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Smart Living: Etiquette influencers are going viral on TikTok, but they face mockery for being classist and 'out of touch'

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Etiquette videos have 1.1 billion views on TikTok. @lucychallengerofficial, @kaytuc, and @sofia.marbella on TikTok © @lucychallengerofficial, @kaytuc, and @sofia.marbella on TikTok Etiquette videos have 1.1 billion views on TikTok. @lucychallengerofficial, @kaytuc, and @sofia.marbella on TikTok
  • TikTokers are going viral with etiquette tips on how to eat, socialize, and live in high society.
  • The videos have also been mocked and accused of reinforcing elitist stereotypes about class.
  • Etiquette TikTokers said they want their videos to equip young people for new environments.

In November 2021, when 38-year-old businesswoman Lucy Challenger posted a TikTok tutorial with detailed advice for how to get into a Ferrari in the most elegant way, it went viral.

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Challenger, who is the CEO of a luxury British recruitment firm and has 132,000 TikTik followers, continues to share tips and tricks about how to behave in high-end settings, receiving millions of views and likes.

Her videos sit within a popular subculture known as "etiquette TikTok." The hashtag #etiquette has 1.1 billion TikTok views from people who want to learn how to fit into high society.

While many viewers said they love etiquette videos because it gives them practical advice about how to present themselves, the TikToks have also been mocked by commenters and creators who think the trend reinforces stereotypes about class and wealth.

Etiquette TikTok creators say they want to help young people who haven't been exposed to it before

The most popular etiquette TikToks often break down norms about eating and socializing, such as which utensils to use for certain meals, how to pour wine for dinner guests, or how to butter bread in expensive restaurants.

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The creators of these videos receive thousands of comments from people who said they never learned this kind of etiquette at home, or didn't even know such rules existed.

Challenger told Insider the viewers who seem the most intrigued by her content are young people. She said she recently received positive feedback from a law student who was invited to dinner parties for the first time and was "terrified of getting it wrong and making a fool out of herself." Another young person told Challenger he was traveling to high-end places with his boss for the first time, and her advice helped him to fit in.

"There seems to be a huge yearning for this information amongst Generation Z," she said. "It's very fascinating to me that there is a huge section of the population that might not have been exposed to certain etiquettes or certain manners."

Washington-based TikToker Katie Tucci, @kaytuc on TikTok, has more than 7 million likes on her etiquette videos. She told Insider she thinks her TikToks became popular because people related to her story.

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"I did not grow up somewhere where it was normal to know what the difference was between an oyster fork and a dinner fork," she said.

Tucci as a child in Maine. Katie Tucci © Katie Tucci Tucci as a child in Maine. Katie Tucci

Tucci moved to Washington from rural Maine and as she went to professional events for the first time and learned more about them, she began posting tips on TikTok about going to parties and wearing gloves in the proper way using the "etiquette" hashtag.

She said she has received thankful messages from people who find it challenging to read social cues, saying her videos about things like funeral etiquette help them understand why people behave in certain ways.

She thinks everyone can benefit from her advice. "Etiquette is not about manners. It's about being kind to yourself and others. It's the weird secret social language that we've developed to show kindness, respect, and trust," Tucci told Insider.

Creators of etiquette videos also face mockery and criticism

After etiquette TikToker @sofia.marbella uploaded a tutorial about how to hold a glass and shake someone's hand at the same time, another user called Janna Damigeana posted her own video, mimicking the format but downing her drink and throwing her glass on the floor while performing a fistbump.

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Her comments section was filled with cry-laughing emojis, and viewers praised her for "putting a funny spin" on videos promoting manners. Damigeana said she often enjoys etiquette TikToks because they teach her about cultural differences, but she thinks they can also platform elitism.

"Having nice clothes, parties, cars, et cetera, are all luxuries that not everyone has access to," she told Insider, adding that the content is far from "universally relatable."

Challenger's tutorial on how to eat soup, in which she explained it was impolite to dip bread in the bowl in a high-class setting, received many negative comments suggesting the advice was over the top and unnecessary. "Are rich people just bored," one comment with 24,000 likes asked. Another with 17,000 likes said, "it's just soup, it's not that deep."

In November 2021, when Challenger posted a video guide on how to walk down a flight of stairs in heels, several users mocked her advice. One TikTok where a woman in heels sits on the steps and slides down has 23,000 likes. Another showing a dog running down the stairs next to the video of Challenger's tutorial has 33,000 likes.

Challenger told Insider she didn't mind that people poked fun at her tutorial. "I respect everyone's right to have a response. Etiquette can be perceived as a little dry. So I think it's important to keep humor and have some fun with it."

She said that overall, etiquette has the power to "bring people together" instead of dividing them along class lines. Manners and "good grace" have "nothing to do with poshness or political views," she told Insider.

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.

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