Three socially awkward situations we urgently need to address

1. Sneezes that happen in quick succession

Or more specifically, how to acknowledge them. We’ve all been there: you’re in the office and a colleague sneezes. There’s a chorus of “Bless Yous” or “Gesundheits.” Then they sneeze again. Half of the original well-wishers say “Bless You” again. This time though, it’s a little less enthusiastic. By the third Achoo, the afflicted is lucky if they’re acknowledged at all.

Here’s the question – what is the appropriate way to respond to continuous sneezing? Do multiple well-wishes draw undue attention to the sneezer? Do they feel maligned if you pretend you didn’t hear their second, third and fourth outbursts?

This needs to resolved as soon as possible.

2. Giving up your seat on public transport

I’ve had women I thought were old snap at me for offering them my seat and I’ve been glared at by those I deemed not yet to have passed the giving-up-your-seat threshold. I’ve felt the sharp sting of guilt when the person next to me successfully gave up their seat to someone I was on the fence about. I am at an utter loss as to the appropriate behaviour.

Please, someone, put me out of my misery.

3. Holding doors open: a question of duration

Look, I’m not the only one who worries about this. This cartoon I found on Reddit  says it all. Where is the line between being a nice person holding the door and a nasty person playing mind games? I mean that absolutely literally. How many meters away from the door is a-okay?

Answers on a postcard, please.

12 thoughts on “Three socially awkward situations we urgently need to address

  1. I flew home to Ireland last weekend and the man behind me sneezed 10 times in a row. I know this because he shouted ‘TEN!’ on the last one. So I killed him 😉


  2. 1. I tend to sneeze seven or eight times in a row minimum, so when I feel an attack coming on, I warn people in the vicinity not to bother blessing me until I’m done.

    2. Things I’ve learned in Switzerland: A young women giving up a seat for an older man is an insult of the highest order, even if that man looks to be approximately 700 years old and is leaning heavily on a cane. Patriarchy, eh?

    3. On holding doors open
    (Very British Problems has a lot of door-related tweets that are also highly applicable to Irish folk)

    Again, in Switzerland, men ALWAYS hold the door open for women and let the woman pass through first, if it involves in some bizarre contortionist act where you end up to squeezing under a well-meaning arm that is also holding a cup of coffee and a large sheaf of papers. I’ve had so many moments of THIS MAKES NO SENSE JUST LET ME HOLD THE DOOR I PROMISE I CAN HANDLE IT.


  3. 1. Warning your sneezing audience in advance: VERY considerate. That hadn’t even ocurred to me. I myself have some misplaced sneeze-shame and tend to supress mine in company.

    2. Interesting about that being an insult! Weird, as if you flip it, “old man expects young woman to make way for him” also seems quite patriarchal.

    3. That Twitter made me lol! Thank you very much for your insights on these tongue-in-cheek-but-actually-things-I-think-about issues!


  4. 1. Always wait till the sneezer finishes and then you can giver them a big “Bless you” instead of multi little ones.

    2. Always offer your seat to a lady who’s likely to be older than you, who’d ancient or anyone who’s disabled. You’ll have to balance the insults and face slappings against the thanks from some poor woman, tired out and with aching feet.

    3.As you open the door to go int a shop if there’s a woman ( or a man) directly behind you, let them go first. When things get silly because the flow doesn’t stop and no-one offers to relieve you take matters into your own hands. If you’re inside holding it open move the door close to a person so they put their arm out and take the weight of the door, then you can let go yourself and get about your business. If you’re outside holding it open and no-one takes it, nip inside quickly as someone from the inside approaches. They’ll take the door off you and either hold it or pass it on to someone coming, if they don’t, well that’s no longer your problem. Manners can only go so far.


    • Thank you so very much for your eloquent insights, David 🙂 I’ve found myself in a “non-stop flow”situation before; it’s good to know that even the most well-mannered individuals sometimes have to cut their losses and make a run for it! xx


  5. There is another angle on the door-holding dilemma. If it is held open by a beggar or a street salesman a person of a heightened moral code might feel pressurized into “paying” for this service begrudgingly.
    Please advise.


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