We’ve been off-line the last couple of weeks while we’ve been traveling around Europe and now I’ve got a bunch of blog posts to catch up on (plus a whole lot of photos of cool things to show you). But first, a rant that’s been brewing for a while… something that really, really, really irritates me. And I’m sure it does for many of you too.

The more I’ve traveled around the world in recent years, the more I’ve become dismayed by how people treat each other.

There’s an age-old maxim called The Golden Rule which basically states that you should behave towards other people in the way you’d like them to behave towards you. All major religions have famous sayings that encapsulate this ethic of reciprocity, and it’s mentioned as early as 1800BC in a set of rules from ancient Babylon, so the idea pre-dates most major religions too. You can read more about it in this wikipedia link. It all really boils down to: be nice to people.

I’ve watched civility steadily being eroded over the last few years until now it’s at the point where people are often pointedly rude to absolute strangers. How can this be? Maybe I’m old fashioned or in a minority and I’m not moving with the times, but I’m sure the times should not be moving towards a society where people don’t abide by the basic rules of civility: say please and thank-you and consider other people around you. I guess it’s a product of everyone being in a rush, feeling more important than others, and feeling somehow entitled to service or response without having to be civil to the one they expect service or a response from.

Some examples:

  • At breakfast this morning in the hotel, I stood waiting while the chef cooked my eggs, and everyone who walked up while I was waiting neither said please nor thank-you to the chef, and some almost demanded what they wanted.
  • Again this morning, an elevator opened on the ground floor, full of people, with a woman standing in front of the door with a suitcase. One businessman behind her pushed passed her to get out of the elevator first.
  • At Heathrow on the way over from Germany, we came down an elevator and people pushed onto the elevator while we were still trying to come out with bags (this is *so* common while traveling).
  • On the flight from Germany to Heathrow at the weekend, a small child was sitting behind Kimberly, kicking her chair and then reaching through between the seats and grabbing Kimberly. When Kimberly turned around to politely ask the child not to do that, the mother became indignant and said Kimberly must not have kids because that’s just the way 3-year olds behave.
  • On an overnight flight from the US to Europe a few months ago, a child was allowed to run around the cabin, shout and generally behave obnoxiously, with no intervention from the mother.

(Edit 5/23/2015:

After being accused on Twitter of implying above that only mothers should be responsible for controlling children, I’ll clarify my final two examples above by saying that in both cases the only adult on the plane with the child was the mother. It’s really a stretch to think I was implying only mothers bear that responsibility.


People really shouldn’t try to read into what people say things that they don’t like, and then call out that jumped-to conclusion publicly.

End Edit)

The list goes on and on. The last two are particularly indicative in my mind of part of the problem these days – lack of instilling the notions of civility and acceptable behavior in children as they grow up, and the belief that everyone should tolerate children’s inconsiderate behavior because they’re just children. Adult behavior is very much a product of upbringing IMHO.

And of course it spills over into work life too. How many of you have had to deal with belligerent or rude co-workers, managers, or clients? Why should you have to?

Email is the worst though – it’s so easy to omit civilities. It’s become so prevalent now that if I get a random request for help in email that doesn’t say please or thanks, I just delete it right away… no civility, no help.

Take a look around you next time you travel, or take notice during your work day – you’ll be amazed at how uncivil we’ve become as a society.

But please make sure you’re not part of the problem. Thank you.