Chewing Gum Etiquette

Keep mum with your gum when you choose to chew.

Trent Armstrong
6-minute read
Episode #93

Chewing Gum Etiquette


We've chatted about a wide range of manners topics. Many have been above board and stuffy. Some have just been uncomfortable. Today we’ll be discussing  one topic that, until recently, was panned as being just plain rude in most situations. That would be chewing gum. But lately you can find folks chewing gum in staff meetings, during church, and at weddings. We're not going to talk so much about what the world has come to, instead we'll take a look at how to handle our gum in most situations--

Old Time-y Gum Etiquette

It seems a little antiquated to think of chewing gum being frowned upon in an office setting, but for an amazing number of years it was considered absolutely unprofessional to chew gum while at the office or in a customer service type role like flight attendant or museum tour guide. I'm not sure where "museum tour guide" came from-- just go with it. There is a good solid foundation for this. You wouldn't chew your food in front of your client at a conference table or while talking someone through the Monet section of the museum, therefore you wouldn't chew gum while doing this either.

Recent days have seen the relaxation of work environments and many formal type events are becoming more casual. So I wanted to take a look at some of the things we should keep in mind when considering that double mint, double mint, double mint gum.

Gum Chewing Etiquette: Where?

I think we shouldn't go any further before we determine where gum chewing is appropriate. Though I, Modern Manners Guy find the idea of chewing gum during a staff meeting strange and awkward, you might have more relaxed staff meetings in which people chewing gum is commonplace. As with appropriate attire, follow managements' lead in determining the likelihood that you won't be sacked for chewing gum in the meeting.


If you're going to be in front of people, don't chew gum. Period.

Places to hold your gum include in a job interview, at choir practice, and during a business presentation-- even if you're not actually speaking but just part of the presenting team. And the same goes for being in front of people for any situation. Bridesmaids and groomsmen, sitting on stage at graduations, school presentations--think over these situations and try to use common sense. Also, you should spit out your gum if you’ll be in a situation in which you’ll be talking with many people. It's pretty awkward for everyone if you are greeting lots of folks and you are smacking away on your gum-- yes, it is almost impossible to chew gum while talking to people and not either smack or show it to someone.


When Gum Chewing is a Good Idea

Though chewing gum can often be a bad idea, it can actually be useful in a number of situations. I checked with Quick and Dirty Tip’s own Nutrition Diva on this subject, and she had some good advice. She said that chewing a little gum can abate hunger pains and keep your mind off wanting to eat. That just might help you stick to your diet. And of course chewing gum can also help when it comes to bad breath. I asked our own House Call Doctor about this, and he suggested that when in close quarters, minty gum will likely decrease bad breath and increase your stock with those on whom you may be breathing. And while you're at it, you'll be improving your dental hygiene.

And it should be noted that Nutrition Diva and the House Call Doctor believe that sugarless gum is always the way to go.

How to Deal With Loud Gum Chewers

If you’re going to be chewing gum, watch out for the smacking. You would think that those folks who smack their gum would actually hear it and realize the terrible sound they are making. But, alas, they do not. So the next time you are chewing gum, take a second and listen to how you chew. If you are smacking, adjust yourself and others will be grateful.

If you find yourself in close quarters with someone who is smacking away and you just can’t concentrate, do these two things in this order:

Step 1: Look objectively at the situation and determine if it’s absolutely imperative that this person stop smacking their gum before you smack them. In a completely public situation, it’s not everyone’s job to do what you like. If you can move, do so. If you are simply stuck, like on a train, calm yourself. Then if you still can’t handle it, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Understand that any action you take might fall on deaf ears. Then politely say, “You seem to be concentrating really hard so I apologize for interupting, but your gum is really loud.” If the culprit doesn't take your hint, add, “If you chew a little more quietly, I promise I won't have a nervous breakdown right here on the train.”

Don't just be a Grumpy Gus and drop that bomb on the person and then retreat. Even a slight-- be it genuine or not--interest in them or what they are reading might ease the weight of your words.

If the loud gum chewer is one of your coworkers, calmly approach them and affect your most matter of fact voice when you say, "Hey there. You probably don't realize it, but you are smacking your gum like a crazy person. I'm having a hard time concentrating. Would you mind being a little softer or waiting until later to chew?"

There is a chance that won't work so make sure you have a backup like big-time noise reducing headphones.

Chewing Gum Bubble Etiquette

Many gum chewers can’t resist the urge to blow bubbles. To the popper of gum, if you are outside or things are really informal, blow all the bubbles you want. Do not, however, do either of these in more formal public settings, especially at work, school, and church. Yes, I did say church. If you are a congregant in a church and can maintain a low key gum chewing session, the activity might help you concentrate. Don't be the trendsetter, though. Some settings are more relaxed than others so, again, use common sense to make your decision.

Politely Disposing of Your Used Gum

Now, when it comes time to dispose of your gum, don't drop it on the street, in the grass, in a water fountain, in a urinal, or stick it to the underside of something. And do not place your used gum on the bumper of someone else's car because when they return to their Manners Mobile and see the sticky mess, it will have even the most mannerly of people thinking unmannerly thoughts. Sorry. Back on track-- the best thing to do is to keep the wrapper and use that wrapper as a sanitary way to transfer the gum from your mouth to the trash. Sometimes gum doesn't come in a wrapper so try to find something similar like a tissue or piece of paper to use in this situation. And there are trash cans about every 20 feet so you don't have any excuses for not actually putting it in one.

These last two suggestions are usually best when done with discretion.

[[AdMiddle]If you are going to use your fingers to discard your gum, —Here’s a quick and dirty tip: touch the tips of your fingers to your tongue to get them a little wet before grabbing the gum. That will keep the gum from sticking to your fingers during the transfer. And wash those hands when you're done.

Should you be without paper or are just totally grossed out by touching your used gum, spitting your gum out directly into the garbage is acceptable but only when done with the utmost discretion. This is not something to be done in front of others.

A final recap: Use common sense to know where to chew your gum, keep your noise level down so you're not distracting to someone else, and always dispose of your gum in a waste bin when you are finished with it. Following these simple rules will keep your manners in tip top shape should you choose to chew some gum.


Thank you for listening to The Modern Manners Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Polite Life

I offer a special thanks to The Nutrition Diva and The House Call Doctor for their advice on this topic. Go find out more about their wonderful podcasts at quickanddirtytips.com

If you have a comment or suggestion, email me, the Modern Manners Guy, at manners@quickanddirtytips.com.

There are transcripts of this and all my other episodes at manners.quickanddirtytips.com where you can also find a link to my Facebook group.  Come on over, become a fan and join in the discussions. And don't forget to tell a friend about your Modern Manners Guy.

The Modern Manners Guy is a part of the Quick and Dirty Tips.

Chewing Gum image from Shutterstock