Social Courtesies

Telephone Etiquette:

Whether you are answering the phone or placing a call, the first thing you must do is identify yourself. Since most telephones are used by many people in barracks, conduct your business quickly and hang up. If you get a wrong number simply say "I'm very sorry to have disturbed you," and hang up. It is very rude to hang up without an apology. Take particular care to speak so that you are understood, and talk directly into the mouthpiece. Conclude the call by saying "good-bye."

Be careful of your calling hours. Do not call a private residence before 9:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. unless it is absolutely necessary.

Receiving Lines:

On certain occasions you will encounter receiving lines. There is nothing formidable about going through a receiving line; it is an excellent way for the host and hostess to greet all of their guests. Receiving lines are customary at receptions and large functions, especially when there is a guest of honor.

The receiving line consists of an aide, the hosts, and guest of honor- in that order. The function of the aide is to give the guest's name to the host. Since he is not a member of the receiving line, do not shake hands with the aide.

 If a gentleman is escorting a lady, the gentleman gives both names to the aide, then the lady goes through the line ahead of the gentleman. A female cadet will go through the line ahead of her male guest, but will give her name and that of her guest to the aide at the beginning of the line. It is not necessary to carry on a conversation in the line. A pleasant "Good evening," "Nice to have you with us," and a firm handshake will suffice. Do not have a cigarette or a drink in your hand. If there is no aide, introduce yourself to the first person in the line and proceed down the line. You do not go back through the line to say good-bye.

 Gloves are not worn by men or women while going through a receiving line unless the receiving party is gloved.

Respects to Chaperones at Hops:

It is customary for cadets and their ladies or gentlemen to pay their respects to the Superintendent, the Provost, the Commandant and their ladies as well as to the chaperones at the formal VMI Hops.

Alcoholic Beverages:

The regulations of VMI are specific as to the use by cadets of alcoholic beverages, and they are enforced. There may, however, be occasions when you will be offered beer, wine, or spirits by a host or hostess. It is permissible to drink on such occasions if you are not in violation of regulations. On the other hand, it is never impolite to decline an alcoholic drink and to take instead a soft drink, fruit juice, or nothing. Moderation should be the rule; excessive use of alcohol is never acceptable and may cause embarrassment to host and other guests.

If you are attending a dinner or reception where toasts are offered, always toast with the wine or spirits provided. If you do not drink alcohol, raise the glass and pretend to drink. Never toast with the water glass. Do not drink a toast to yourself when a toast is offered in your honor.


Obey signs and be considerate of others when smoking in public. If ashtrays are not in evidence, do not smoke, unless you are out-of-doors. At the dinner table, smoking is appropriate only at the invitation of the hostess and in between courses. Even if there are ashtrays on the table, wait to smoke until invited to do so. Never use saucers, glasses, dishes or anything else as a substitute for ashtrays. Cigar smoking is acceptable only at men's gatherings when so specified. Chewing and dipping are never allowed at social occasions.

Public Events:

Uniform for cadets at public gatherings is prescribed by regulations. At events where cadets may appropriately wear civilian clothes, dress should be suitable to the occasion. Sports clothes and informal attire are proper at sporting events, whether indoors or out. Lectures, concerts, and the theatre, especially in the evening, require somewhat more formal dress, preferably a suit.