A French entrepreneur by the name of Guillaume Rué de Bernadac has been teaching Chinese people to enjoy the finer things in life — with class.
Currently based in Shanghai, de Bernadac founded the Académie de Bernadac in 2015, which has since taught China’s elite to become “modern 21st century ladies and gentlemen.”
The Academie’s clients range from financial institutions to hotel and restaurant firms to individuals, all hoping to improve their etiquette.
“I deliver classes from the most northern to the southern regions of China, and all types of city in China have enormous potential for luxury,” de Bernadac told The Luxury Conversation earlier this year.
“This is why we are launching a new program ‘The Aristocratic Heritage’: a three-day program with dining manners, deportment, social manners and so on. We invite guests to create their own family standards to pass on their heirs.”
While not a descendant of royalty, de Bernadac learned the rules of etiquette from a young age, thanks to his grandparents.
His great-grandfather, Joseph de Bernadac, tutored Moroccan princes and princesses at the time of Mohammed V, teaching them savoir-vivre, the French term for “knowing how to live.”
On Sundays, young de Bernadac and his brother would have lunch at their grandparents’ place.
His grandmother, Julienne de Bernadac, would have them tie ribbons around their shoulders and tuck papers under their armpits so that they maintained proper posture while eating.
Now, de Bernadac imparts his knowledge to Chinese luxury consumers, whom he believes have become “more knowledgeable” over time.
He teaches deportment in various settings, from dining to dressing to conversations.
In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post, de Bernadac teaches the proper way of holding cups (pinch the ear, not loop fingers into the handle to make them appear longer), stirring tea (no circles and side-touching, stir spoon back and forth) and sitting to make one’s legs look longer (the slant, with legs crossed and tilted to one side).
“You need to know what you can do and what you can’t do. To be modern 21st century ladies and gentlemen means knowing the rules, and always, knowing when you can break them,” he said.
Recognizing that each culture, society and occasion demands its own set of social customs, de Bernadac’s classes are also tailored to meet foreign expectations.
“Generally the higher you go in society, the more sophisticated and complicated and strict the etiquette will be. This is exactly what we teach and why we are here. We want to teach people how to adapt if they deal with high society abroad.”
De Bernadac points out one difference between his Chinese and western clients: the motivation in learning such rules of etiquette.
“In our etiquette industry, what is noticeable is that my Chinese clients are concerned with practicality, helpful tips, while the western clientele are more intrigued by the story, the meaning, the heritage behind ‘why’ etiquette is a certain way,” he told The Luxury Conversation.
“The Chinese person who is living a luxury lifestyle may not always be interested in a specifically ‘French’ methodology of etiquette, but an international knowledge which can be applied anywhere in the world. They want to ensure that the time that they spend learning new skills or taking in new knowledge can be optimised into giving them the most success in the most occasions.”