50+ Social Norms That You Must Know

50+ Social Norms that you should know to survive in different social situations



“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions.”


― Albert Einstein



If you receive a compliment or a present, you usually say “thank you.” You also say “excuse me” or “sorry” if you bump into someone. Moreover, you don’t talk when your mouth is full.


You’ve probably learned and practiced these social norms since you were very young and have immediately understood when and how to follow them.


Social norms, also known as social rules, are unwritten sets or patterns of behaviors expected to be followed by every individual as a member of society. In other words, it is what and how you are expected to behave in different social situations. Norms give us expectations for how we should act and help keep society in order. But some people don’t pick up social rules or cues that most likely put them in awkward situations.


If you are one of those who commonly find themselves stuck in awkward social situations, don’t fret, as I’ve listed some of the social norms that you should know to be able to respond accordingly in different social settings.




When you are in the public


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  1. Always open the door for the person coming behind you. It doesn’t matter if it is a guy or a girl, senior or junior. You don’t grow small by treating someone well in public;
  2. Treat the cleaner with the same respect as the CEO. Nobody is impressed at how rude you can treat someone below you, but people will notice if you treat them with respect;
  3. Don’t walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk.
  4. Don’t talk or have an animated conversation with yourself in public.
  5. Look where you are heading to avoid bumping into anyone.
  6. Saying ‘hello’ is a friendly act, but saying ‘hello to every stranger you meet is annoying and might be uncomfortable for them.
  7. When people ask you how you are doing, don’t tell them about your whole day.
  8. Wear decent clothes and put them on the right.
  9. Take your hat, coat, and gloves off if you are inside.
  10. Respect other people’s personal space.
  11. Take your shoes off when visiting a friend or relative’s house unless they tell you not to.
  12. Talk clearly and loud enough to hear for the person you’re talking to.
  13. Don’t talk as if you are yelling that almost everybody could hear you.
  14. Don’t cut in line. Respect other people who are taking their time falling in line until their turn.
  15. When you are at your friend or colleague’s home, ask for permission to do everything (get a drink, use the bathroom, watch tv, etc.).
  16. Even at your parents’ home, always ask for permission to do everything.


When you are in a bathroom/ comfort room


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17. Flush the toilet when you are done.

18. Don’t talk to others while they are busy.

19. Don’t talk to someone in another stall.

20. Bring with you your toilet paper.

21. Clean or wipe the toilet seat after using.

22. Don’t waste tissue papers. Just use according to your consumption.


When you are in the elevator


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23. Face the door of the elevator.

24. Push the button on the floor you are going to.

25. Don’t play inside the elevator.

26. Don’t push the buttons for floors you’re not going to.

27. Get off once you reach your floor.

28. Get on the elevator unless it’s complete.

29. Don’t wait for the next elevator when there’s only one person on it.

30. Don’t go elevator surfing.

31. Don’t stand right by someone even when you are the only two people in the elevator.

32. Don’t talk to strangers.


When you are dining


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33. Never order the most expensive dish on the menu when someone is treating you to a lunch or dinner.

34. Don’t eat soup with a fork.

35. Don’t eat dessert first.

36. Eat steak with a knife and fork.

37. Don’t eat with your hands unless you need to.

38. Don’t eat off other people’s plates.

39. Practice formal eating etiquette when eating with friends or family.

40. Don’t be rude to the waiter and then apologize and then be rude again.

41. walk through the drive-through.

42. Don’t drive back through the drive-through.

43. Fall in line and wait for your turn when ordering at the counter at the drive-through.

44. Don’t order food that is not on the menu.

45. Don’t ask for substitutions unless the waiter or manager suggests you do so.



When you are on the phone


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46. Don’t call someone more than twice continuously. If they don’t pick up your call, presume they have something important to attend to.

47. Answer the phone politely.

48. Say “hello” when you answer a call

49. Say “goodbye” when you hang up

50. Don’t say “I love you” when ending a conversation, even with friends and strangers

51. When you happened to answer a call addressed for someone who is not around or busy at the moment, suggest and don’t hesitate to take a message on behalf of the caller.

52. Don’t wait for the other person to speak first when answering the phone.

53. Attempt to fill in uncomfortable pauses in conversations.

54. Talk in a conversing manner, and don’t pretend that you’re an answering machine.

55. When people call with the wrong number, tell them about it politely.

56. Don’t ask telemarketers if you can call them back.

57. Don’t ask unnecessary questions to telemarketers or strangers.



When you are in a conversation


The photo was taken from Unsplash.com


58. Never interrupt people talking. Allow them to pour it out. As they say, hear them all and filter them all.

59. If a colleague tells you they have a doctors’ appointment, don’t ask what it’s for. Instead, say, “I hope you’re okay.” Let’s not put them in the uncomfortable position of having to tell you about their illness. If they want you to know, they’ll do so without your inquisitiveness.

60. If a person is speaking directly to you, staring at your phone is rude.

61. Never advise until you’re asked.

62. Never talk about your riches in the midst of the poor. Similarly, don’t talk about your children in the midst of the barren.




Other “unwritten” Social Rules


62. Don’t call someone more than twice continuously. If they don’t pick up your call, presume they have something important to attend to;

63. Return the money you borrowed even before the person who borrowed it you remember or ask for it. It shows your integrity and character. The same goes for umbrellas, pens, and lunch boxes.

64. Don’t ask awkward questions like ‘Oh, so you aren’t married yet?’ Or ‘Don’t you have kids’ or ‘Why didn’t you buy a house?’ Or why don’t you buy a car? For God’s sake, it isn’t your problem.

65. If you take a taxi with a friend and pay now, try paying next time.

66. Respect different shades of opinions. Remember, what’s 6 to you will appear 9 to someone facing you. Besides, a second opinion is suitable for an alternative.

67. If you tease someone and they don’t seem to enjoy it, it’s a cue to stop what you are doing. It encourages one to do more, and it shows how appreciative you are.

68. Praise publicly. Criticize privately.

69. There’s rarely a reason to comment on someone’s weight. Just say, “You look fantastic.” If they want to talk about losing weight, they will.

70. When someone shows you a photo on their phone, don’t swipe left or right. You never know what’s next.

71. When meeting someone after a long time, unless they want to talk about it, don’t ask them their age and salary.

72. Mind your business unless anything involves you directly – stay out of it.

73. Remove your sunglasses if you are talking to anyone in the street. It is a sign of respect. More so, eye contact is as important as your speech.

74. After reading a good message, try to say, “Thanks for the message.” APPRECIATION remains the easiest way of getting what you don’t have.

75. Say “Thank you” when someone is helping you.




Key Takeaway

Regardless of culture, tradition, religion, or country, you are in, knowing and practicing these social rules is beneficial not just to you but also to the people around you. Doing so will keep you from awkward situations and unnecessary attention.


I’m sure you’ve heard of Confucius’ golden rule, which says, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.” Before you expect others to treat you nicely, learn to do the deed yourself first.

Why is it important to follow social rules?


Mindlessly, most people conform to social rules most of the time simply because they provide order and predictability in society. It isn’t easy to imagine how human society might function without social norms. Human beings need rules to lead and steer their behavior, comprehend each other’s behaviors, and provide order and predictability in social relationships. Conforming to social rules yields a positive effect that affects how people interact with each other. And it takes one to bring out that positivity.





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Peace and love to you.

Gracia Amor
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