Accidental Advice

The Unwritten Rules of High Societies

Society etiquette 101: the how, what, and why.

It’s week four. You are settled in, you know your flatmates, and have already had that awkward encounter with the fit one on a night out. You’ve settled into your course, worked out the lectures you like and the ones you don’t, and started to get into the swing of university life. The life of being a grown up, paying bills and rent, even cooking your own meals (ie, pot noodle and lying to your mum on the phone that you use that student recipe book she bought for you all the time). Then it starts to sink in during your nightly Netflix binge… What happens next?

I remember getting into university, and gone a bit wild at the societies and sports fairs, my email address inbox becomes a bit swamped with spam emails from all the stalls I had foolishly put down my name at. There almost seemed to do too much, which do I follow? Is my heart and passion in rock climbing or dodgeball? Should I say yes to the dress and join Fashion society, or live my dream of being the next Paul Hollywood with Baking society?

Where is the next step at this point, what is the thing from here on out that you want to spend your spare hours doing? Life isn’t all about 9ams and Juice on a Saturday. You start to feel like maybe you should stop the third rewatch of Bojack Horseman (unless you haven’t watched Bojack in which case, please go watch that now) and start with the next stage of your university life.

So you eventually get your act together and sign up to a society, go along to the first meeting. Maybe it is baking’s bake off in the great hall, and you turn up to find a bunch of people in white aprons with their names on the front. Going to a student media meeting in my first year, I found myself sitting in the great hall surrounded by thousands of other freshers, a housemate I had known for all of ten minutes, and watching people talk about this wonderful world I was about to sell my soul to. I sat there with only to wonder, should I go up and introduce myself, stiff back and firm handshake, or just hang about in the background waiting for one of these people to come and say hello. No one was there to tell me how to be a grown up and make friends, it seemed much easier when you were just assigned to sit next to them because your last names were similar.

Society etiquette, something you never properly think about, but something that definitely exists. But have no fear innocent freshers, it’s not so difficult to get by. Your fears can be put to rest, because much like I walked you through Freshers Week, welcome to the Charlie Knights patent pending handy dandy guide to your first interaction with a society or club.

It’s not an often thing that happens, your first impression, so let it be a good one. Don’t get outrageously drunk and get kicked out, they will remember that until you leave in first year (Sorry SocSci). Shower before hand for gods sake, and turn up looking prepared. If you are going to the aforementioned bake off, don’t turn up and just eat the cakes, at least put some oven bake brownies in. Do introduce yourself, if you can, don’t wait for one of them to come up to you and introduce you to the rest of the group.

Join the society you have never heard of, and the one that scares you a little bit. This is one of the main pieces of advice that I give to anyone; join something that you didn’t know was a thing before you came to university, the society that kind of freaks you out, but you still feel a bit intrigued. University is a time when you find out the bits of you that you love which you cannot use in the big wide world of being a grown up. My dad spent three years in Manchester doing caving, something he couldn’t do nowadays as an IT manager, but it changed who he was and found himself his future best man.

Although don’t be like my father on that regard and complain about spending too much time on extracurriculars, and how it might not have helped with the career in the long run, when you chose to do caving. Sorry, you kind of made your own bed on that one.

One place a lot of people tend to go when arriving to their new social group is the intriguing and easy to fall into world of being an arrogant prick. We all have a time when we pick up something quickly and try to correct those older than us that have been doing this for years, and that just doesn’t really work. You may have been captain of your hockey team in your small secondary school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready to jump straight in and boss around those who have been doing it for many years. Even if you are, don’t be that guy, no one likes that guy.

Most importantly, don’t live your life so stringently by rules written by a columnist with nothing better to do than rant about how he thinks things should be done. Sure, I may always be right in everything I do, but who cares. Find your own place to win, be the person you want to be within the society, and have fun with it. They were all in your place once and it’s just something everyone goes through at some point, so hey, enjoy being the inexperienced one and go with the flow for a while.

Got any better tips for joining a society? Or just need some more help of your own? As always you just have to #AskAtYourOwnRisk