CHINA - A former member of the British queen's household, who now trades on her extensive social network and reputation, is on a crusade to bring good manners to China - or at least to those who want to improve their social or business standing with foreigners.
Alexandra Messervy recently launched a pop-up "etiquette school" in China that travels the nation, catering to demand. She hopes to set up a permanent facility within the next year, possibly in Shanghai.
"Good manners are all about building self-confidence, because they make other people feel comfortable and at ease," says Messervy, who spent more than a decade working for the British Royal Family before founding The English Manner in 2001. It's a joint venture with Public Image Inc, The Etiquette Connection, which ranks as the United Kingdom's No 1 finishing school.
"You have seven seconds to make a good first impression, and it is very hard to undo," says the lady whom some British media have dubbed "Ms Manners".
She was speaking last week before hosting afternoon tea for local media at the Park Hyatt Shanghai.
Meanwhile, a launch ceremony for The English Manner's latest associate office in Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu was held on Oct 15.
Like the pop-up school, this represents a partnership with UK-based Prestigious Education. It offers such courses as "How to adapt to British student life".
While attending to the British monarchy, Messervy helped organise Prince Andrew's wedding to Sarah Ferguson in 1986 and Prince Harry's christening. Incidentally, this week marks the christening of the latest addition to the Royal Family, Prince George.
Messervy also served as a consultant to the world-famous finishing school, Lucie Clayton.
Although she will not disclose the names of individual clients - discretion being one of The English Manner's calling cards - she says they include nouveau-riche Chinese entrepreneurs, property tycoons and the owner of a fleet of private jets who had her train his entire service staff.
Such finely tuned networking skills and a valuable list of contacts should render her school's services an easy sell in a country where personal relationships are depended upon to grease the wheels or skip rungs on the ladder.
"We also do cultural tour programs called 'Accessing the Inaccessible', which might include lunch with a duchess or a trip to see the Crown Jewels," she says.
"We had one Chinese gentleman last year whom we took to England, Scotland, Paris and Rome. We were able to get him behind-the-scenes access at Paris Fashion Week so he could meet some of the designers."