Winston Aldworth offers tips to everyday folk on how to fit in when receiving high-end service.

It may happen just once in a lifetime: a crazy random upgrade, a rare invitation to a silver-service restaurant, a night in a five-star resort.

Perhaps it's a symptom of our largely egalitarian society, but New Zealanders aren't great at receiving luxury service. But just because you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth doesn't mean you shouldn't know how to navigate your way around the cutlery.

Playing the part can make the experience all the more fun.


Here are some tips for luxury debutants:

Take advantage

For some, luxury living is an everyday affair. But that's not me and you — so accept that glass of champagne (no matter what the time of day), make a point of flopping down poolside; try the caviar.

Make an entrance

Remember when Harry and Meghan strode to their fancy sportscar to head for their wedding reception? That's the effect you're looking for.

Act like you belong there

Adam Partridge, etiquette expert and spokesman for Debrett's, which has just published the A to Z of Modern Manners says it's important to relax. "While you might be overwhelmed by the grandeur or the formality of your surroundings, you won't be able to enjoy them as much if you're constantly on edge that you're using the wrong cutlery or feel uncomfortable with all the pampering."

Give thanks

Don't be over-zealous in your gratitude. Say "thank you", but let the professionals who are serving you do their job without feeling the need to chirrup every time they adjust a place-setting.

Know your napkin

Let the staff put your napkin in your lap and, if you have to leave the table, place the napkin on the back of your chair. When you've finished altogether and it's time to leave the restaurant, drop the napkin on the table.

Ask away

Don't be afraid to ask for things — the staff are there to serve and make you happy.

Hold your horses

Wait until everyone has their food before starting. This one's actually a basic courtesy that should apply whether you're at the local RSA or The Ritz.


Top tips

"Bring pocket change," says Partridge. "While some cultures, such as the Japanese, don't tip even for luxury service, in most places tipping is highly appreciated."

Picture this

Don't take too many photos but do get one — after all, this is a rare and special occasion. Just try to be cool about it.

"For those staying at a 5-star hotel for the first time, it's very tempting to start taking photos of your plush surroundings on arrival," says Partridge. "But why not act like you've been there before and they'll see you again soon?"

No right turn

If you're seated in the plane's premium cabin, make a point of turning left once you've boarded the plane. It's kind of hilarious when Business Class newbies take a wrong turn.

Look smart

Flying in premium cabins isn't all bow ties and curtseys, but it's worth putting a touch more effort into your appearance. You'll feel better for it. A reasonable shirt, and for goodness sake Kiwi men: no Jandals.

"Many venues, be they restaurant, hotel, event space or members' club, have dress codes which can include no jeans, shorts, miniskirts or trainers," says Partridge. "Make sure to pack items to ensure you'll look the part: for men, a blazer, collared shirt, chinos and leather shoes; for women: a dress, or skirt with a modest hemline, a blouse or non-revealing top, and smart shoes."



Know which way around the cutlery goes but don't get stressed about it. As a rule, you start with the cutlery on the outside and work your way in towards the plate. But most high-end restaurants these days will clear your cutlery and present new tools for each course.

Ignore the helicopters

Properly rich people don't actually hear helicopters, so familiar are they with the clattering noise ofother properly rich people landing on the restaurant lawn or arriving for a round of golf.

Don't test the wine

The sommelier will offer to pour a splash of wine once the bottle is opened — the idea being that whoever ordered the wine will have a taste to check whether it's corked. The good news is that in this age of screw-top bottles, there's no corked wine, so be cool and gesture for the wine to be poured for your fellow diners.

Be polite

They're service staff, not servants.