Keeping Your Umbrella Etiquette-ful


When it rains, it pours, as the saying goes.  Having an umbrella available is essential at times like this.  Even in a sunny climate, an UV protected sun umbrella is useful when wearing a hat may be awkward.

Regardless of the types of umbrellas you may use – retractable, classic, bubble, or fashion umbrella – there are certain “must do’s” etiquette-wise.  Carrying and using one requires a level-up in courtesy as you enter common and shared space with other people.

The “Must-do’s” of Umbrella Use

  • Carrying an umbrella increases your personal space; that is, you now have more to manage and you’ve increased the chances of invading another person’s space.  This is especially important when you are on a city street. 
  • Open your umbrella only when you are outside and away from doors.
  • When you enter a building, close your umbrella and place it immediately in its cover or in an umbrella receptacle.  Avoid leaning it partially opened against a wall and avoid shaking the water off as this creates a slippery floor.  In your office, find a place to tuck it away (even under your desk), to avoid cluttering.
  • When you are walking, observe traffic sidewalk rules and walk on the correct side (right side in the U.S. and most other countries) to avoid a colliding with other people - and their umbrellas.  
  • If you are shorter in stature, be keenly aware and keep your eyes upward, as it’s dangerous to walk under a taller person with an opened umbrella.  He/she could suffer injury.
  • If you are a taller person, be ready to raise your umbrella as you pass others on the street.
  • Offer to share your umbrella when another person is walking with you in the rain without one. 
  • When it’s very windy put your umbrella away.  It’s no good battling the wind and your umbrella is at risk of being turned inside out and/or damaged. 
  • If you are a couple, try to use one umbrella if possible.  As a unit you take up more space and increase the chances of bumping into someone else.
  • When you are holding a closed umbrella while talking or walking, keep the tip end pointed toward the ground; never hold it sideways as the tip or handle could hurt someone.  Hold with with both hands, if possible, to keep it secure. 
  • On a train, or any public transportation, do not take up additional seating space for your item.
  • If you intrude into someone else’s space, apologize immediately. 
  • Be careful not to pick up someone else’s umbrella in a shared umbrella container.

FAQ’s on Umbrella Etiquette

  • Should you share with a stranger?  
    Yes, if someone else is being drenched with rain and you are close-by, sharing your umbrella is called for as a common courtesy - and a kind gesture.
  • When a man and a woman are walking together, should the man hold the shared umbrella? 
    The tallest of the two should hold the umbrella. 
  • If I am afraid to leave my umbrella in the container at a public place due to possible theft, what should I do with it?
    You may want to hang it inside your coat at the coat rack.  If it is retractable and closed, consider putting it under you chair.  Include a tag or label that makes it less likely that someone might confuse your item with his. 
  • If someone is swinging or fiddling with his umbrella during a conversation, how should I tell him that it’s rude to do that? 
    Say something like, “John, I know you don’t mean to distract me from our conversation with twirling.”  Or “Louise, I’m getting nervous as I watch some of your fancy moves.” 
  • If you notice that your friend lets the person he is walking with get wet while he remains dry, should you tell him that he needs to be more considerate?
    Ask your friend if he is aware that Marie got very wet as they were walking side by side.  Chances are he will pause and reflect.  Or, you might let Marie bring it to his attention.

An umbrella is a handy tool and learning how to use it properly is no different than learning how to correctly use your utensils when you dine.  Mishaps or apparently rude incidents of poking, stabbing or bumping aren’t intended.

A rainy day can put many people on edge as they hurry about attempting to stay dry.  Patience and understanding will help ease everyone, including yourself, through the challenge.