Modern etiquette: Umbrellas, backpacks and selfie sticks


In a perfect world, safety and good manners run a parallel course. Yet that is not today's reality, especially when it comes to umbrellas, backpacks and selfie sticks.

Consider the concept of private public space and you'll get the idea. We might be in public, yet it's important to remain cognizant of those around us. Often the people around us end up being victims of unthinking harm. Harm hurts. Few scenarios bring out the pain potential more than travel does.

Let's take umbrellas. There is a difference between navigating a rainstorm and a medieval jousting match. I live in Seattle and have just returned from London, so I know about rain. In the spirit of preventing mishaps, here are some umbrella etiquette tips:

  1. Carry umbrellas close to the body, point down, when they are closed.

  2. When unfurling an umbrella, be sure to look in all directions to avoid spearing anyone with its points or spokes.

  3. Hold an opened umbrella low or high enough so you don't block anyone's vision or poke someone in the eye. When passing, someone needs to raise the umbrella or move it aside. The polite person is the one to do this. Contentious challenges serve nobody.

  4. When two people are sharing an umbrella, let the taller person wield it. Worry less about chivalry in deference to visibility, safety and comfort.

  5. Shake out the umbrella (being careful not to drench anyone nearby) before you enter a building. Floor puddles are messy and potentially dangerous.

  6. Keep umbrellas furled when not in use. Unfurled, they easily snag garments, as well as get tangled in coats in the closet.

Next, let's consider backpacks. They can make a big impression -- not to mention a painful one -- if they whack you on the back of the head or shoulder.

This happens most often on public transportation, again, a private-public space scenario. As useful as they are by distributing weight relatively evenly and leaving our hands free, they take up a lot of space nonetheless. Space behind us and therefore out of sight. I don't own a backpack, yet I do share some safety observations:

  1. Carry the backpack by its handle when on a bus, underground, and boarding a plane. That will prevent someone's head from being smashed. It also will go a long way to diminish nasty thoughts and comments about your lack of consideration. Travel is potentially unpleasant enough; why make it more so?

  2. Put your backpack between your legs on the ground when on a bus or underground. That way you can keep an eye on your possessions as well as limit inconvenience to others.

I also do not own a selfie stick, yet I have been punished by one recently, when an enthusiastic couple decided to photograph themselves in front of Marble Arch. Getting whacked in the head is not fun.

Keep in mind that:

  1. Selfie sticks are least intrusive when hordes of other people are not traversing the same terrain. Look around, and even ask oncoming individuals if they mind the momentary inconvenience. Chances are they will not mind, and you will get a better picture in the long run.

  2. Selfie sticks can do damage to property as well as people. Be careful to consider the foreground as well as the background of what you are shooting.

If you follow these simple guidelines, your umbrella, your backpack, your selfie stick and you should be welcome wherever you go.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

I could go a lot further on selfie sticks, but my comments would mostly be demeaning about their users. Selfie? Talk about narcissism! Give your camera or cell phone to someone else, and ask them to take your picture! When I see this kind of behavior in Japan, I offer to take that camera or cellphone from the abuser and take a decent photo of them. But I'm just a photographer, not a self-loving idiot.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

I'm just a photographer, not a self-loving idiot.

Westerners have a strong tendency to "self-enhance" linguistically ( by concentrating on their good points and the bad points of others, as in your statement above, and Japanese have a tendency to be visually, but not linguistically narcissistic, according to the self-loving genius that I am, you idiot!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I hate backpacks. They should be banned from crowded areas and public transport as the wearer has no concept of how much space they are taking up or how many people they are hitting. There is a reason why many museums and shops insist you remove them. You are also asking for your stuff to be nicked if you wear one in a touristy crowded place, thieves just slash the backpack with a blade and go off with your valuables. Many public spaces are banning selfish sticks, I'm pleased to say. I'd like to add escalator etiquette to the list. There are many tourists who stand on the wrong side, and when they get the top just stand there, slack jawed, completely oblivious to the people behind them trying to get off.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

You can wear the backpack in front, if in crowded transport, to avoid hitting people. If you don't mind looking stupid.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I never see anyone in Japan wear backpacks in front or remove their backpacks on the train. It's quite annoying trying to navigate through the sea of people wearing them and I usually just plow through the inconsiderates. Salarymen and oyaji wearing suits and sporting backpacks is kimoi, man. Backpacks are for outdoor leisure activities, not for work or for going on a date.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

The selfie stick: The perfect invention for the society-shy person who's afraid to ask somebody to take a photo of them! It always looks utterly re-tarded when somebody uses a selfie-stick.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This article had zero value.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Get a wind-proof umbrella.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This article had zero value


0 ( +1 / -1 )

There's a special spot reserved in hell for people wearing backpacks. As someone who is on the shorter side of life, a lot of these ugly things end in my face. The only pleasure I get from backpacks is pulling hard on them when I'm about to leave the underground and watch their owners sink to their knees.

Seriously, if you're not on the way to a mountain expedition, forget about these things or at least remember that you're carrying your household on your back.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Was someone actually paid to write this list of statements of the bleeding obvious? Talk about money for old rope!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Etiquette in general is becoming rarer every day almost everywhere.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Logic Question:

If one wears a back pack on the back or front, does it some how magically change the volume of the back pack to become smaller when worn in the front?

I do not think so.

Here is the situation when you wear it on the front. It forces you to take a step back from the straps equivalent to the volume of the back pack, so it is not slapping the person sitting in front of you in the face.

My backpack is my purse, laptop holder, etc. You do not have a right to take it away from me.

Get a life and complain about other stuff such as your breath, greasy smelling jiji hair tonic etc.

Thank you.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Wearing/carrying babies/luggage strapped to your chest ...must be an obvious way to take better care of it...both for safety of baggage...and safety of unseen others who are out of sight...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Too bad smoking in restaurants is still not considered to be bad manners in Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites