Your skills as a host are buffed and ready. Now what about being a good guest?
Hello there Party Animals. Maybe you’ve mastered the art of throwing a party, there’s plenty of advice around on that subject. But what about the neglected art of being a good guest?
I live in France where politeness of the traditional kind is highly valued. Here is a collection of French tips, ideas, and observations I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Bring a Little Gift
In France we bring a little gift always when invited for a meal. (A bottle of wine would not be the gift of choice with the French as it would suggest your host needs help with the wine selection!). Suddenly remembering, in the last rush of getting out the door for a party, that you need to bring something was a frequent frustration. To avoid this, I make it a habit to look for little gifts when I shop, especially when I’m traveling. Often I can find something personal for particular friends. I keep a dozen or so hostess gifts in my closet at the ready. Or if you like to cook, keep something homemade and handy in your freezer.
What about bringing flowers? No need to hit the florist if you’ve got a few blooms and a little greenery or even pretty fall leaves in your garden. I collect inexpensive little vases from flea markets and make pretty arrangements as gift. They’re table-ready and can be put anywhere. Your host, who will be busy greeting other guests and putting the finishing touches on the meal, will appreciate not having the added task of hunting around for vases and scissors.
2. Should you arrive fashionably late?
In France, there’s a nice custom called the dix minutes de politesse, the 10 minutes of politeness. Meaning you arrive ten minutes after the appointed hour to give your hosts a little breathing room.
3. Offer to help.
Better yet, take note of what your hostess or host is doing and jump in to fill the little gaps. Offer to light the candles while she or he is serving plates. Slice the bread. Those last few minutes before sitting down are always the toughest for a host. Be sensitive, though. Not everyone likes help in their kitchen.
4. When Should You Leave?
Don’t stay too late. Has your host stopped pouring? Are they looking tired? Are the yawns starting? Be mindful of clues.
5. Be creative and thoughtful
I’ll never forget a Thanksgiving dinner chez nous for 15 friends, all or European expats or French, who were excited to experience this uniquely American holiday feast. After we’d been eating a few minutes, one of the guests stood up and read a little Thanksgiving poem about overindulging on turkey that had us all laughing. A few minutes later another guest said “ I can top that,” and she did a spontaneous dramatic presentation with another Thanksgiving ditty. Pretty soon another guest was on his feet, belting out a holiday song. And so it went, here and there throughout the meal. It turns out they had all gotten together and planned the entertainment. It made our party memorable–and it was all planned by the guests!
6. Last But Not Least
Last of all, it’s easy to forget, in this busy world, that little follow-up note, phone call, or email. It’s still the thing to do, and much appreciated.
Read Lynn’s post on life as an expat in France every Friday – southern fried french.com
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