Since the start of the pandemic, everybody keeps talking about how the world has transformed. In our daily lives, the very way we greet other people has been one of the most remarkable changes. Etiquette during COVID continues to evolve as people adapt to new rules and traditions take a back seat.

Take Montreal for example.

We're a very social culture: 5 à 7's on the terrasse, going out for dinner, two kisses on the cheek to say hello.

You get the gist.

But just how do we stay social in a way that respects everybody's varying comfort levels with social distancing?

It almost feels like going to a brand new place and having to learn a new set of what is and isn't socially acceptable.

After all, we are navigating new territory.

We decided to get some expert advice on what to do.

Julie Blais Comeau is the Chief Etiquette Officer at etiquettejulie.com based in Gatineau, Quebec.

"As etiquette experts, we don't dictate what is right and what is wrong in society. It's the opposite — we observe society and from there, we extract what most people have agreed should be the norm."

Julie spoke with MTL Blog just what that norm looks like at this point with everything going on.

Questions and responses have been edited for clarity.


What is the appropriate way to greet someone or say goodbye if we cannot physically touch?

If you're the person who wants to maintain distance, you can acknowledge the spirit in them.

You could do the "Céline Dion" and take your right hand over your heart, you could do the mini-head-bow or the two hands crossed on oneself like a self-hug, and of course the classic wave.

Whatever you choose, you initiate and feel free to explain your reasoning, address the elephant in the room, and even use some humour. "I wish I could hug you, but let's keep everyone safe."


What do you do if someone goes to hug you or shake your hand and you don't want to?

If somebody insists on hugging you or shaking your hand, you can then walk back, maintain eye contact, and say what it is that you're doing and why.

Feel free to explain why you've made that decision, whether it's because you're taking care of a grandparent or whatever it may be.

You don't have to tell them everything, but if there's something you think will make the person more alert, then feel free to say it.


How do you tell someone politely that you are not comfortable with something in terms of plans or proximity?

Just communicate what you are and aren't comfortable with. If you're not ready to go to a patio, you can tell your friends that they can go ahead without you. 

When it comes to invitations, you really need to prepare and they should be done ahead of time.

Pick up the phone and set the expectations. Who's coming, what are they bringing, and what are you expecting from the gathering?


What is the best way to approach communication while working from home?

We have to remember that we are privileged to see the environments of some of our colleagues.

Not everyone has a home set-up, or maybe they have a home situation they had never discussed before. It's all about respect for privacy and confidentiality.

And under no circumstances do you have the right to record without their permission. Not even a screenshot.

On the flip side of that, we need to understand that anything that we say or do on camera is fair game. Anybody can hear or see what you're doing and can come back to haunt you.

Remember: digital fatigue is real. Communicating in a boardroom is very different from communicating on a conference call.

In terms of emailing and texting, write as though the other person is busier, more important, and smarter than you. It'll make you straighten your back and write as professionally as possible.


What are the best tips for dating in a COVID-world?

The pandemic has made people communicate more before they meet up. Are you going out? Are you seeing people?

Some of the dating apps are actually allowing people to display their COVID-distancing level. In fact data from the apps have shown that people are communicating twice as long as they were before COVID.

It can make people recognize whether or not they are connected before even doing something like kissing.

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