$16K Banana-eating Lessons

For the über-rich in China it’s not enough to own luxury goods, you need to know how to live a life of luxury. That’s where Sara Jane Ho comes in. The Phillips-Exeter and Georgetown alumna is pioneering the etiquette industry in her native country to help affluent clients cultivate a refined taste, like napkin folding and learning how to eat “tricky” foods

Released on 1/5/2015

Credits

Director: Lauren Greenfield
Producer: Lauren Greenfield and Sandra Keats
Executive Producer: Frank Evers
Editor: Miranda Yousef

Director of Photography: Shana Hagan

Transcript

00:02
(light-hearted classical music)
00:17
I am Sarah Jane Ho.
00:18
I went to Phillips Exeter Academy,
00:20
Georgetown University in Washington, DC,
00:22
and also I'd gone to Swiss finishing school.
00:25
I'm pioneering the etiquette industry in China.
00:28
(lively piano music)
00:31
China finishing school flourishes.
00:34
Learning to be a perfect lady proves fruitful.
00:36
(laughing)
00:39
So, this is me sitting in the front row.
00:41
(laughing)
00:46
Many people are very confused.
00:47
What is a finishing school?
00:49
And even a lot of media and a lot of friends ask me.
00:52
They say, Oh, you know, you need to teach your students
00:54
not to spit. Those are not my students.
00:58
The people who were the overnight mushroom millionaires--
01:01
They actually don't have an interest in setting etiquette.
01:03
They're just starting to buy the Hermes bag.
01:05
Alright, it's sort of like the Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
01:08
So, first you need food, shelter, and only then afterwards,
01:11
respect for others, love, you know, honor, et cetera.
01:14
The way I see it, my students were buying an Hermes bag
01:16
10 years ago, and now they're holding themselves
01:18
to higher standards. So, for them it's really
01:21
about cultivating refined taste.
01:31
You know, I feel that China needs us now.
01:33
This is my service to the country.
01:35
[Interviewer] How much is the course in dollars?
01:37
The hostessing course for married women
01:39
is 12 full days, and it's $16,000 US dollars.
01:43
And then the debutante course for unmarried women
01:46
is 10 full days, and it's just about $13,000 US dollars.
01:51
It's not an insignificant amount,
01:53
but everybody who's taken the class has said
01:55
it's worth every penny spent.
01:58
(lively piano music)
02:00
I didn't just take the Swiss finishing school curriculum
02:02
and plunk it down here,
02:04
I had to totally overhaul it for my market.
02:06
So, what I added for the Chinese market
02:08
is pronunciation of foreign luxury brands,
02:11
Fer-ra-ga-mo,
02:13
introduction to expensive sports.
02:15
So, here are Prince William and Prince Harry.
02:18
You know, dressage, show-jumping.
02:19
You know, I myself am a passionate show-jumper.
02:23
We have classes such as napkin folding,
02:25
floral arrangement, personal styling,
02:27
dress codes. Very nice.
02:29
But tricky foods is one of the favorite classes
02:31
of the students.
02:32
(lively piano music)
03:05
I think what the modern-day Chinese woman
03:07
is looking for today is a guide,
03:09
because, especially the hostess generation,
03:12
their mothers grew up during the cultural revolution.
03:14
So, nobody could teach them how to use a knife and a fork.
03:17
And then their daughters are totally westernized.
03:22
How to eat a banana elegantly with a knife and fork.
04:06
(upbeat music)