Bavarian town promotes good manners

Idyllic Grafenau in the Bavarian Alps. Now they want to have perfect manners too

It seems like a vision of a better world: bus drivers have a friendly greeting for their passengers, salespeople serve customers with a smile, husbands surprise their wives with flowers, children offer their seats to the elderly on public transportation and behave well at school and at the dinner table.

This idea could soon become everyday reality in a town in Bavaria. The German Knigge Association, a society that promotes good manners and which is named after Baron Knigge who wrote a treatise on etiquette and behaviour in 1788, is starting a pilot project in the small town of Grafenau.

“For four days the residents of Grafenau will be introduced to etiquette,” says the head of the Association, Hans-Michael Klein. The local mayor is supporting the arrival of etiquette experts from all over Germany in Grafenau from October 18th to the 21st. They aim to turn the town into an epicentre of great manners.

“Good demeanour and politeness are the solution to many everyday problems,” says Klein. He believes that living together could be many times more pleasant if people met each other with respect and friendliness. Klein says adults should keep in mind that they are role models for children.

Over four days people of all ages will receive extra tuition in etiquette. Trainers will introduce “respect” in schools and kindergartens and the primary school’s drama group will stage a play about Baron Knigge. Adults will be able to enjoy wine tasting and a seminar about proper behaviour. Local hairdressers will help their customers find the right hairstyle and the dancing school will offer a course in Viennese waltz. A fashion show will teach the Do’s and Don’ts of dressing.

“Grafenau was not chosen because we need to catch up on manners,” says Grafenau’s mayor, Max Niedermeyer. But as the town lives from tourism there is always space for improvement. “Children in particular should have the same standard of behaviour towards parents, teachers, co-pupils and elderly people,” stresses Niedermeier. He doesn’t consider himself perfectly versed in etiquette either and hopes the weekend will have a lasting effect on locals.

Etiquette-expert Klein is hoping to spread his message even further. “Several cities have inquired already about our etiquette coaching.” He doesn’t want to reveal which ones but the etiquette instructors are not planning to visit big cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt or Cologne for now.

“We Lower Bavarians work hard, are reliable and helpful, but we constantly want to improve ourselves,” says Ludwig Lankl. The district’s chief administrator believes society often lacks friendliness and respect. He thinks the weekend will help reintroduce a more “Christian” way of behaviour in the region.

Lankl does not make an exception for himself. “I have to make a mental note as well to surprise my wife with a bouquet of flowers.” – DPA