We in the UK should have umbrella etiquette down to a tee. But when it comes to manoeuvering our rain-protecting gadgets around crowded public spaces, most of us turn into menaces.
Planning on visiting a Christmas market this year? Then you better get your umbrella skills under control, if you want to avoid injuring an unsuspecting market-goer whose only crime was to enjoy the festive season.
To give you a few pointers, Fulton Umbrellas — a UK supplier of birdcage umbrellas and rainwear — has revealed its top tips for safely using your trusty brolly in a bustling Christmas market.
Remember, like a cold sore, your umbrella is with you wherever you go. The first rule of taking a brolly on a bus or train is to never place it on the seat next to you — this is a highway to tuts and eyerolls from other passengers, and maybe even a good telling off. Instead, shake off your umbrella outside and put it on the floor at your feet. If it’s still wet, put its cover on or use a plastic bag to make sure you don’t create a slipping hazard.
Buy the right size to begin with
Although navigating a huge golf umbrella around a tiny Christmas market filled with excitable kids would give you the X-factor, it’s not worth the risk. Save your golf brolly for the course (or give it back to your dad) and swap it for a more crowd-friendly, petite design. What you need for the best control of your brolly is a walking umbrella that’s large enough to keep you dry but nimble enough to dodge other market-goers.
Opt for reliability
Sometimes, you simply have to treat yourself to the best dish on the menu. Avoid flimsy, cheap brollies — that’s the last thing you need on a windy, rainy Yuletide evening — and opt for a sturdy design, instead. Keep an eye out for umbrellas made from fibreglass, as these are especially strong and comfortably lightweight, which is ideal if you’re spending hours looking around stalls and buying gifts. You can even get designs featuring automatic openings, so you don’t have to fiddle around in the middle of a crowd to open your umbrella quickly in a shower.
Keep it central
Sharing is caring — and if this means making above-average human contact, so be it. If you’re with your partner, child, or best friend; place your brolly between you both while you’re walking. Not only will this reduce the chance of hitting a stranger, but it’ll also create the right cosy, cheery atmosphere to enjoy your festive outing.
Calculating your brolly height
Forget the YMCA and the Macarena; it’s the umbrella dance you have to master if you want to achieve the maximum level of umbrella etiquette. Basically, the umbrella dance involves lifting and lowering your umbrella in sync with the heights of your fellow market revellers — raising it to allow shorter pedestrians to pass by unharmed and lowering or tilting it away from taller people.
It’s all about timing and judgement, so be on your guard as you wander the market. Remember: as the holder of the umbrella, you’re in charge of avoiding clashes.
No texting and walking
If you’re wondering why all mishaps are worse when you have a mobile in your hand, they just are. Accidents happen and almost everyone you might catch with your umbrella will tell you it’s fine and merrily carry on. However, if you poke a bystander in the forehead because you were too busy texting on your phone to notice them, they might not be as forgiving. If you need to take a call or answer a message, stand at the side or between the festive stalls to make sure you’re safely out of the way and don’t bump into anyone.
Correctly launching and closing your umbrella
What’s the point in perfecting your umbrella etiquette if you’ve already clouted someone in the face with it when you first put it up? Admittedly, there are no stats to back this up, but it’s likely that putting up and taking down an umbrella is the most dangerous point of its journey. So, exercise military-style caution.
When you’re heading inside, why not follow the guidance of trusty superstition? Stepping indoors means immediately putting down your brolly. Before you do this, shake off as much water as you can outside, avoiding any passersby, and (if possible) leave it at the entrance or put it into a plastic bag so you don’t wet the floor and cause anyone to slip. How about if the rain has simply stopped? If it was just a short shower, step to the side of the walkway or path to close your umbrella. Never suddenly stop in a walking crowd, as someone behind you could walk straight into your umbrella spoke.
But what about opening our brollies, you cry. This requires less input from old wives’ tales: simply make sure there’s nobody within touching distance, either in front or behind you.
Holding your umbrella
Since you’re at a Christmas market, one would assume you’re there because you have a penchant for Christmas. Or at least because you feel a duty to someone who has. Either way, chances are that you’ll be stopping off at every stall on your way around. But it’s easy to lose the optimum umbrella stance when you’re getting free gingerbread tasters and browsing the glass tree ornaments.
Ideally, you need to hold your brolly so that you can easily see who is approaching, so keep it straight over your head and never:
- Spin it between your fingers at your side — markets are full of kids, so you have a good chance of catching one of them at this height.
- Hold it horizontally under your arm.
- Rest it on your shoulder — this only takes up space, which means less walking room for people behind you.
- Dangle it when open with the canopy facing the floor, just because you happen to be under an awning or roof.
During dry spells, close your brolly and hold it vertically with the pointed end closest to the floor.
Nobody wants to cause an A&E visit so close to Santa’s time to shine. Keep these tips in mind to polish your umbrella etiquette and avoid having to apologise at this year’s Christmas markets.
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