffee ceremonies are important to many cultures, such as in South America, parts of Asia, and Europe. It is a time that you give to your friends, acquaintances, and even business partners to continuously develop your relationship with them with an added bonus of food and drink. It seems to be a safe place to express yourself with the embarrassment of awkward moments of silence. Tea ceremonies are a bonding experience with benefits!
Perhaps we should schedule our own virtual tea party! Now, you have a lot of experience with Chinese etiquette; are there a couple of specific pointers you could pass on to professional people looking to establish a rapport? Perhaps some respectful gestures you would suggest?
Australia has a very large Chinese community, which I find exciting. Rapport building is definitely essential; I thought Australian’s took time, well the Chinese took even more time and care. Generally, they like to be introduced by the host or somebody else and will wait until the introduction is done.
When it comes to Westerners – business cards are only for business meetings and during business hours; however, for the Chinese, you can give your business card at any gathering. Showing respect when handling a business is important to the Chinese. You must give your business card with both hands to give it, and it must be bi-lingual. The text must be facing the give. When receiving the card from the Chinese, you must take time reading out loud and talking about the details on the card. [It] must not be put in a bag or in a back pocket; it’s like sitting on their face. If sitting at the table, don’t fiddle with cards or place items on top of it.
Here are some ‘No go' topics:
Don't complain about China to the Chinese, i.e., pollution, traffic, its infrastructure.
‘Japan’ – Sore spot with China.
‘Taiwan’ – Don’t bring up it being a republic.
‘Tibet’ – Don’t bring [up] or [even] name the country.
‘Politicians’ – Don’t joke or comment about any of them.
Great advice so far! How important do you find grooming when it comes to presenting yourself, and what are some “must-do” things someone – of any gender – should make sure they are doing daily?
Presenting yourself is very important. Many people have said to me that ‘people should be accepted as they are,’ and that statement is valid. Science, however, tells a different story. We all make a quick analysis of a person, subconsciously, according to psychologists, we all have instincts keeping us on guard and keeping us safe, and that’s why we make nano minutes of judgment. In saying this, grooming is a priority for me.
I believe we all should pamper ourselves and see the hairdresser, beautician, get manicure and pedicures, shop for clothing that compliments us and is on-trend...
Okay, something very fascinating that I came across is your knowledge about the history of etiquette, for I receive daily emails from “Etiquipedia” that have regular guest posts from yourself; it’s how I came across your business! Which era captures your attention and why?
As I said from the outset, I have always loved history. I have been very curious about how humankind has evolved. I came across Maura Graber's Etiquipedia via someone's IG post and how she answered a certain item was for. I think it was a Gilded Age orange holder for the dining table. That captured my curiosity, and then we started communicating with each other, and now Maura Graber has been teaching me so much about how etiquette has evolved as with dining ware and so much more. Just a side note. Maura Graber will eventually open the world’s first etiquette museum… soon I hope, once Covid is not so much a threat.
From Maura's passion, I have started collecting vintage items that I use to teach students. I find it an effective teaching tool, and it definitely speaks to [the] children and teens that I teach.
What a lot of great information you passed on – thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with The Better Professional. It’s been an absolute pleasure learning from you.