Finishing School: So You Don't Look Like A Jerk Around Rich People


Finishing school, once the realm of the tiny daughters of steel magnates training for a future in rich housewifery, is now a different animal. While finishing-school grads can still walk like non-water buffalos and clap after the opera in a way that doesn’t cause mass monocle-poppings, the reason for mastering the rules of decorum has changed, and one school in Switzerland teaches its students that the road to wealth is paved with good manners. Or, maybe more accurately, the moat around existing superwealth is filled with obscure decorum rules.

TIME reports that Institut Villa Pierrefeu (IVP) in Switzerland is the last of its kind in the country, but that business is booming, because manners are important and no one should ever, ever, act poor.

Many elements of the school sound ripped from the pages of an imaginary magazine called Wealthy Stereotypes Quarterly; the palatial school overlooks Lake Geneva and was originally built to house a baroness. The school’s staff frequently travels to the Middle East to tutor royalty from the comfort of their palaces. Its halls are populated with the offspring of royalty, businesspeople, and some say even The Monopoly Man himself. Students do not share their last names with the teachers or with other students, as the very act of telling people who you are in a place like this technically constitutes a humblebrag. It’s like an AA meeting for people who are addicted to attending Bilderberg.

Some of the lessons are hilariously stuffy and retro — like the role play where one student is chastised for finishing her meal before the student playing her husband (the “wife” responds that instead of eating more slowly, her husband should learn to eat faster), or the pearl-wearing graduate and former businesswoman who now splits her time between entertaining guests in her home in Hong Kong and traveling around to parties teaching people how to peel kiwi.

But it’s not all kiwi and husbands. The school insists that it teaches future business leaders how to flourish in an international environment that punishes women for not knowing the decorum of other countries. It offers classes on proper ways to interact with businesspeople from BRIC (Brazil/Russia/India/China) countries, since many analysts assume the next century’s global economic development will be most dynamic there, and emphasizes that one’s presentation can impact the outcome of a professional interaction. Heaven forbid a woman pull a cultural faux pas like gleefully combing her hair at the table with what turns out to be an eating utensil, Little Mermaid-style.

Anyone interested in Eliza Doolittling (or Julia Robertsing) their way into high society by acting refined should begin saving their farthings now; a six-week course at the school will set you back $20,000.

Mind Your Manners: The Secrets of Switzerland’s Last Traditional Finishing School [TIME]

Image via olly/Shutterstock

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