On the ninth day of filming for Netflix’s “Mind Your Etiquette”, show host Shanghai etiquette teacher Sara Jane Ho dumped her boyfriend of four years in a text message. Growing up on four continents and able to eat an egg yolk with one side up without spilling a drop, 37-year-old extraordinarily well-balanced Ms. Ho was in a car outside Sydney, Australia, in late 2021. A “Pygmalion” style makeover for a party girl named Stephanie Osifo.
But Ms. Ho had a realization before she could face Ms. Osifo’s fishnet dresses. “Here I tell my students how to make the most of their lives, and I realized I had to do the same for myself,” Ms. Ho said during a breakfast of smoked salmon and eggs at the Park Lane Hotel in Manhattan recently. “I was like, ‘I can’t come on set with red and puffy eyes because you made me cry’,” she explained.
“We were on our way to her house and I just sent that message,” she said, shaking her head knowingly as she sliced the salmon. If her hands weren’t busy with silverware, I got the impression that Ms. Ho might have dusted them off.
“Parting up with a text message is probably not the best etiquette,” Ms. Ho admitted, noting that the two had discussed the possibility many times.
Later, he expanded his approach to manners. “Things are contextual,” he said. The only constant in Ms. Ho’s philosophy of social kindness is being considerate of others. And even then, when it comes to self-actualization—and a sprawling transnational empire of etiquette—one can be forgiven for an ungraceful breakup. “You can’t shoot a Netflix show a second time, can you?” she said. “All or nothing.”
In “Be Careful With Your Behavior,” Ms. Ho’s self-assignment is ambitious: “Come with me and you’ll know what to do with anyone, anywhere, in any situation.” Both the show and Ms. Ho’s new international personal brand (she said her first English-language book is scheduled to be published in 2024) advance the idea of etiquette as a tool for interpersonal harmony and self-improvement.
Ms. Ho takes a practical, international and surprisingly adaptable approach to etiquette. During an interview, she gave a preview without being asked about the places and conditions where she could personally spit phlegm on the street.
The first episode shows Ms. Ho coaching a diverse cast on table manners, dress code, and self-help in impeccable outfits and a rainbow of changing languages (she speaks four and is fluent in three dialects of Chinese). Standing under a pink puff-sleeve umbrella, she guides her archery class; Dressed in a sky blue sheath dress with a tangerine collar, she demonstrates how to peel a banana with a fork and knife.
“I’ve studied for 10 years in America and spent the last 10 years living and working in China, so what I bring is an East-West-meeting perspective,” Ms. Ho says on the show. She emphasizes the rationale behind certain norms and explicitly rejects others she finds distasteful. (It’s about drinking tea: “Some people keep their pinky out for balance, but this one looks really assertive. It’s definitely pinky in.”)
And he offers tough affection: “There are no ugly women in the world, only lazy women,” he tells his students during a “Be Careful with Your Ceremonial” hygiene class, where he tells his students whether they can smell used dental floss. bad breath. “Behind every elegance there will be unpretentious hard work.”
Ms. Ho believes that all behavior is contextual and gave a few examples she might personally want to spit on the street. Credit… Morgan Rachel Levy for The New York Times
International Sophistication Meets Occasionally by Chance
“Watch Your Manners” belongs to a genre that includes “Round Up With Marie Kondo” and “Queer Eye”, where charismatic life coaches act as fairy godmothers to please ordinary people. They shower clients with opportunities to deconstruct their emotional approval and insecurities and childhood traumas, as well as new haircuts and advice.
Created by a Singaporean production company with international audiences in mind, “Take Care of Your Ceremony” was originally supposed to be shot in Shanghai, where Ms. Ho lives and runs Institute Sarita, the glamor school she founded in 2012. Like “English Afternoon Tea,” “Pronunciation of Foreign Luxury Brands,” and “Introduction to Expensive Sports,” Ms. Ho initially appealed to the newly wealthy Chinese who were interested in learning Western-style snobbery.
But the Covid lockdowns in China forced Ms. Ho to close her school’s physical location branches in Beijing and Shanghai; now operating in luxury hotels, she entertains VIPs with etiquette lessons, collaborating with top brands and private banks. The show was filmed in Australia instead.
There, Ms. Ho practiced her signature teaching style of rigorous self-control, international refinement, and occasional obscenity.
“German is a very ‘smack me’ language,” she tells a Melbourne woman who has trouble pronouncing the name of a porcelain manufacturer. “Konigliche,” she coughs. Standing next to a handwritten chart of flatware terminology, Ms. Ho trembles with delight: “You got it! See? You think, ‘Smack me,’ you got it right away.”
Ms. Ho speaks with a surprisingly cool, vaguely British accent of a person with more of an international pedigree than a local. Ms. Ho, a Hong Kong native whose father worked in oil exploration, was raised in Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, England and the United States, where she was a boarding student at Phillips Exeter Academy. He graduated from Georgetown University in 2008 and was working on Wall Street when the stock market crashed. After working at a microfinance NGO in China, she attended Harvard Business School, where she kept herself busy “partying until dawn.”
On the advice of a wealthy Indonesian friend, he went to Switzerland to attend the Institut Villa Pierrefeu. “They call it ‘the finishing school that refuses to finish,'” explained Ms. Ho, the latest in a dying pedagogy that asks wealthy women to study napkin folds with an intensity similar to Watson and Crick’s double napkin study. spiral
Ms. Ho thanks her mother, who died of cancer in 2007, for her interest in etiquette. An entertainment manager who throws fabulous Christmas parties regularly brings her only child on business trips. Ms. Ho said, “When we went to Japan, do you remember ‘Mr. Sato’? Go and say hello. By the way, remember, in Japan “Mr. Sato,” you say, “Sato-san.” And she has a little girl your age, why don’t you go and ask her when she will come to Hong Kong and play with you?
For Ms. Ho, etiquette is a dialect of socializing. Wherever I go, I see myself on the field,” she said. “I’m observing: ‘What are the rules of conduct here? How are people behaving?’”
When her family moved to England from Papua New Guinea, she was banned from going barefoot. When she transferred from the Swiss International School in Hong Kong to Exeter and first encountered roundtable discussions, Ms. Ho was so intimidated by her American classmates that she did not speak for a month – until a teacher said that her grades would be destroyed if that happened. until you say it will fall. she hasn’t learned how to intervene, she.
The show’s makeup buyers are English speakers from a variety of backgrounds.
Sometimes, cross-cultural fluency is part of the fun: when Ms. Ho replaces a Chinese-American woman who feels cut off from her roots, she instructs her in Mandarin to replace her white boyfriend with a Chinese one. As she holds her breath, Ms. Ho waves her out: “Your boyfriend is white, he won’t understand what I’m saying,” the captions read.
Everyone Was Like Sara Ho Perfect’
In early December, Ms. Ho arrived on the set of “The Drew Barrymore Show” in New York City in a red Vivienne Tam dress with a ruffled neckline and scalloped sleeves. She had gold rings on her ears and a 3.23-carat oval-cut diamond on her ring finger. After “Watch Your Behavior” was completed, Ms. Ho got into a fast-paced dating relationship with a businessman 15 years older than her. Entered WeChat messages during repatriation quarantine in Shanghai; They got married eight months later.
Due to the Covid lockdowns in China, they postponed Ms. Ho’s wedding, which she hoped to hold in Lishui, her husband’s hometown, where the couple lives part-time. She recently hired a native speaker of her husband’s local dialect for virtual training; now she speaks her mother-in-law with her mother-in-law.
Backstage, the arrival of her cousin Adrianne Ho—an annoyingly beautiful model who somehow makes good on wrap-around sunglasses—puts both women in a state of elation as she tells stories from her early adulthood, where Adrianne began her modeling career and spent two months. In 2008 she was sharing her cousin’s studio apartment in Manhattan. While Sara worked 16 hours a day as a financial analyst, Adrianne continued to pick calls.
“Growing up, everyone was like Sara Ho. perfect,said Adrianne.
“Chinese families always like to compare,” Sara interrupted.
“Yeah, no, that’s not healthy,” laughed his cousin.
Two weeks ago in California, Adrianne was there when Sara first became known to the public as a celebrity. It was the day after “Watch Your Dressing”. ” premiere and cousins were attending a party for Jean Paul Gaultier hosted by Kendall Jenner at a mansion in Brentwood. Cousins talked about how the stylish blonde managing the guest list stopped Ms. Ho on her way. Ms. Ho said she liked the show that the woman watched consecutively for the first 24 hours.
“We looked at each other and we’re just getting started. screaming!said Adrianne.
Two days before her appearance on “The Drew Barrymore Show” ” Ms. Ho celebrated her birthday in New York with a “Happy Birthday Ho!” celebrated with a cake. Referring to her Sagittarius nature, Ms. Ho stated her belief in “working hard and playing hard.”
In Ms. Osifo’s “Be Careful With Your Behavior” episode, there is a moment where Ms. Ho waves her white fishnet mini dress as if it were a flag. “I have absolutely no worries about what to wear to the bedroom or to the clubs,” says Ms. Ho, who describes the problem with Ms. Osifo’s wardrobe as “everyday wear.”
The episode ends with Miss Osifo showing up to her glamor school graduation party in a flowy, full-length shirt, and she avoids going upstairs even when she takes it down with Ms. Ho and twerk in unison.
Or as Ms. Ho said at breakfast at the Park Lane Hotel, with her wrists raised above her plate and her fork angled just like that, “There’s a time and a place for everything.”