Social norms or mores are the rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society. People who do not follow these norms may be shunned or suffer some kind of consequence. Norms change according to the environment or situation and may change or be modified over time.
Social Norms Regarding Public Behavior
- Shake hands when you meet someone.
- Have direct eye contact with the person you are speaking with.
- Consume alcohol in moderation.
- Unless the movie theater is crowded, never sit right next to someone.
- Do not stand close enough to someone to touch arms or hips.
- Do not curse in polite conversation.
- Do not pick your nose.
- Wear clothing, especially of a similar style that others wear.
- Say please and thank you.
- Be kind to the elderly, like opening a door or giving up your seat.
- Go to the back of the line.
- Don’t invade someone’s personal space
- When at someone’s home, ask permission, such as turning on the television or using the bathroom.
- Stop at a red light.
- Go at a green light.
- Pull over for emergency vehicles.
- Drive on the right side of the road in the United States.
- Do not be promiscuous.
- Try to avoid burping or farting in public.
- Flush the toilet.
- Say "please" when asking for something.
- Say "thank you" when someone does something for you.
- Call to let someone know you will be late.
Social Norms on Using the Phone
- Say hello when answering and goodbye when you hang up.
- Reply to all texts and voice mails.
- Do not refuse to take a message.
- Do not lie if someone has the wrong number.
- Do not tell telemarketers you will call them back.
- Do not pretend you are an answering machine.
Social Norms When Dining
- Leave a tip for the waiter or waitress.
- Chew with your mouth closed.
- Chew food without making sounds.
- Men usually pay for dinner, unless invited by the woman.
- Do not talk with food in your mouth.
- Do not wear casual clothes in a fine dining restaurant.
- Do not eat soup with a fork.
- Do not belch.
- Do not eat sloppily or fast.
- Do not eat with your hands, except for certain foods.
- Do not eat off another person’s plate or use another person's utensils.
- Do not walk through a drive through.
- Do not order something that is not on the menu.
- Do not ask for substitutions if "no substitutions" is listed.
Social Norms on Elevators
- Nod or say hello to others on the elevator.
- Face the front.
- Never push extra buttons, only the one for your floor.
- Do not go elevator surfing.
- Never stand right by someone if you are the only two people on board.
- Do not say "I’ll wait for the next one" if only one person is on board.
Social Norms in the Classroom
- Never use a cell phone.
- Do not listen to music with headphones.
- Do not sit in other people’s assigned chairs.
- Do not stare at the teacher.
- Come to class prepared with book, paper, pen, etc.
- Never read other material during class.
Social Norms Regarding Personal Behavior
- When guests come to your house, you should offer drinks or food.
- Pay for groceries after you shop.
- Mow your lawn.
- Apply sun screen at the beach.
- Brush your teeth.
- Shower or bathe.
Social norms vary between countries and from social class to social class and from social group to social group. Each group can share many of the same social norms; and, the group may have a few special norms. As you move from country to country and group to group it is up to you to know, and implement, the appropriate social norms.