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Ziying Zhou says across organisations, leaders are not those who only have the technical expertise, they also carry themselves well, have good manners and communication skills. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A Chinese banker-turned-etiquette coach has become the talk of the town in the UAE after her videos on everything from how to eat dumplings to applying perfume correctly have gone viral on TikTok and other social media.

Ziying Zhou, a former banker with an international bank in Dubai, told Gulf News she is delighted with her new calling as she is keen to help people become better versions of themselves and experience a world of difference.

“During my years in banking, I realised that people at the top across different sectors and organisations don’t reach there only because of their aptitude or technical expertise. Invariably, you will find that these people also carry themselves well, have good manners and communication skills. Studies have shown that 80 per cent of our success in life depends on our soft skills. But despite being so crucial, these soft skills are seldom taught to us,” said Zhou.

The 35-year-old said she herself learnt this the hard way.

Former banker Ziying Zhou talks about her new calling. Gulf News

She said, “I am an undergraduate in finance and did my masters in management, interpretation and translation. I come from a family of bankers and followed in their footsteps. But when I started working, I found myself nervous and unable to strike polite conversation with my senior managers or clients. That made me feel awkward and uncomfortable.”

At the same time, however, there was a side to Zhou that lay dormant. As she explained, “I take great pride in the fact that I hail from the Shandong Province in China which is where the great philosopher Confucius comes from. Back home, we place a lot of emphasis on respect. Even simple family meals necessarily entail a seating plan with due respect accorded to the elders.”

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Ziying Zhou's etiquette classes cover a wide range of subjects from dining etiquette and business protocol to social graces and effective communication. Image Credit: Supplied

Zhou, who studied and worked in the UK before her stint in the UAE, said some of the finer nuances of English culture left a lasting impression on her. “There was something about the way people navigated through a conversation, held the door open for someone, ate from a plate or even sipped water from a glass,” she said.

But it was not until she got an opportunity while working in Dubai that she discovered her own potential.

“I happened to be chosen as one of the two presenters for a global banking conference in Hong Kong. I had never dreamt that I would be able to speak on a stage to so many people in attendance. So it was an eye-opener,” she said.

The newfound confidence did wonders for Zhou as she began to explore her hidden talent after the conference.

Ziying Zhou aims to empower people to become the best versions of themselves and experience a world of difference. Image Credit: Supplied

“The more I thought about it, the deeper I was drawn to it. In due course, I decided to join a diploma course in international etiquette and protocol at the Institut Villa Pierrefeu or The Swiss Finishing School at Gilon in Switzerland, so I could get some formal training. I learnt that there is a method to everything: From how to read body language and address people from different cultures to conducting yourself in a certain way at a restaurant or at a social meeting,” she said.

Zhou, who felt sufficiently equipped to pursue a career in etiquette coaching, resigned from her banking job last year. Today, she runs corporate classes, in person courses and coaching online and on social media channels.

It turns out that there are many takers for the tips she has to offer.

One video of hers on “How to eat Chinese soup dumplings like a pro”, for instance, has had over 4.6 million views on TikTok. Another on “How to apply perfume correctly” boasts of 1.7 million views.

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“People love to get these things right, but are never actually given lessons on how to go about it,” said Zhou, who is out to fill the gap.

She covers a wide range of subjects from dining etiquette and business protocol to social graces and effective communication. She goes to the extent of teaching people even things like how to eat chips elegantly, how to respond to unsolicited advice politely or pick up a fallen item with grace.

“Basically, these tips are aimed at empowering people to become the best versions of themselves, with an inside-out transformation that can open up a world of opportunities for them,” she added.

How etiquette helps

• Mastering the art of conversations and building better relationships.

• Gracefully navigating formal dining occasions.

• Walking, sitting and entering a room with elegance.

• Being more likable and charismatic.

• Taking control of first impressions.

• Creating a positive professional image.

• Mastering the secret of body language

• Improving vocal image.