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In my country of origin, Hungary, men should enter pubs and bars before their female companions, as opposed to holding the door for them. This is due to the assumption that pubs and bars can be dangerous and it would be impolite to let the lady enter first.

I was looking at etiquette rules in other countries (especially the UK and the US) and haven't found anything of the sort. Thus the question is: do I hold the door and let the lady enter the pub/bar first, or should I go inside first?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because questions of etiquette aren't really about an interpersonal skill so much as they are about the conventions of a specific culture or subculture. Furthermore whether something is interpreted as rude or not is an entirely subjective act that each individual will do differently. – sphennings Mar 29 '18 at 13:02
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    Possible duplicate of interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/5553/… – sphennings Mar 29 '18 at 13:15
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    Aren´t etiquette inherently interpersonal? As per Cambridge dictionary: the set of rules or customs that control accepted behavior in particular social groups or social situations ... If not there are a whole lot of off-topic questions that survived in the past. – user6109 Mar 29 '18 at 13:16
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    @sphennings Etiquette is specifically on topic. See the help center. – Catija Mar 29 '18 at 14:21
  • I think the only issue is that etiquette is wide-scale rather than a personal issue. Don't know if it matters though. – n00dles Mar 29 '18 at 20:13

13 Answers 13

8

I have come across this etiquette for bars and restaurants in Germany, although it is not applied nearly as much as holding the door for example.

Reasoning I had in my head was:

  • it´s always a little intimidating entering a place full of unknown people.
  • You may have to make arrangements to find your spot and then get the woman properly seated (taking her coat, moving her chair)

You would hold the door for the woman on the way out though.

These are all rather optional today and if perceived well or not is highly dependent on the individual.

I could also find a reference in the no. 1 German etiquette book, the Knigge which also mentions as reasoning the security-concerns of oldern days.

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    Thank you! What an interesting link! I guess it must be something more widely known in the German/Middle European parts of the world. – user16021 Mar 30 '18 at 22:58
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    @user16021 as a German of younger age: I don't think so. Maybe it was at some point, but personally I'd perceive it as sexist. – DonQuiKong Mar 31 '18 at 8:21
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    @user16021 I'm really confused. You specifically asked this question about the US/UK and then you accept an answer about Germany. Can you explain? – Catija Apr 2 '18 at 0:49
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    I don't speak for everyone in the US or the UK, but I doubt your answer applies to those countries. I'm an American, and it wouldn't occur to me that it would be more polite to enter a building before someone else. I would consider it kinder to say "after you." – Jetpack Apr 2 '18 at 1:59
88

In basically safe places, as pubs and bars in the US and the UK are supposed to be, the protecting behaviour towards the woman accompanying you does not make much sense anymore. I feel like the courtesy of holding a door outweights it.

This is my rule of thumb:

  • If the door opens outward, I open it, hold it and let the other person pass.
  • If the door opens inward, I open it, go inside first and hold it for the other person.

As you can see, the "going in first or not" depends only on what is the most comfortable way to open the door and hold it.

As for the gender, if I'm with a man and I see that he wants to open the door for me, I'll let him do it; I perceive it as giving the two of us the chance of behaving according to the prevalent social rules, thus gaining "niceness points". If I'm with another woman, I'll generally hold the door for her. As a general rule, I expect the person that gets the door first to hold it for the other one(s), regardless of the gender.

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    To be clear, door opens “outward” or “inward” can be ambiguous depending on whether you're trying to go out or get in. :-) I suppose you meant “towards me” and “away from me”? (Or the other way around?) – ShreevatsaR Mar 29 '18 at 16:47
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    @ShreevatsaR The question explicitly talks about entering the pub/bar. – David Richerby Mar 29 '18 at 17:28
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    And if the door is a "flappy" one that opens either way, just stand there paralyzed in fear whilst trying to decide the most polite way to proceed. – wim Mar 29 '18 at 17:56
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    LinuxBlanket, did you intend the advice in your answer to apply to companions of any gender? If so - or even if not - I think it would help to explicitly say so. – David Z Mar 29 '18 at 18:53
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    @wim flappy door - I fear one day a videogame wielding this name appears on the Internet. – John Dvorak Mar 30 '18 at 5:40
49

I can't speak for all of the US, but I hold the door for others - both men and women.

The old rules of etiquette are changing. Men are no longer expected to walk on the side facing the street. Men no longer stand up when women enter or leave the room. Women and men now shake hands as equals - women no longer offer their hand with the palm down. These are just some examples.

With respect to entering a business before a woman: I generally let my wife go in first. Why? I don't know; I suspect that it's because it's polite to let the other person with you go in first. She sometimes holds the door for me as well. I think that it would ruder to go up to the door, open it, go through, and let her deal with the door herself. If I do wind up going through a door before her, I hold it open - but I as a rule do that for the person following me irrespective of who that is.

Here's what I suggest, especially if you're on a date: hold the door for her and let her in first. It doesn't have anything to do with her being frail or other feminist claptrap - holding the door for someone else just makes it easier for them and is the polite thing to do. I think it's considerate to open the door for someone else.

Edit in response to OP's comment: With respect to going into a less safe place, I still would hold the door open for whoever I'm with. The reasoning for this is: I wouldn't take anyone to a place where there's a huge risk of something bad happening the moment you walk through the door. (Q: just how dangerous are bars in Hungary?) I wouldn't go there myself and certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to go there with me. Even if it's a really rough bar, it would take a few moments for anything to start and by that time I'd be inside anyways.

13

I hold the door for my groups, male or female, but I make a special effort to do so for my female companions. Partly it is because I was trained to do so as a child.

I view it as an act of courtesy and respect that sets me apart and distinguishes me from some other males. I've never met a woman who expected me to hold the door for her, and only very rarely met a woman who was insulted by the gesture. Most interpret it as a simple throwback gesture of respect. Older women usually appreciate it as a gesture of respect for their generation's customs.

I live in Texas, though, and Southern Courtesy is a thing here. I also say 'Sir' and 'Ma'am' a lot more often than most. I pull the chair out for my date, and open the car door for her if I am able. I don't do these things because they are Ladies, but because I am a Gentleman, if that makes sense.

6

In general I (a male) will hold the door open for anyone with me. However, my rules are complicated!

If I am walking with a man, and the door opens towards me I will open it, and gesture for them to go through (Diagram 1 pt. A). Eye contact is important here. If they gesture back I will do as they indicate, and continue through - a back and forth in a doorway is not my idea of fun. I will walk through a door which opens away from me then hold it for them (Diagram 1 pt. B).

If I am walking through a door with a woman, I will hold the door open and gesture to them whichever way the door opens. (Diagram 2) Again, eye contact is a must. As with walking with a man, I will never get into a “gesture fight”.

If I am walking with a group of just men, or a mixed group I will follow the same rules as I do when waking with one man. In the door towards me situation, I will walk through only when one member of the group gestures for me to. In the door away from me situation, I will walk away when the next person is holding the door (Diagram 3).

If I am walking with a women-only group, I follow the same rules as with a single woman - I will still avoid getting into a “gesture fight”.

If I do not know the gender of the individual, I will default to the rules for female companions.

If the door is an automatic door with a button, the gender of the companion, the size of the group, and the direction of the door are irrelevant. I will press the button, then follow the same sequence as with one woman (Diagram 2 pt. A - without holding the door of course), or mixed group.

If there is a person not waking with me, but just behind and I know they are walking through the same door, I will hold it if they are less than 4 seconds behind.

5

French polite way would be to hold the door for anybody, not just females.

Of course, it's even more important to do so for females, because courtesy.

But personally I do it for about everybody, especially females/elders/disabled people and people I'm walking alongside with.

5

It varies from person to person, but generally in the US, it's only a big deal if you make it a big deal.

When I'm out with my fiancee, sometimes I'll get the door for her. And sometimes if she's in front, she'll get the door for me. It's just basic politeness, and it's appreciated, but not anything to make a big deal out of or attach special significance to.

4

I think this is the most common behavior in the United States nowadays, at least where I've lived (West coast and Northeast):

Whoever approaches the door first should just walk through and hold the door behind them, regardless of anybody's gender.

When somebody approaches the door, holds it open without entering, waits for me to walk through, and then follows behind me, I find it slightly awkward because it takes me by surprise and I always hesitate momentarily.

  • Surely this depends on which way the door opens. If it swings towards us it feels natural for whoever gets to the door first to open it but not walk though it. If it swings away from us I agree though – Richard Tingle Apr 1 '18 at 21:28
  • @RichardTingle, I disagree. Even if the door opens toward us, I will go through first and hold it open behind me, and expect others to do the same. – Fiona Apr 2 '18 at 19:20
  • +1 because I see this regularly at the post office. I know, the post office is not a bar. But, this post seemed to morph into holding doors in general, anyway. Maybe it's a southern US thing? I don't know. At my local post office, not only do people hold the door for you, either before or after they enter/exit, they also smile and make eye contact. Occasionally someone says something like, 'Nice day." We can be rather chatty to complete strangers in the south. – Laura Apr 3 '18 at 20:26
3

It does not matter who you're holding the door for, actually. It's okay to hold the door for anybody who got some items in both hands and can't open the door, or the person who is not able to open the door due to the strength they lack.

The reason why it became a norm to hold the door for ladies, because they usually carry a bag in one hand and a baby in other or they have complicated clothing etc.

In the end, it is okay to hold the door for anyone.

  • I'm up-voting this as I don't see it says anything less relevant than other answers. – bigbadmouse Mar 30 '18 at 12:51
2

First of all, LinuxBlanket's comment is what I do regardless of my companion's gender.

In addition to that, holding doors exclusively for women is seen as somewhat backward in many areas. However, some places still treat it as normal---but even there, you will very rarely be censured for noncompliance. It seems they understand the habit is falling by the wayside.

Some women still like the deference in a romantic context, but I don't believe you are asking about that situation.

2

If there is sufficient space behind/around the door that you can hold it without blocking your companion, you hold the door and let them pass.

If you are part of or followed by a long line of people entering, you pass through and hold the door open behind you.

Both of these are regardless of whether or not your companion is a personal partner, work colleague, etc. and regardless of gender, if you reach the door first.

In my country of origin, Hungary, men should enter pubs and bars before their female companions, as opposed to holding the door for them. This is due to the assumption that pubs and bars can be dangerous and it would be impolite to let the lady enter first.

In areas where dangerous venues tend to be, one might be less safe being the last one out on the street (where one can be more easily snatched up or assaulted by someone who's got a lot more room to run), so even that safety argument seems to go more in favor of letting the lady enter first.

In the UK/US, pubs and bars tend not to be such dangerous places. If you have reason to believe the one you are about to enter is dangerous enough that this would matter, the modern common solution is to not enter with a delicate companion, but to choose a different venue for your time. There are, at least in theory, enough relatively safe places in those countries that men can take their female partners to venues where they expect their partner to have a good experience, or at least not a bad one.

Especially in inclement weather, there is a stronger etiquette argument for getting your partner inside first. If this is an established pattern, it also helps minimize the time the door is held open, to keep the elements out from those already inside.

1

Ask her.

I don't necessarily mean verbally asking a question. As you hold the door, look her in the eye and see what she wants.

  • Some women like having the door held.
  • Some would prefer you just go through, and not slow down the pace of travel much. Although, she will generally appreciate an actin such as pushing the just slightly before she arrives, so that hopefully she doesn't need to touch it at all, and if so then it's just a slight convenient bump rather than a more significant effort on her part.
  • Some women may change their desires, and so checking repeatedly and responding to their answer (which, again, may include some hand gesturing or simply facial expressions or eyelid movements) can be the method to achieve the greatest possible successes.

Don't assume that one rule works best for all women, and it can even be true that one approach won't consistently be the preference of even just one woman.

0

Many answers say what they find polite in US/UK contexts, with helpful reasoning. However, most do not directly address which form of courtesy you ought to use in this situation.

I'm from the U.S., and I'd never heard about the form of courtesy that a man enters a bar or restaurant first (though it is probably practiced in Western movies, if a couple goes into a rough saloon). Without this knowledge of your culture, I would read the action as impolite, looking like the man was pushing ahead without regard for his companion. (As I read it, this would require the man to completely switch his attention away from the companion to external threats, and be squarely in front of her, cutting off whatever conversation they previously had. This, separate from any door-holding, seems objectionable prima facie.)

If you are in a mixed context (in the U.S. or U.K., or with a woman from one of those cultures elsewhere), you could mention the Hungarian custom so your actions are properly understood. As you approach the door, you could tell your companion about this cultural difference, demonstrate going in the Hungarian way (perhaps, as a joke, being very serious looking around for danger), and while you eat and drink have a laugh about it and discuss what feels most polite to her. (Perhaps she'll volunteer that in the future she'll politely hold the door for you, then you can politely scout out the territory.)

(You may also get the answer that it feels patronizing to be "protected" in this way. Remember that when this situation comes up with this person again!)

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    You may want to clarify exactly what it is you’re referring to by “this form of courtesy”—I had to read the first few lines three times before I stopped incredulously wondering how you, as an American, could possibly never have heard of holding the door for someone, and realised that you were talking about the men-enter-dangerous-places-first bit. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 31 '18 at 23:59

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