British Columbia

Tips from an etiquette expert on how to expand your bubble without hurting feelings

As B.C. slowly begins to reopen and social circles begin to expand, who you choose to bring into your bubble could be an awkward challenge.

‘Traditional etiquette has a great deal to offer during these unprecedented times’

The province says physical displays of affection with extended family and close friends are acceptable during Phase 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic response plan which began mid-May. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

It's like being picked for a team in gym class all over again.

As British Columbians enter Phase 2 of the COVID-19 provincial restart plan and begin to slowly expand social circles beyond their own households, there are bound to be a few awkward conversations around who lets whom into the metaphorical bubbles we have built around ourselves during the pandemic.

B.C.-based etiquette expert Carey McBeth can help.

"Traditional etiquette has a great deal to offer during these unprecedented times," said McBeth Tuesday on The Early Edition.

McBeth said regular handwashing, coughing and sneezing into an elbow, giving people personal space and avoiding  face touching are all mainstays of classic good manners. While these actions are no-brainers right now, choosing who you spend time with while practising them is a bit trickier.

"Communication will be the key to get through this," said McBeth, which sounds easier said than done, so she recommends sticking to a simple script, if you have to tell someone who wants to come into your circle they cannot quite yet.

McBeth said telling people your bubble is expanding "first and foremost" for family is a gentle way to let others know it may still be a wait before you socialize together.

"Tone is important," said McBeth, adding it is critical right now to be compassionate.

And if you are hosting a small gathering, there are some Emily Post pandemic pointers to keep in mind as well.

Manners expert Carey McBeth says traditional etiquette guidelines can help see you through awkward encounters while trying to stay safe and maintain a social life during the pandemic. (Bridgette Watson/CBC)

McBeth suggests the host let all guests know who is coming and to ensure guests have been practising physical distancing prior to the soiree. It is also considerate, said McBeth, to remind guests they are under no obligation to attend, as some people might still not feel comfortable leaving their own bubble.

And if you choose not to burst your private bubble yet but see someone acting in a way you think could risk bursting it, McBeth says be firm, but also be gentle, when reminding people to keep their distance and cover their coughing.

"Public shaming is not the way to try and have proper behaviour," said McBeth, adding the proper approach is not to tell people what to stop doing but to offer them a different form of behaviour they can do.

And don't be too quick to judge people as offenders either, said McBeth, pointing out that a vehicle in B.C. with Alberta licence plates should not spark immediate ire, given the driver could be outside their home province for essential work or a family emergency.

"You don't know somebody's situation," said McBeth.

B.C. is currently in Phase 2 of reopening the province after closing many sectors of the economy due to COVID-19. According to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, people can expand their social circles during this phase to up to six people.

To hear the complete interview with Carey McBeth on The Early Edition, tap here.

With files from The Early Edition

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