Cultural Caviar

A Manners Guide for the Nouveau Riche

July 26, 2011

Multiple Pages
A Manners Guide for the Nouveau Riche

Last week I found myself in Ibiza, where the car of choice is an economical mini-class SEAT Ibiza or its rental equivalent. When I saw a Rolls-Royce, I wanted to shout from my window, “Go back to St. Tropez, dum-dum—we don’t want your kind here!” Geez, don’t you get it? Throwing money around like you have the power to make it rain in the desert is offensive. Furthermore, people who’ll pay 100 Euros for something that’s only worth 40 are jacking up prices and making things that were once affordable totally out of reach for the reasonably well-off.

Money doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, and the only culture you can buy comes in a yogurt cup. Since the nouveau riche obviously need guidance, here’s a bit of culture for those who are just getting in the game:

Drive a normal car painted a normal color.
It’s cooler to be super-rich and drive an average car than to let everyone know you’re super-rich because you can afford the sort of flashy car that screams, “Look at me—I’m so cool I don’t go anywhere without my three Aston Martins!” Dude, you’re not James Bond, so don’t take your cars with you on holiday. Who you are is not tied to the car you drive. Only teenagers and insecure people hate to be seen in a crappy rental.

“Since the nouveau riche obviously need guidance, here’s a bit of culture for those who are just getting in the game.”

Get a decent watch.
Sure, an expensive watch is cool, but a guy who wears a plain old Rolex or a Swatch is way sexier than a guy wearing a watch so big he forms muscles every time he answers his cell phone. Since you’re so flush with cash, commission a clock tower like the one in the Piazza San Marco instead. But because you’ve probably never heard of the Republic of Venice, hire a professor to lecture you on history for a few hours per week. You’ll feel so clever afterward you might not need a new watch that day.

Ditch the Jeroboam.
Nobody wants to see your ugly hairy ass drinking straight from the bottle like a big baby. Whether you’re 16 or 36, you look gay and obnoxious near a bottle that big. Maybe you think obnoxious is cool, but it isn’t. Clearly you stopped drinking from the trough last week, so unless it’s beer, drink from a glass.

Servants are not slaves.
Don’t treat waiters, maids, and any other type of person in service like they’re subhuman. Only Neanderthal arrivistes with zero self-control scream and treat their staff like crap. A noble soul has respect for others, particularly those who serve. You don’t need to eat dinner with your maid to treat her as an equal. Be firm but kind and you’ll have a lifelong employee.

Lose the logo.
Merely because you can afford to buy everything Gucci, Versace, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton doesn’t mean you should pile it all on at once. Nothing says, “I got rich last week and have no clue and no class” like a person covered in exposed labels. Rocking the most expensive Birkin bag doesn’t stand for elegance anymore. Understated elegance is the only kind, so learn your fashion Ps and Qs from the French or the English, not the Russians.

Get off your phone.
Just because you are rich and powerful in some circles—or you want to appear that way because your daddy is—doesn’t mean you always need to be on the telephone like you’re making an important deal. If you are at the table or someone’s guest, have the courtesy to be present and pleasant. A lack of basic manners is a dead giveaway to your newly acquired wealth and won’t earn you any brownie points among les nouveaux pauvres. They’ll be waiting in the shadows on your way back down, ready to pounce.

Dump the diamante.
Which tacky individual took rhinestones and gave them a new name? Jewel-encrusted phone covers, iPad cases, sunglasses, and other paraphernalia are for teenage girls. You do not need to be surrounded by sequins or those ghastly Swarovski crystals at all times. Diamante does not make you look better, richer, or more important. It makes you look like a walking disco ball. If you need more glitter in your life, there is something wrong with you. The money would be better spent on a good shrink.

Bigger is not better.
Just because you can afford an enormous belt buckle or a mega yacht doesn’t mean you’ll have more friends because of them. No one but your wife or girlfriend should ever be forced to think of your penis size.

No white allowed.
White shoes, white cars, white suits, and white leather are huge no-nos. The maximum allowable is a white shirt, but only after 6pm and make sure the collar isn’t extra-large and don’t go overboard with the buttons. When it comes to fashion, practice white flight. Don’t be trendy. For a man, classic is always the way to go.

Learn how to hold a knife and fork.
Forks and knives should not be held like writing instruments.

For a complete guide to appropriate table manners and general etiquette, please email


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