From the works of Weirrard Rildenbar, diplomat at court
Greeting the natives
When you approach someone new in Impiltur, you may expect them to stare openly. Rude as it seems to us, this scrutiny determines who must open the greeting rituals. I have found that in the majority of cases, the youngest is expected to first greet the elder. In absence of a visible difference, women first greet men or else the role falls to the one who was approached.
In formal introductions, there will be an exchange of names and occupations. This sets the tone for the rest of the conversation, because it defines the speakers' relative social status and suggests the proper forms of address. You are expected to remember these details for future meetings, as this step is not repeated. Instead there will be a reference to the previous encounter.
It is customary to exchange and use only last names, but full names are sometimes given to avoid confusion when multiple family members are involved. It pays to mimic these habits. While Impilturans are forgiving of minor breaches of etiquette, such as who initiates a greeting, they look harshly upon a refusal to respond to introductions, giving false information or insisting upon a first-name basis. A formal language and behavour is retained between people who don't know eachother well and this distance cannot be bridged prematurely.
The next step in the greeting is the exchange of nods or bows, depending upon the relative status. Impiltur's greeting rituals have no room for handshakes like we use amongst peers as they are considered invasions of the personal space. Simultaneous nods are exchanged instead and often their gravity reflects the party's eagerness to converse. Use this to decide how quickly you should get to the point.
When there is a class difference, the one in lowest standing will bow or curtsy to be acknowledged by a nod from the other. I advise visitors who are uncertain of the proper response bow to all who bear swords or have armed guards, since the mere fact we are not native Impilturans has us at a social disadvantage.
Note that in any meeting after the first, a speaker may trade their rightful nod for a bow. This happens when they wish to show particular appreciation of the previous meeting. I myself take note of the circumstances of a conversation in a book of meetings, as I must maintain many relationships in my line of work. It would be an embarrassment to forget an encounter.
When a relationship develops, the elder party may invite the younger to use their first name only during private conversations. If both were born in the same year, either can extend the invitation. The custom is to decline at least the first time, and as many future times as necessary. Strangely, this does not seem to insult or shame the other party. I find that it actually makes them more inviting, as though they would help a friend reach their own level of comfort around the other.
After a refusal, the topic cannot be broached again for the next five meetings. After reciprocating, many of the formalities are dispensed with. Regulations on who greets whom are dismissed and respectful invasions of personal space are permitted, to the point where members of the same sex greet eachother with three kisses to the cheeks.
You should be aware that there is no intermediate stage where one side uses a first name and the other a last. Moreover, once extended, informality can only be withdrawn after a severe breach of trust.
In spite of this clear division between stranger and friend and the unsettling stares, Impilturans are usually willing to help those who have the courage to ask for it. They will often take time away from other important business or go to great lengths to assist. They are also known for extending the utmost hospitality to any strangers. Misunderstandings with travellers can be experienced due to a deeply ingrained local understanding that saying “no” to an offer of food or assistance is merely an act of politeness rather than a genuine refusal. Repeated firm refusal may be necessary to avoid confusion.
When you receive assistance in a matter, be aware that many simply consider this a religious duty and will be offended if gratitude is pressed upon them. A grateful visitor should offer a single silver or copper coin with the explicit request to donate it to a temple of the Triad. It is commendable to donate three identical coins rather than one if wealth allows, but never another number.
The temples will support the needy, so you need feel no guilt about your reward's destination. But if you would rather support your helper directly it is acceptable to invite them to a meal at a nearby public house instead.
When invited into a home, guests should be punctual and bring a gift of flowers or alcohol. A typical household spans three generations. Husbands are usually older than wives as they are expected to have established themselves in a trade before they can be considered suitable marriage material, and it is the husband or his widow who functions as head of the household. The matriarchal structure we know from halfling society does not apply here, though grandmothers seem to be well respected in the homes I have visited. Aged grandfathers appear to be an oddity, doubtless due to the age differential.
It is important to follow the lead of the head of the household in all manners, particularly table etiquette. All the regular rules for a successful visit apply in Impiltur, but it is worth reinforcing that no business can be discussed over a meal. Haggling to find the best price is routine practice for Impiltur's merchants and this never pairs well with digestion.
Regarding leavetaking, the formal rituals are fairly straight-forward. One party will signal their desire to wrap up the conversation by thanking the other for their time, their aid or interest, to which the other responds dismissively. At this point you will have roughly two minutes to conclude outstanding business. No new subjects can be broached, except to arrange another meeting in the future.
This window of opportunity shuts when either side makes a reference to what the other was doing before the meeting or to what they plan to do next. It is also shut by an exchange of blessings. Often the locals manage to combine the two in a single expression!
All social obligations are concluded with a nod or bow. To be fully proper, choose the same method you selected during the greeting exchange. At this point there is no need to look back at the other party, let alone to wave like an idiot.
When parting from more than two individuals, it is acceptable to address entire groups instead of making individual farewells. If so, always choose the bow or curtsy over the nod.
Amongst those who are on a first-name basis, farewells are often quick and careless. This is because most Impilturans do not travel far and so can expect to see eachother again within days. Be careful of mimicing this behaviour if you believe there will be more time between your meetings. I myself have ruffled several feathers by staying away too long.
To help you interpret the setting and game mechanics.
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