That's what Countess Marie de Tilly does, a world expert in protocol and etiquette, founder of the Atelier for refined manners and communications French Touch, the lady who gives lectures in Europe, Russia, China, Africa and America as an ambassador of savoir vivre - the art of living with style.

Countess de Tilly has trained the senior staff of Chanel and Dior, of Jaguar and Cartier, but she has no qualms about going to a social event in a ball gown and sneakers. And feel wonderful, because she adapts good manners to the modern way of life.

Born into one of the oldest families in France, Marie de Tilly hails from Normandy, where her ancestors fought for their king in the Middle Ages. Her father, a diplomat, raised his children to respect traditional values, but encouraged them to immerse themselves in the new cultures they encountered during his postings around the world. Marie graduated from the Higher School of Politics, but began to take care of her large family.

When asked who prompted her to teach what she has considered a way of life her entire existence, Marie replies, “My friends pushed and encouraged me to start. It just happened. My father was a diplomat and therefore I have close acquaintances in all corners of the world. They often asked me questions about French etiquette, as they feared getting something wrong when they came to Paris. They were worried about what we call a «faux pas» - a wrong step, literally. I advised them and so the idea of teaching Savoir Vivre gradually crystallized. I became popular in the upper echelons and began to receive invitations to do individual training of international tycoons, entire corporations or debutantes. No matter how well-educated and cultured a person is, there is always something to add to their knowledge of behaviour in society."

For the same reasons, former first lady Antonina Stoyanova invited Countess de Tilly to give two master classes in Bulgaria. Mrs. Stoyanova co-founded the Live Elegantly Academy with the singer Bogdana Karadocheva and the businesswoman Neli Beshirova. The idea and the goal of this project is to expand the horizons of the inquisitive, to satisfy the neds of those thirsty for new knowledge and skills, and to help the entrepreneurs immersed in their business.

The founding ladies themselves boast enviable personal biographies. Mrs. Antonina Stoyanova, wife of President Petar Stoyanov, doctor of international law, diplomat, specialist in intellectual property with an international career, creator of the Values foundation which supports the development and promotion of Bulgarian culture and art.

Mrs. Bogdana Karadocheva - honorary citizen of Sofia, one of the most beloved and talented Bulgarian singers, the first winner of the Golden Orpheus, who has performed with world stars such as Adamo, Gilbert Becaud, Cliff Richard, Charles Aznavour, Josephine Baker.

Mrs. Neli Beshirova is a businesswoman who manages a multi-million dollar corporation with interests in energy. Her company "Risk Engineering" AD is in the top 20 of the best employers in our country. She is a writer, a member of the International PEN Club. Neli Beshirova is the author of the children's book "You're a Smart Child, Tino" and the epistolary novel "Love and Ego".

Impressed by the elegant trio, Marie de Tilly accepted Antonina Stoyanova's invitation. She had not visited Bulgaria, but had already been declared the guru of protocol among the Russian oligarchs and their descendants, the oil padishahs of the Far East and the Chinese billionaires. In Bulgaria, she held master classes on business protocol and appropriate manners at official receptions.

The countess is a typical French woman – slim and energetic, a sporty type with a minimal amount of make-up, polite but slightly distant and always ready to answer even the strangest questions.

“Who created Etiqette?” is definitely not among such questions. The French word etiquette originated in the 17th century. Initially, this was the name given to the cards with the rules for behaviour in the royal court written on them. At that time, the violation of these norms implied a serious punishment. Etiquette subsequently spread worldwide and split into French and British, the former becoming a European standard of behaviour adopted in everyday life, whilst the rules of Misty Albion remained in the 19th century as too complicated.

Etiquette rules change gradually.

Etiquette for me is an opportunity to be natural and develop. I like to combine different, sometimes diametrically opposed things. I adhere to this rule not only when choosing my wardrobe, but also in all other areas of my life. It's so wonderful - to be open to the world and to draw inspiration from the space around you," the countess shared enthusiastically.

According to her, the pandemic has not caused great damage to good manners. Apart from the handshake rule. But manners and rules change along with the development of society and become more and more democratic. "The basic requirements remain the same, but the relationships are much more direct, and the communication more accessible and without unnecessary conventions," de Tilly is convinced.


About designer outfits and flaunting wealth

Yes, we live in an audio-visual world where when people meet, they judge the others by their clothes. But that doesn't mean obsessing over your wardrobe. Always aim at the golden mean. Adapt the look to your work.

Money and good manners are totally different things. The world will welcome you with open doors if you have pleasant manners, not because you are wealthy. Demonstrating wealth often borders on bad taste. In outfits, for example, you don't need to imitate magazine covers. Trends are important, but you don't have to be a slave to fashion. True chic isn't about covering yourself from head to toe in a brand's logo. Those who exclusively wear Chanel, Dior or other luxury brands are contemptuously called "nouveau riche". Branded outfits and accessories should not be more than three. Preferably two at most.

About table manners

One should not sit down at the table before the mistress of the house, and in no case should one begin to eat before she has taken the utensils in her hands. Such behaviour can be seen as a personal insult.

The number of utensils always corresponds to the number of dishes. The farthest from the plate on both sides should be taken first. So, follow these instructions and you won't be wondering which fork is meant for what.

By the way, spoons, forks and knives are placed with the back side up so that the coat of arms or other mark is visible

The rules for using lipstick deserve special attention. It is absolutely unacceptable in society to leave traces of it on the glass. This is considered a manifestation of bad taste. What is the way out? Choose a lipstick that doesn't leave streaks.

According to the rules of etiquette, only married women are allowed to put their elbows on the table at lunch or dinner. The goal is to show off their expensive jewelry.

There are often situations where you don't want to (or can't) eat something or drink alcohol. According to the rules of etiquette, you should taste even a crumb, and then place the fork and knife parallel to each other. This signals that you are done. And when it comes to drinks, you can say no with a light hand gesture to show you've had enough. It is not polite to cover your glass with your palm or to show your rejection too emotionally.

Where should a lady put her bag or clutch? In no case should it be placed on the table or the back of the chair. In decent society, it is accepted to stand behind the back of the chair, and if it is too big, on the floor. I learned how in your country there is a superstition that if a lady puts her bag on the floor, she will be poor. Believe me, women with millions put their bags right there, on the floor.

A few more useful tips:

The dish is served from the left and removed from the right.

The arrangement of the guests around the table is made according to the male-female principle. So that, in case of need, the gentleman can assist the lady.

Never put your mobile phone on the table. Men can put it in their pocket on vibrating mode. If the lady has no pockets, the smartphone should remain in her purse until the end of the social event.

And most importantly: remember that rules are made to be broken sometimes. «In aristocratic circles it is not accepted to openly condemn mistakes made. "Just be modern and live life to the fullest," advises Comtesse de Tilly.