The holidays mean visiting friends and relatives and lots and lots of parties. Being the perfect guest requires remembering some basics rules of etiquette, updated here for a world of smartphones and social media. Follow these 15 tips and you’ll be the perfect guest–the one who gets invited back because they want you to visit, not because you are a relative!)
How be the Perfect Overnight Guest
For some, the holidays means staying home and spending time with friends and loved ones nearby. For others, it means travel. Maybe the relatives will be traveling to visit you. Or maybe you will be traveling to visit them.
How can you be the perfect overnight guest? By using your smartphone to snap a picture of the room you are staying in. The next morning before you leave, ask if the host wants the bed stripped, or just made. Check your photo and make it as close to the photo as possible. Close lights, toilets, and leave dirty towels in a neat pile. Leave it as you found it.
For those who will be staying closer to home, here are 15 guest etiquette tips for being the perfect guest at a party, guaranteed to get you invited back again and again.
How to be the Perfect Party Guest
Know thy host and arrive bearing a gift.
Don’t just show up for the grub like a free loader, ask if there is anything you can bring to the celebration. But know your host. Do they drink? Are they Kosher? Are they Gluten free or vegetarian? You don’t want to bring boxed wine to an AA gathering, or a slab of meat to a vegetarian’s house. You can always be on the safe side; bring flowers, homemade jam, a funny-framed photo of your friend, a scented candle or a game to play.
Know the time and type of party.
Know the start time and end time of the party, and unless asked to help, do not arrive early! Sit in your car if you have too. Hosts are running around to the last minute setting up things, and an early guest can make them feel they have to entertain instead of finishing up last minute details. 15 minutes after start time is a good rule. (Unless it’s a boat party, then be at the dock early, unless you want to pull a James Bond move.) Also if it’s a sit down dinner, do not arrive late. (And if you are running late for some reason, communicate! Call or text and say, “Please start without me.” Actually beg them. That’s a lot better than them eyeing you as the entrée when you come in.”
Know where to park and plan ahead.
Should you park in the driveway, on the street or on the lawn? (I said, on the lawn, not on a flowerbed.) Sometimes hosts run out of food and have to make a deli run, and if your car is blocking theirs, you have to do the car shuffle, which is a royal pain. And if you plan on leaving early park in a place where you are not likely to get blocked in.
Know household rules: Shoes or No shoes?
Some households (like mine) have a no shoe policy indoors. Knowing that in advance, you might not want to wear your holy socks or have cat hairs stuck in between your toes.
Don’t bring a surprise guest to the party.
Even if it’s a casual BBQ ask before you just bring a plus one. A sit down dinner at a house requires another chair, place setting etc. So unless you want to be crammed into the corner with grandma’s teeth in a glass or at the kid’s table with a pacifier, ask. (Note: At a venue it could be an extra $200 bucks to the host.)
Put Away Your Smart Phones
Do not talk on your cell phone or text underneath the table, it’s rude. Even if you’re listening it’s rude. Even if Pokémon Go is dancing on the turkey, it’s rude. So unless it’s an emergency, (in which case excuse yourself) engage yourself with the people that are there in front of you and talk to your other friends later.
Refrain from Social Media
If a home is unique, some people like taking pictures of it. For example my bathroom looks as if you are inside a forest. Ask if you can take photos in a person’s private home and clarify if you can post the picture to the world before you do. Always ask.
Don’t talk politics or religion!
Even though we all know this, people still do it!
Don’t even talk about it at a wedding, a corporate event, or a church dinner etc. It’s a sure way to change the energy in the room, because not everyone is going to agree. And although a food fight might be appropriate in Animal House, not so much in your own home. Also don’t speak a foreign language in front of others who don’t speak that language, unless you explain what you are saying. It excludes the non-speaking ones from the conversation and makes them think you are talking about them. (Which you probably are).
Know Food and Pet Allergies
My mom taught me to be polite and eat what is placed on my plate. However if you will die because that peanut touched the lettuce, then pull the host on the side and explain you are not trying to be rude, you just want them to know in advance if you turn down something, not to take it personally. Likewise, if you are allergic to animals, find out if there will be any (and we are not talking drunk humans here) of the 4-legged kind at the party. Then either bring your allergy meds or prepare to stay only a few hours.
Leave Your Baggage at Home (unless you are sleeping over, then bring your luggage but not your baggage.)
You are being asked to a party because hopefully your bright presence and laughter will add to it. If you are the cloud of doom stay home. No drama queens, drunken kings, or energy vampires are needed. And if you are attending the party with your spouse and you hate them, then either divorce them prior, come alone or keep your mouth shut, no one needs to see you argue. And no matter how you feel, don’t insult the host’s cooking (at least not to their face). It’s a sure way to wear the food instead of eat it.
Can I bring my kid?
Usually you will know in advance. But if you are not sure, ask. If they are invited, don’t let your kids roam free as if they were looking for the Holy Grail. Have them stay where the activity is so you don’t have to wonder if they are redesigning the bathroom with glitter spray or break an antique that you have to mortgage your house to pay back.
My house is a smoke free environment. Some are not. But always ask. If the host lights up well then there you have it. If there are ashtrays around that resemble a smoldering volcano, that’s another good hint. But always ask, “Is it okay if I smoke here?” (Even if it’s e-cigarettes). Other guests may not want to be inhaling your second hand smoke. And if you are going to smoke outside, check in advance where you’re going to throw the cigarette butt. No one wants to be picking up your remains the day after a party.
Conversations and Silent cues
If you are a social butterfly you’ll be fine. But if you are shy look for others that are alone and start a conversation. If people are huddled, don’t break into their circle to join in, watch body language to know when the proper opening is to talk. Like wise if you are talking to someone and doing all the talking, look to see if the person eyes are watering from boredom. If they are slowly inching themselves away from you take the hint that it may be time to exit because they are trying not to be rude but are looking for a way to end the conversation. Also, don’t over stay your welcome. As the party winds down, unless asked, don’t be the last to leave.
Offer to help Clean up.
Don’t just watch as the host stands there in elbow high dishes talking to her, pick up a dishtowel and start drying. Or clear or table or bag excess food. If you drool, they may even ask you to take it home J
Thank You Cards
Sometimes I actually carry them with me and leave them where the host can see them after I leave, or I will drop a note or text the next day to thank them for being invited.
Smile, hug, laugh
No more need be said.
What did your Grandma teach you about guest etiquette? Share with us in the comment section below.