Boot the gym bag!
July 10, 2012 6:00 AM   Subscribe

What do posh people do, that us mere mortals do not?

I am researching upper class and/or posh and/or well-off 'tells' for Camp Nano August and would like the hive to Chime in with their experiences.

For example, I have noticed two things lately:

1. Well-to-do women never ever put their gym bags on the seats of their cars, all bags and luggage go in the boot. I didn't notice this until a lady next to me was wrangling her kids into their car seats and she was berating them for not putting their stuff in the boot. I never gave a crap before about that sort of thing, but I suppose it makes sense: seats are for sitting, boots are for luggage. Since then, I've noticed most people at my chichi gym do this too.

2. The mayor's wife was on a radio talkshow and she mentioned how people who leave the washing up liquid bottle on the sink/windowsill drove her crazy; that it should always be put back under the sink. She copped a lot of crap for this from listeners, as people said it showed she had delusions of grandeur. Anyway, again it was something that I (typical working class) had never ever thought about. But now it kind of makes sense.

Hivemind, do you have any other 'posh people tells' I can er, 'scrounge', or that you know of?
posted by Chorus to Human Relations (84 answers total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
 
the hardest habit for me to break- so i didn't bother to even though to my surprise it was actually awkward- was drinking stuff straight from the bottle or can (I mean small, one-person bottles, at meetings). apparently you're supposed to pour into a glass first. always felt like i was making a glass dirty needlessly.
posted by saraindc at 6:07 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you were in the UK, you should read the upper class sections of Watching the English (warning: link may have some kind of duck duck go affiliate tag on). I don't know a similar work for the USA though.
posted by curious_yellow at 6:07 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Manicures and pedicures are standard procedure rather than a treat. An un-manicured hand is rarely found among the elite.

Haircuts are a lot more frequent...not when it's shaggy, but instead for routine maintenance.

Clothes are almost exclusively tailored to fit.

I've found that elites (having work in high-end restaurants) often order their food to be cooked less than those who are less well-off. Veggies are crisper, meat is juicier, and when people enter a restaurant and order a two-inch thick well-done steak, it's rarely someone who frequents that type of establishment often.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:07 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've noticed that people who are accustomed to eating at restaurants where one is seated by a host or maƮtre d' can be a bit confused by a more casual dining establishment where one can sit anywhere they like. This doesn't seem to apply at a counter service type place (like a fast food joint or a sandwich shop), but places like diners or whatever with table service but no host.

I assume by your vocabulary you are British, so I should add that this may be strictly a US phenomenon -- I'm not familiar enough with British restaurants to know if that is even a thing over there.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:10 AM on July 10, 2012


I think that both your examples could be attributed to the kinds of people that terribly posh people would call "climbers". The super rich neither do their own washing up nor carry their own bags to the car.
posted by elizardbits at 6:15 AM on July 10, 2012 [23 favorites]


Paul Fussell's Class is an awesome book that explores this. It's more American, but you'll find out some really interesting stuff.

To see what it looks like when lower-class or middle-class people pretend to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, check out The Real Housewives of New York. NONE of these women is elegant or has any class. They do have money though.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:17 AM on July 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, as per your example, it is somewhat rare that anyone from the upper upper classes would berate their children in public, or in fact air almost any personal grievance in public.
posted by elizardbits at 6:25 AM on July 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


In the US, and somewhat related to Rodrigo Lamaitre.

My experience working in the entertainment industry is that the more privileged you are*, the more detailed your food order needs to be. Everything is done slightly different than standard ("extra crispy bacon"), plated differently ("dressing on the side"), and with as many substitutions and additions as they can get away with. Some producers and executives will simply dictate a list of items/ingredients, and good luck if the restaurant actually serves those items.

I once had a studio exec ask me for a nicoise salad when we were ordering Thai.

*Then again, this is a relatively upwardly-mobile industry. Most people starting out in this business are not born with a silver spoon (though this is changing as college tuition goes up and multiple long internships become the norm).
posted by Sara C. at 6:26 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


You never put your utensils down until you are finished eating. You dab rather than wipe your mouth. You don't get up to use the restroom during the meal. You let the man order for you. You never speak to the waiter or waitress. You tell what you want to the man and he will speak to the waiter for you.

You wait for someone to open the door. Really, stand there and wait. Please. The doorman will come.

When the valet brings the car, you wait for him to bring the car right to where you are standing, he will hold the door for you, you put your tush on the seat, swivel and slide your legs closed into the car and let him close the door for you (if you're a girl.)

You never clean or do laundry. Not your house, not your car, nothing. You have people for that.
posted by Yellow at 6:28 AM on July 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


The mayor's wife was on a radio talkshow and she mentioned how people who leave the washing up liquid bottle on the sink/windowsill drove her crazy; that it should always be put back under the sink. She copped a lot of crap for this from listeners, as people said it showed she had delusions of grandeur. Anyway, again it was something that I (typical working class) had never ever thought about. But now it kind of makes sense.

If you're particularly "posh" (and being American, I don't know whether this means "extremely wealthy" or merely "upper middle class"), you probably have someone else to come in and do the cleaning. At most, you would just load the dishwasher. The idea of washing the dishes in the sink would be a fairly rare occurance.

Insofar as the mayor's wife is correct, she's not being "posh" so much as "middle class" in that everything in the house has to look "just right" because, otherwise, "what would the neighbors think?"

Then again, this is a relatively upwardly-mobile industry. Most people starting out in this business are not born with a silver spoon (though this is changing as college tuition goes up and multiple long internships become the norm).

There is a certain amount of middle classness associated with the sort of person who will tell the waitstaff what to do in great detail.

Rodrigo nails a lot of the things correctly-- note that they are all subtle "tells", to the point where the person who notices them the most is going to be the person himself.
posted by deanc at 6:32 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


All the really, really posh people I've met have been distinguished by not giving a toss. They knew they had the breeding, why bother about little people things?
posted by Coobeastie at 6:36 AM on July 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think I may have read this in a excerpt from the book Class (mentioned above), but I'm not certain: the well-to-do never smooth their pants or skirts before sitting down. (The only reason to do that would be to avoid wrinkles, and unlike people with less money, they just have the garment washed and/or pressed before wearing again.)
posted by beyond_pink at 6:42 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, most of the really really rich people I've met (in the US and Europe) have been somewhat casual. They often wear jeans and their clothes aren't obsessively neat, just of good quality. They don't wear flashy clothes with logos / brand names.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:44 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


you put your tush on the seat, swivel and slide your legs closed into the car and let him close the door for you (if you're a girl.)

This is a function of the fact that you wear skirts regularly. Putting your legs into the car one leg at a time risks an upskirt view if you're wearing something that stops above your knees. Getting used to getting in the car in ladylike manner is one of the things I've become aware of as I've started wearing skirts regularly after years of living in jeans.

All the really, really posh people I've met have been distinguished by not giving a toss. They knew they had the breeding, why bother about little people things?

I went to school among the preppies, many of whom were just well off, but a few of whom were very rich. I wouldn't say this was exactly true, because among the preppies there were definitely class markers, but there is definitely an element of lending your grace to whatever activity there was and that making it okay. A lot of what people are describing as US behavior involving restraint, e.g., elizardbits' comment about not berating kids in public, strikes me as pretty WASPy/preppy markers. My experiences are colored by the fact that I grew up Southern/east Texan and the class markers here are slightly different to east coast (US) prep.
posted by immlass at 6:46 AM on July 10, 2012


As immlass and others say, this kind of thing varies a lot from place to place--not just country to country, but even regions, cities and neighborhoods (and across historical eras, etc.).

Since you say 'boot,' I guess you might be writing about Great Britain. What part?
posted by box at 6:53 AM on July 10, 2012


This makes me think of Bill Cunningham. In the documentary about him, one person comments that the only way a person could live and not care about things the way that Bill does is by coming from money.

Which makes sense to me. If you've never wanted for material things, you never want them.
posted by jillithd at 6:53 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I have seen in very wealthy people I have met, is that general cultural knowledge is abundant. Even if the person you are talking to is an incredibly frivolous bubble-head, they will know things about French literature or obscure painters that most people don't. They will also speak at least one extra language with fluency and perfect grammar.

This I would guess is due to their going to extremely good private schools and having private tutors.
posted by Tarumba at 6:56 AM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


My old money rich friends

-- never ate anything with their hands. Even a banana was put on plate, and eaten with a knife and fork.
-- are gracious to people who were less well off, never flaunting their wealth, but only truly relaxed with their old money peers or people they truly trust
-- are very vague about what their family does or where their money came from
-- spend a lot of money to alleviate inconvenience or discomfort. A wealthy friend took the Concord to the UK off-campus program to avoid jet lag, whereas all the "normals" took coach and were bleary for a few days.
posted by hmo at 7:01 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the US: Having clothes dry-cleaned and pressed, even if they are "washable." (I've known people who even have their blue jeans dry-cleaned.)

Having your car hand-washed and detailed regularly, which can be quite expensive if done often.

Haircuts / styles regularly, instead of waiting until it looks so bad you can't stand it anymore.

Having a wine collection in the home, even if it's a small one. (Dozens, rather than, say just a few bottles.)

Side note: the things you mentioned don't really cost anything, even if it is percieved as "posh." For example, I am far from posh, but I usually put everything in the trunk (er, boot) that doesn't need to be in the cabin of the car. Groceries, gym bag, etc. My wife found this very peculiar when we first met, but I explained that it's just much easier to place and remove items from the trunk than from the seats.
posted by The Deej at 7:03 AM on July 10, 2012


All the really, really posh people I've met have been distinguished by not giving a toss. They knew they had the breeding, why bother about little people things?

Ditto. It's long ago enough that I can mention it now – I worked for an elite Monaco firm that dealt in culture [being vague intentionally, don't want to specify here for privacy] over a span of about a year and a half, back when I was still a freelancer (they often needed someone trilingual - French/English/Italian - and with cultural background to replace their regular receptionist). By then I'd lived on the Riviera long enough to know that the really rich people only give very subtle "tells", such as expensive, polished shoes, and clothes that fit well, although when casual that's not always the case.

Once a guy walked in wearing a nondescript polo shirt and khakis (light brown trousers), but had beautiful leather shoes. He also had two cute golden cocker spaniels on his arm. Ever a slave to my love for animals (I grew up with a black and white cocker spaniel best friend), I asked if I could pet them, he let me, and I remarked on how beautiful they were; how they held themselves confidently and calmly. Much more so than my countryside Oregon cocker ever had – he was hyper as all get-out, never stopped moving. As politely and casually as you could imagine, while I scritched the two cockers' ears, the man said, "You're very kind! You've a good eye, they're world champions." It was a genuine compliment (the manager confirmed it later; she was happy about it – yay for liking cute pups, I suppose). I was silently, like, "Ack!!! I'm patting the heads of world champion show dogs?!? Stay cool, stay cool..."

We have a lot of wannabe snoots on the Riviera too, naturally. With them, it's accusatory: I've been snooted down to (by Anglophones, so don't anyone take this as a remark on the French :) ) for having... adopted my... non-pedigree cats. *gasp* Whereas none of the clients in Monaco ever spoke down to me, not even once.

On preview: This I would guess is due to their going to extremely good private schools and having private tutors.

Yes, especially in Europe. Everyone who visited our Monaco offices spoke French, English, and Italian. Many also spoke other languages. All of them with children sent them to private schools and most had tutors.
posted by fraula at 7:03 AM on July 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


You valet park or pay extra for a better parking space where available, justifying the expense as worth it because of how valuable your time is relative to the added cost of time-saving parking.
posted by The World Famous at 7:06 AM on July 10, 2012


never ate anything with their hands. Even a banana was put on plate, and eaten with a knife and fork.

That's right (I've heard it's a wonderful thing to see the Queen eat an orange with a knife and fork); BUT if you have a bread roll with your soup or whatever you must break off pieces with your fingers and put them in your mouth one by one. Never put the whole roll to your mouth and bite.

Oh, and never hand people things at the table. Put them down where they can reach them.
posted by Segundus at 7:09 AM on July 10, 2012


A lot of this stuff is very geographically specific, because its fundamentally pretty arbitrary. I think you're asking from a UK perspective. Both the examples you give I would associate with middle class behaviour, rather than upper class, for the same reasons that have been given elsewhere in this thread.

In the UK vocab matters:

sofa not settee, napkin not serviette, loo not lavatory, sitting room not lounge(unless in a hotel), supper not tea, etc.

Dress also remains important. For a man, suits properly cut, tie of a darker shade than the shirt, half windsor knot (never a full windsor), collar not too cutaway. Brown shoes are not to be worn with a suit. When dressing casually a tendency to go for natural shades, no logos (unless a member of the animal kingdom), and relatively few colours.

Pink shirts and red socks are unaccountable popular (although not at the same time obviously)

Also, in contrast to the convention in other parts of society, never bring a gift when you visit, its something personal like grapes from your own greenhouse. You're expected instead to invite them back.

For the genuinely posh (as opposed to the merely rich), a disdain for ostentation is important. An ancient volvo held together with dog hair is a classic vehicle. Homes that, while tasteful, look like they have accumulated objects over years, rather than being designed to impress an audience. Clothes nice, but never looking like you've put too much effort into your appearance. Self deprecation, with any (overt) bragging frowned upon.

Also break a few of the rules above, so it doesn't look like you care too much about them.
posted by Touchstone at 7:15 AM on July 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Most posh people don't seem posh. They seem rather regular, except with a great deal of ease. Unapologetic and confident about choices for the most part, clothes, food, art, music. Rarely any affectation. Seem almost classless, discreet. A plain, austere shirt that looked like it came from the Gap, except that elusive perfect Gap shirt that you dream about is revealed to be very fancy only by checking the label. Quality over trend.
posted by nanook at 7:20 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


You valet park or pay extra for a better parking space where available, justifying the expense as worth it because of how valuable your time is relative to the added cost of time-saving parking.

It occurs to me that it is only the social climber types who would attempt to justify such a cost. I know rich people who do this, but it isn't because they are more important or valuable than someone else. Rather, they just don't like having to wait for their car. They can afford premium service, so that's what they ask for.

Ah, on preview, Touchstone said it better: "For the genuinely posh (as opposed to the merely rich), a disdain for ostentation is important." The more rich and classy someone is, the less you'd notice. It is not classy to show off.

Also, this phenomenon kills me: "sofa not settee, napkin not serviette, loo not lavatory, sitting room not lounge(unless in a hotel), supper not tea, etc." Given enough time, the "fancy" words switched places with the "vulgar" words. I love it when language does stuff like this!
posted by gjc at 7:22 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


A lot of what people are describing as US behavior involving restraint

Yes, excellent point. The issue here is that you have not specified if you want examples of behavior from people with upper class backgrounds or of wealthy backgrounds. The two are not always congruent. You can be a super tacky billionaire and be the kind of person who is unbearably rude to people in the service industry, for example. That is not upper class, that is some tacky awful shit. But it is unfortunately quite common.
posted by elizardbits at 7:25 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, due to charity events that my family was involved in running, I spent a fair amount of the past couple weeks in the company of people who ranged from "wealthy" to "absurdly wealthy" to "fuck you wealthy." Many of these people have been acquaintances of my family for years, and I've visited several of their homes. Much of what I've read above doesn't sound anything like my experience of them as people AT ALL.

But here's the thing -- these absurdly wealthy people are east coast Americans who mostly jet around between Palm Beach and the Cape and Islands and play lots of golf and sail about on yachts. They're the sort of billionaires who go to garden parties in boat shoes, khakis and polo shirts. Whereas your post leads me to think you're not American and possibly from the UK? Where wealth and class are enacted in a very different way.

So I think that, if you want to research your story more effectively, it would help if you specified where these characters live and what their basic backgrounds are.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:25 AM on July 10, 2012


Table manners are a huge tell. I once though I had pretty good table manners, until eating with an "old money" family. My silverware was the only set I could hear at the table. And until I saw them, I didn't realize how much my head moved when I ate. Of course they never mentioned it, or even seemed to notice.
posted by Classic Diner at 7:28 AM on July 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


My grandmother was once a very posh person in her home country, having come down quite a bit in circumstances by the time I knew her. Here are a few things she did:

Always wore a skirt, silk blouse, silk hosiery and heels. Always, even when going to the drugstore.
Her nails were always painted. If the polish chipped, she did them all over again.
She never saved tea bags to reuse. I remember how baffled I was to see special little plates/cups for this purpose in other peoples' homes.
She never drove, not having ever learned because they always had a driver.
She never baked or did a lot of cooking as grandmas might because she'd always had a cook her whole life.
Never owned any item with a visible logo.
Always had her clothes tailored.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:29 AM on July 10, 2012


I'm also assuming you're UK-based from your language, so you ought to be able to get ahold of Grayson Perry's In The Best Possible Taste. It's a three-episode series aired on Channel Four in which Perry explores the culture of the working class, middle class, and upper class (which touches on the differences between landed gentry and the newly rich). It is exquisite, and covers class differences beautifully.

(Most of the episodes should still be on 4oD, I think.)
posted by kalimac at 7:30 AM on July 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


When acquiring a vase or a desk lamp, for instance, it is expected that the first two or three instances will likely not be quite perfect, and will need to be disposed of.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:37 AM on July 10, 2012


Re valet parking - yeah, if one is really wealthy (especially "from" money as opposed to having pulled oneself up by one's bootstraps) they valet park because not doing so doesn't occur to them. It's not something to be justified.

Re the correct way to eat bread in a restaurant -- I was brought up that breaking off a bit at a time was proper table manners, not a "rich person thing".

Re "the Cape":

I think this is the American equivalent of all that napkin/serviette stuff. Really wealthy people refer to places associated with the wealthy, and any kind of second home, fancy school, or other huge structural status marker in as humble terms as possible. You don't live in a Park Avenue mansion, have a second home in Hyannisport, and send your son to Harvard. You live "on the East side", "have a cottage on the Vineyard", and your son goes to college in Boston.
posted by Sara C. at 7:39 AM on July 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


The rich people I've had as clients tended to nickle-and-dime me FAR more than the other ones. I attribute this to the fact that, as rich people, they cared more about money; and that as a rich person, they saw me (attorney) as a service worker rather than as an expert/professional.
posted by yarly at 7:39 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I once had a studio exec ask me for a nicoise salad when we were ordering Thai....
posted by Sara C.


The salad and the salad dressing were requested to come from two different restaurants. More of a diva than posh exactly. OK, Barbara Streisand.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:45 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The rich people I've had as clients tended to nickle-and-dime me FAR more than the other ones. I attribute this to the fact that, as rich people, they cared more about money; and that as a rich person, they saw me (attorney) as a service worker rather than as an expert/professional.

Or at least, as a peer rather than an untouchable expert/professional. It's also possible miserly people need the services of lawyers more often, skewing the average.
posted by gjc at 7:50 AM on July 10, 2012


I thought of a few more arbitrary UK class rules (tells)

Never button the bottom button of a waistcoat
Only button the middle button of a suit
Upper class men don't wear wedding rings, only the women
Mealtimes are an hour or two later - lunch between 1 and 2pm, dinner between 8 and 9pm
When seating a party for dinner, it is normal to ensure that couples do not sit together.
posted by Touchstone at 7:58 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, I've noticed a tendency to skimp on the oddest things. Whereas my mother, daughter of a railroad worker who was union all his life, would place wooden planters full of lovingly arranged annuals on her parents' and maternal grandparents' graves every year, her cousins, daughters of a major regional newspaper publisher (back when newspapers were still important), would simply pull up the urn at the side of the grave and pick a bouquet of wildflowers from the woods bounding the cemetery.
posted by tully_monster at 8:00 AM on July 10, 2012


I've noticed the same thing about ordering in restaurants, but in Mexico. From what I've seen, the more posh (or posh-wannabe) you are, the more detailed and "important" your order is. The meat must be done just so. There must be X, not the usual Y. And then when the order comes, there is always something wrong with it. It came too soon. It came too late. The X wasn't crispy enough. The Y isn't hot enough. The plate is the wrong shape. Etc. etc. etc.
posted by ceiba at 8:03 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having worked in Fortnum and Masons for years while a student, i thought posh people (even old, old money) did flaunt their wealth quite a bit. It's just that they pretended it wasn't flaunting even as they ordered their wildly expensive business cards with their title on them. They did use different banks, though. That was the first time I saw a lot of Coutts credit cards (with their titles on, too). In fact, the services and merchants they used (wine merchants, tailors, jewellers) were frequently not ones I'd ever heard of before.

I've worked alongside a few as well and they do say things like 'I've no idea why he was so upset! It was only a starter Porsche!' Really, really rich people are often very cheap, but in my experience they frequently also have no idea of how much regular folk earn. They have a vague sense that it's less than they have, but they think that means you'd love this up and coming hat maker whose creations are only 500 pounds. A friend went on a double date where, due to a misunderstanding down to my friend's politeness, the conversation turned to how one could hunt for a reasonable cost, because the other three could imagine that yes, you might not have as much money as them, but this meant that you could still hunt surely. You might just not do it at the high end.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:06 AM on July 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


Oh, yeah, that reminds me of a really annoying man I encountered one summer in Aspen (where my husband sometimes goes for physics workshops). We had dinner one night in a little Italian bistro, and the only other people there were this older man in his fifties and his wife. He demanded to speak to the chef and told him that the pasta was not cooked properly. "I have traveled all over Italy," he proclaimed, "and I know how pasta should be cooked!" And then proceeded to offer to teach the chef, who *was* Italian and no doubt knew the proper way to cook pasta quite well, how to do the job he had trained for. I think he was just angling for a free dessert. Which he got.
posted by tully_monster at 8:13 AM on July 10, 2012


A truly upper class person would know that the chef doesn't prepare the pasta.
posted by Sara C. at 8:16 AM on July 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


A truly upper class person would not address the help!
posted by elizardbits at 8:30 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hand-written thank you notes. Always. On engraved stationery specifically intended for that purpose. (Again, talking about US-based old money here.)
posted by neroli at 8:32 AM on July 10, 2012


From the perspective of a tradesperson working in the (US) homes of the fabulously well-to-do: the job you did is always great, however they have a list of a few additional things they'd like you to do for them (this list will include fixing any problems they had with the original work, but these will never be directly called out as problems.) The only way to discover if they were really happy with your work is to wait and see if they call you next time.
posted by contraption at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


A speaker whose name I can't remember gave this odd breakdown of class:

In relation to going to someone's house for a meal that has been prepared by the host(s), this is what will be queried of you after/during the meal:

"Poor" - Did you get enough to eat?
"Middle Class" - Does it taste good?
"Upper/Posh" - How does it look?
posted by kuanes at 8:42 AM on July 10, 2012 [22 favorites]


Upper-class people ask for things - not in a douchey or pushy way, usually; being an asshole is for climbers - but they know what they want and insist on it.

I've always thought that's one of the (many) ways privilege and power carries from generation to generation; given equal qualifications, skills, etc. someone from an upper-class background will achieve more in part because they simply ask for stuff, while the rest of us don't want to be a bother.
posted by downing street memo at 8:42 AM on July 10, 2012 [21 favorites]


Although it's US-centric, another useful film might be the documentary "Born Rich," which uses interviews to explore the experience of growing up as an heir to a huge fortune.
posted by unsub at 8:45 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not about the stores you shop at; it's about the people you know who work there and 'know' you back. For example, if you just drop in at Barney's it's, meh, not so posh. But if Barney's calls you to let you know that Frederico is back for two days and we would love it if you would stop by—posh.
posted by carsonb at 8:46 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many posh folks expect to have rules bent for them, particularly in commerce. See, for example, Hermes' version of the famous incident where Oprah was not allowed to shop in Hermes' Paris boutique after closing time.
posted by The World Famous at 8:48 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also in the trades working for people from upper middle class to "they named this landmark/street/civic center what have you after my grandfather" rich.

The lower you go down the ladder the more suspicious/resentful they get about the costs. Often while trying to impress you with their plethora of material gain.

Our business has had some clients for decades and have never seen them, only their "people."
posted by Max Power at 8:50 AM on July 10, 2012


I know several wealthy people who go out to dinner at their private club, rather than at a normal restaurant, not because the food or service are better, but because they gain social standing within their network by associating primarily with people at the club.
posted by The World Famous at 8:55 AM on July 10, 2012


in my experience they frequently also have no idea of how much regular folk earn. They have a vague sense that it's less than they have...

Although my experience is with Americans, and more "very upper middle class" than "insanely extremely loaded" ones, I think this is a very good observation. Sometimes even when they themselves are involved in paying you, they have no concept of how much or how little that money can buy.

I've also noticed that very rich people lack, how should I put this, any fear or embarrassment that they've been taken for a total sucker when they shop. I'm not talking about buying items that are crazy expensive because they're rare or the very best quality. I mean buying overpriced items from the "it" store that they either don't know or don't care could be found for 1/20th of the price at a different, less fancy store.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:59 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


When a working class couple travel by car with another couple, the men go in the front and the women go in the back.

When a middle class couple travel by car with another couple, the driver and his wife sit in the front and the other couple sit in the back.

When an upper class couple travel by car with another couple, the driver sits next to the other man's wife, while his wife will sit in the back.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:10 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


in my experience they frequently also have no idea of how much regular folk earn.

In my experience and observation, this is closely related to them having an extremely inflated sense of how much money they deserve to make and have and how valuable they believe their own time and work are relative to that of other people.
posted by The World Famous at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2012


I've also noticed that very rich people lack, how should I put this, any fear or embarrassment that they've been taken for a total sucker when they shop.

It's not that they're unaware, it's that they don't think they should feel fear or embarrassment about this. The alternative is bargain shopping or haggling. Spending time to save money is a chore comparable to coupon clipping. It's the large investments that need careful research and consideration, not the $3000 dress.
posted by chundo at 9:44 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


previously
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:02 AM on July 10, 2012


The alternative is bargain shopping or haggling. Spending time to save money is a chore comparable to coupon clipping. It's the large investments that need careful research and consideration, not the $3000 dress.

Maybe to some, but in my experience it's just that their range of "acceptable" shopping options is smaller - because there are many stores they wouldn't even consider going into - and because people in their circle will applaud them for buying a $150 cotton scarf at Terrain because it's Terrain and not think it's funny they bought that instead of the $15 identical cotton scarf at H & M. The people who would see that as funny are invisible to them. The effort they put into finding out about, going to, and talking about Terrain is far greater than the effort it would have taken them to notice that there are cheaper scarves. Of course $150 is pocket change to rich people, but the point is that $20 may be pocket change to most of us but we still wouldn't buy a $20 pack of gum. (At least I wouldn't.) Despite reading a lot about how people supposedly get/stay rich by being cheap, I have only ever personally witnessed in them an almost comical disregard to spending (or even losing) money. Like it could be falling out of their bag and they wouldn't want to be seen turning around to pick it up. Or they wouldn't be bothered, because after all there's more where that came from! That's a major difference to me between mundane affluence and seriously loaded. And also, in my experience the larger purchases don't get that much more consideration - see repeatedly buying your kids luxury cars to replace the ones they crash into trees, etc.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:31 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read somewhere that the elite always have a place to travel for leisure and not have to spend money on hotels because they always know a friend that has a furnished, possibly staffed, vacation home, chalet or flat in the area that they can use.
posted by spec80 at 10:34 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing I've noticed about posh people is the extraordinary amount of rules they need to follow in order to appear posh. And it's not just about manners or politeness. Take dining for example. Lower middle class or poor people generally have one course per meal - maybe two if there's dessert. But it's usually all on one plate, and they usually use one utensil (maybe two if something needs cutting).

But the higher up the ladder one goes, the more courses there are and the more utensils there are to eat them. And the rules! Where do you put your napkin? Where do you put your knife when you're done cutting? Even how to dip your spoon in the soup properly. Posh people grow up with these rules and they breeze through these meals with no problem at all. But if one is climbing the ladder, then it can leave them nonplussed.
posted by patheral at 10:34 AM on July 10, 2012


Note to self: never post an ask during lunch, when you can't respond until you get home...

I should have initially said that I'm viewing this from Ireland's posh people - which would probably be quite different from say US old money and UK almost-royals. But, I figured things like all baggage goes in the boot (trunk!) and the washing up liquid under the sink might be pretty universal to posh people the world over.

Great recommendations on further stuff to watch/read, I'll definitely be checking them out. And the anecdotes are great, I'm just sorry I didn't specify the Irish slant sooner
posted by Chorus at 10:35 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can leave the soap out, but only if it is in a nice refillable container -- glass or ceramic or metal -- not from the store.
posted by jeather at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2012


My decidedly posh grandmother (read: American Old Money) once told me "you don't thank the help!" after an appalling incident where I told the waiter who'd filled my water thank you. My vague impression is that the help's job is to be inconspicuously efficient, and so you deliberately don't acknowledge their activities, but maybe I 'read' that wrong.
posted by Ys at 10:40 AM on July 10, 2012


I read somewhere that the elite always have a place to travel for leisure and not have to spend money on hotels because they always know a friend that has a furnished, possibly staffed, vacation home, chalet or flat in the area that they can use.

This was discussed a lot in the first year or two of Obama's presidency. Lots of complaints about his spending sprees on vacations to expensive hotels and resorts and all that, when Bush never did that! But Bush went to his sprawling ranch and his family's "compound" at Kennebunkport Maine which both cost a fortune to own and operate, but where money doesn't visibly change hands.
posted by headnsouth at 11:25 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I figured things like all baggage goes in the boot (trunk!) and the washing up liquid under the sink might be pretty universal to posh people the world over.

The really fancy US rich people I know (people whose names are on universities, people who have paranoid schizophrenics fantasizing on the Internet about whether or not they are lizard aliens, people whose names are in popular songs as a synonym for "rich") have no idea where the dish soap is in their kitchens, because they're not responsible for doing their own dishes.

Except when they're at their family compounds, maybe. On the other hand, when I have stayed at family compounds, what you do is you leave the dishes in the sink and someone from the compound staff comes in the morning and does them while you're off riding horses or at the beach or whatever (in my case, organizing the fundraising charity cocktail party scheduled for that evening, because I have only ever spent time at ritzy family compounds in order to help with the fundraisers they were hosting--those aren't the circles I run in!)

There is an upper level of money in the US where the everyday details of life just become invisible, because the staff takes care of them. There was a famous incident during the elder George Bush's presidential campaign where he didn't know how to use the check-out aisle in a supermarket. That's what life is like for super-rich people. There's a great poem by Francis Ponge about how sad it must be to be a king, because then you'll never know the pleasure of opening a door for yourself. It's like that.

On the other hand, all the ordinary multi-millionaires (tech folks, advertising people) I know in New York keep their dish soap on the sink, even when they leave the dishes for their cleaner. But those are middle-class people who have made a ton of money, not people who grew up in the world of the 1% of the 1%.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:59 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of the things about old money people in the US is that they all built vacation compounds because of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. Before that, many super-rich people vacationed at fancy seaside or mountain hotels just like regular rich people. After the Lindbergh kidnapping, secure vacation compounds became the fad.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:01 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


There was a famous incident during the elder George Bush's presidential campaign where he didn't know how to use the check-out aisle in a supermarket.

Not to blunt your larger (and mostly correct) point, but this didn't happen the way everyone remembers it.
posted by downing street memo at 12:02 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


There was a famous incident during the elder George Bush's presidential campaign where he didn't know how to use the check-out aisle in a supermarket.

Or the story I read about how Prince Charles had never put toothpaste on a toothbrush, it was always done for him.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:03 PM on July 10, 2012


I'm not truly rich, but I do ok for myself, and I spend a lot of time with people ranging from upper middle class to quite wealthy, as friends and peers (not customers or clients). I agree with a lot of the posts here, but I do think there's a tendency to seriously overestimate how much people with a lot of money care about things like what others think of where they bought their t-shirt. It comes up every time this topic is discussed.

Overall, I think brand-consciousness and cost-consciousness are much more prevalent outside wealthy groups. To most people it seems astonishing that someone would, for example, spend $150 on a cotton scarf, so it's easy to think that it must in some way be a big deal to the purchaser also. Obviously they bought it to impress their friends, or because they're snobby and have to have the right label or whatever. But that's really not my experience at all. Frankly, even for me, spending $150 or $200 on an article of clothing simply isn't that big of a deal. There's not a lot of thought that goes into it. Do I like it? Does it fit? Ok, buy it. I'm not going to waste time thinking about whether I can save $50 or $100 by driving across town to maybe find something similar somewhere else. What my friends think doesn't even come into play. I shop at the more expensive stores because I think the shopping experience is better (better selection of stuff I like, more helpful staff, more organized displays, etc.), and once I find something I want, it's not worth the savings to try to find an equivalent elsewhere.

Ascribing motivations to other people is tricky business...
posted by primethyme at 12:07 PM on July 10, 2012 [20 favorites]


primethyme, my experience is that people in the US ultra-rich old money groups buy at a certain set of stores from a certain set of labels because That's What You Do. You get the Belgian Shoes if you want loafers, you don't go shopping around for whatever. If you need new sheets, you call Pratesi or send your assistant over. When you needed new stationery, you called Mrs. John L. Strong and had them run up some more from your die (I have no idea where these people get stationery now). Having standard orders with a few luxury suppliers, rather than shopping for the newest and hottest (let alone bargains) was the modus operandi because, yeah, it wasn't about impressing others, it was just about having life move along smoothly.

So from the outside, those labels look like status symbols. From the inside, they're as ordinary to the ultra-rich old money folks as Target or Walmart are to the majority of people in the US.

downing street memo, thanks for the reality check on the supermarket story. I hadn't realized it was a grocery industry event, and that the elder Bush was being shown some actually new technology.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:21 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if anything I could see the Mayor's wife (and other people who are rich, but not like, university namesake rich) being annoyed with the help because she'd prefer that they put the dish soap away after the dishes were done. Not that she preferred to keep her own dish soap under the sink when she, herself, was not using it.

This is exactly the sort of petty, diva-ish complaint I've heard from the rich people I know via work.
posted by Sara C. at 12:23 PM on July 10, 2012


Old money wouldn't appreciate being described as "posh" (though they certainly wouldn't discuss something like that). "Posh" is for new-money social climbers aping the mannerisms of the upper class but without the breeding.

In North America, a big class tell is how you use your knife and fork. Holding the knife in your right hand to cut your food then switching your fork to your right hand to eat is perceived as not as cultured, as is holding your non-active hand in your lap while you eat.

Being physically graceful is often a class sign -- not fidgeting; having good posture; sitting with legs crossed and angled to the side (for women); knowing how to dance (in North America, you may have learned how in Cotillion class).
posted by atropos at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think the bags going in the boot thing is necessarily posh. Maybe it just depends where you live, but a visible bag presents temptation for someone smashing a window and grabbing whatever they can lay their hands on. There may be something valuable in the bag or not, but the risk of getting caught is pretty low and at least there's definitely something there versus the case of the car where everything is hidden away in the boot.
posted by juv3nal at 4:17 PM on July 10, 2012


Hand-written thank you notes. Always. On engraved stationery specifically intended for that purpose. (Again, talking about US-based old money here.)
posted by neroli at 11:32 AM on July 10 [+] [!]


My embarassingly wealthy grandmother would be perplexed if her thank you notes seemed to be specifically for that purpose. They were folded cards of some sort of fancy fancy paper. I once used some hard earned money to buy a cheap box of cards pre printed with Thank You on the front. She made me throw them away and said notebook paper would be better than anything that suggested I'd be so lazy as to not write my own appreciation.

So, I buy a cute box of blank inside cards and use them to write 'thinking of you' notes, as well as thank you notes. Sometimes I use cards that seem bizarre, like a batch of insane sock monkeys I'm working through.

But yes, always a thank you note, no matter how late.
posted by bilabial at 5:04 PM on July 10, 2012


A speaker whose name I can't remember gave this odd breakdown of class:

In relation to going to someone's house for a meal that has been prepared by the host(s), this is what will be queried of you after/during the meal:

"Poor" - Did you get enough to eat?
"Middle Class" - Does it taste good?
"Upper/Posh" - How does it look?


This sounds like it came from Ruby Payne, who has some interesting work on what she calls the "Hidden Rules of Economic Class" (*links to a Word Document*). They sound a little simplistic to some, but I actually teach these in a class I facilitate for low-income families and it leads to some really great discussions and insights.
posted by nuclear_soup at 6:35 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil: ultra-rich old money groups buy at a certain set of stores
Dorothy Sayers had this down long ago. From Murder Must Advertise: "[We] do not-consider the brand to be the guarantee of quality. For us, the quality guarantees the brand."

I'm old and my experience is out of date, but the dismissive use of the word "help" in some of the above comments suggests the deathly touch of the nouveau riche to me (or the help themselves feeling under appreciated, perhaps). The people I knew with servants appreciated them (they may not have known what they did exactly, but they liked not having to worry about such things); after all they lived with them and were seen by them at their more vulnerable moments.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 7:22 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding food orders:

Menu Ingredients

(sorry for the crappy resolution; this was the best I could find)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:40 PM on July 10, 2012


In North America, a big class tell is how you use your knife and fork. Holding the knife in your right hand to cut your food then switching your fork to your right hand to eat is perceived as not as cultured, as is holding your non-active hand in your lap while you eat.

These are Canadian manners (and British, and, I would guess, French), not U.S. manners, right? Or have I been doing it wrong?
posted by agog at 11:42 PM on July 10, 2012


My father-in-law was best friends from college with a now-deceased married to old-money famed conservative writer/boating enthusiast, and our family spent many weekend summers with Bill and Pat at their estate in CT. It was a different (but lovely) world.

From my experience, the super wealthy, old-school American/Canadian rich referred to the yacht as the boat and to Yale as "school in Connecticut."

During visits, they left visitors to their own devices for much of the day. You had the staff get you breakfast (one never saw Pat or Bill in the kitchen making coffee in the morning), and the staff would tell you that the lady of the house said lunch was at 1 on the veranda. You were expected to entertain yourself throughout the day, meet for lunch, entertain yourself some more, then were told that cocktails would be at 7 in the library with dinner to follow. At dinner they would ask if you had a pleasant day (even though we were all in the same house).

They always assumed that everyone knew everyone else. If I referred to my friend, Eric Lee, they would ask if he was from the Portland Lees (somehow it was always just assumed that everyone knew everyone else from family and/or school connections). It seemed almost beyond their comprehension that there could be a Lee whose family they didn't know.

They were incredibly gracious but a little wacky. For example, I was packing up the car after a weekend, and Pat (who I had not seen all morning) came running down the gravel driveway, peeked into my car and said, "Oh, we must clean this up first," and started grabbing straw wrappers and other detritus, making a little handful of paper. She then ran back up the driveway and returned with "food for the road" which consisted of 3 single glass bottles of tonic water (Schweppe's, naturally) and a small box of soda crackers, very pleased with herself for detailing my car and packing my lunch.
posted by kinetic at 3:40 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're doing this for the UK the tells are going to be waaaaay different then the US but I've noticed one thing is pretty common among among the upper class sets is how they talk. Not accent, but complete, reflexive, unthinking confidence and assurance that they would be listened too, of course they would be listened too, not being listened too as a concept does not exist.

Once you start to hear it it really sieves out who is slumming in the room or who is terrified they'll be kicked out.
posted by The Whelk at 3:55 AM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Been spending time with middle east money. Tells: getting a private car from the airplane (they pick you up directly from the plane) to a special lounge with your own personal concierge. No visible immigration or customs.

Your personal driver and car

Clothes brought to your house for shopping

In palace movie theatre, concerts etc

Personal concert from big artists (audience size 50-100)

Private helicopter hobby/lift to airport

Private jet

In some countries royal family will have what is effectively a separate airport only for family members and guests

In sum, a seperate customized world that most people are never invited into and are not aware of.
posted by zia at 4:05 AM on July 11, 2012


Ps dishes not an issue as some one does them as soon as they are dirty.

Never having a warm drink - it is changed afer 5 min, so almost never empty.
posted by zia at 4:08 AM on July 11, 2012


A lot of the comments here relate more to my experience in Dublin:

In Ireland, if a posh man played a sport in school it's often rugby.
They often have played tennis and had tennis lessons
Their winter holidays are often in ski resorts
They are never, ever to be referred to as tourists wherever they go. They are travellers
They sometimes have a British accent or something close to it
They like to boast about how little they pay their au pairs - paying less than others is a point of pride. This is not true of all staff they hire; it seems a specific child care thing.
They do not drink in city centre pubs. Or if they do, they're bars that are parts of (expensive) hotels.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:34 PM on July 11, 2012


Agog -- you're totally right! I didn't realize until I did some research that in the US it's perfectly fine, or even preferred, to use the American/zig-zag method. Serves me right for relying on experience with stuffy New Englanders to talk about US table manners!
posted by atropos at 1:52 PM on July 11, 2012


The richest guy I know, the one with the trust fund and the near-billionaire father, is always telling me that he's crazy-busy.

And he really, really means it.

Only his definition of crazy-busy means he's barely being able to fit in his regular workout because he must pick up his son from his sailing lesson and make arrangements with the nanny for weekend coverage before he and wife catch a flight to S.F., from which they're headed to Napa for a charity dinner.

In other words, he's "crazy-busy" by choice, not by obligation.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:09 AM on July 15, 2012


« Older Stop me from eating all the things   |   Attorney client privilege in the movies Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.