Some three years ago, Denmark hosted the global climate summit COP15. It ended up a failure, not least due to the Danish prime Minister, who, as a host, had to lead the final meetings. The rest of the worlds may have forgotten, while a lot of Danes still remember (with embarrasment) our tired and angry prime Minister shouting at Obama et al: 'I don't know your rules!'
I count myself among those being embarrassed about that incident, and I was never particularly fond of that (now former) prime Minister. However, I find his quote rather useful for numerous other occasions.
When I was a child my parents never told me the rules of social conduct. Maybe they tried but I didn't listen. Or maybe they didn't find it necessary. I was, after all, a quiet and well-behaved child. Also, due to my mother being the way she is (strong Asperger features though never recognised), my parents never had a noticable social life, where my social abilities (or lack thereof) could be tested. Thus they never realised I had the need for knowing the rules or they never knew the rules themselves, or at least my mother didn't.
My grandmother read a weekly magazine targeted at elderly women and housewifes. I always read it when I visited my grandparents. Among the subjects covered by this magazine was an agony column about very day-to-day issues. A woman wrote a letter asking which set of cutlery she should use first when she was at a fancy dinner party where there was more than one set of cutlery laid out. The agony woman answered to the question but also stated that when in doubt at a dinner party, check out what the hostess is doing, and copy her. Now that advise was very useful to me, it applies in a lot of settings and not only fancy dinner parties. Hence: rule #1: do what the hostess/ the others are doing.
I invented rule #2 myself - but Einstein has been quoted for something similar: when in doubt: shut up. Due to rule #2, I never said a word during my first 'adult' job, which I had for about 14 months. After I had worked there for almost a year I tried to say something during lunch, but my collegaues had become so used to me saying nothing that they didn't notice.
I just have to tell something else about the magazine my grandmother was reading. It was, in fact, a rather boring magazine, but I tend to collect useless information and the magazine must have had some appeal to me. The magazine contained a number of cartoons, some of which being vaguely funny. The one I remember was never funny, only puzzling. It was about a newly wed woman and her husband. The 'fun' part was about the husband being helpless and stupid about household chores. The wife is looking for the oven cleaner, and her husband seems to not know what an oven cleaner is. She is shocked, because that means that the oven has not been cleaned for A YEAR! Oh my. From this I learned: 1. There is something called 'oven cleaner' 2. Ovens should be cleaned, more often than once a year. Hey, nobody told me!
The other day, my husband and I were discussing gender differences in 'getting laid'-behaviour. He claimed that women can just come onto men while men has to be more subtle, invite for dinner etc. I painfully recalled those incidents in my youth when I was trying to 'come onto' a man but was rejected. And the men usually preferred either those very 'easy' women, or those playing hard to get. If I played hard to get, nobody noticed me. And I wasn't a subject of interest in the 'easy' category either. I never understood why women who were worse-looking and less bright always overtook me. But now I understand. I didn't know the rules.