The 10 Commandments of the Perfect Dinner Guest

Tonight, you are invited to a dinner party with friends or with your beautiful family. You know how to be nice, but are you aware of all the etiquette rules?
Even if you don’t know anyone there, as soon as you follow certain basic principles, you’ll quickly become everybody’s favorite guest.

Here are the ten commandments of the perfect dinner guest, so you don’t make any blunders (and avoid spoiling the evening).

1. Absolute punctuality is never good

If punctuality is a given in other daily life situations, on the contrary, when it comes to dinner parties, it is usually fashionable to be, well, late. Careful though; we’re not talking about an hour delay. Ten to fifteen minutes should be a good enough margin, so you don’t arrive too soon. If you’re really late however, it is of course necessary to warn your host(s).

2. Don’t arrive empty-handed

The traditional flowers for the hostess are always appreciated, but you can also try to stand out a bit more, with chocolates, small pastries, or a bottle of whiskey. Avoid bringing desserts, which would imply that your host has forgotten about it, or even a wine bottle (unless asked), as he/she probably is providing them as well.
Even better: you can send out flowers the day before, with an appreciate note beforehand, as your host(ess) will probably be too busy to take care of them the night of. You can also send them the day after, and picking the flowers according to the home’s decor.

3. Introduce yourself properly

When you arrive, greet all the other guests, and introduce yourself (plus whoever else is with you). It may be obvious to say, but unless you already know everyone, avoid hugs and kisses, and stick to hand-shakes.

4. Avoid touchy subjects

Good conversation often comes down to topic selection, and you need to avoid a few. First, there are issues that can be very controversial, which will in turn create awkwardness or tension (e.g. politics, religion, morality, sex, money). Also try to avoid criticizing common jobs or industries (lawyers, doctors, etc.). Some guests may feel personally targeted.
In terms of topics usually appreciated, you can try talking about professional life, family, or cultural interests.

5. Learn to listen

Being talkative, sociable, and talking with everyone is a great thing to do. But it’s also in very bad taste to monopolize the conversation, talk about yourself too much, or talk over others. Let the other people have their peace and try to not contradict anyone too firmly.

6. Follow protocol

Don’t start eating or drinking before you’ve been invited to do so by your host. Same thing goes to sitting down at the dinner table.
Until it’s food o’clock, there’s no need to be hasty.

7. Have table manners

There are a few basics that everyone already knows: sit up straight, avoid putting your elbows on the table. But there are other, lesser known ones. For example, don’t put your napkin around your neck, unless you’re eating seafood dishes (lobster, etc.). You can leave it on the table, or better yet, unfold it on your lap.
Politeness is first and foremost. No swearing! Smiles and laughs are always better than anger and bitterness.

8. Don’t stuff yourself

When it comes to eating, you should never talk with your mouthful, or be the first one to throw yourself on the food (or bread). It’s also not respectable to ask for fourths and fifths of a dish. A couple of refills is more than enough. Politely decline if asked again.

9. Eat with finesse

Here are a common faux pas when it comes to dinner party etiquette:

  • No need to blow on hot soup.
  • Don’t cut with your knife salad, pasta, or omelets.
  • Potatoes should not be crushed, but separated with a fork.
  • Don’t lick your plate clean.
  • Chew with a closed mouth.
  • When you’re done eating, place your cutlery on the plate in parallel, not an X-shape.

10. Thank adequately

Upon leaving, you should of course thank your host(s). And if you’re in a small enough group, you should also say goodbye to the other guests. No need to do it when it’s a larger gathering (otherwise some guests might feel slighted).
It’s also customary to send the next day a message, or give a call, to thank again the host(s).

Thanks to these commandments of good manners, you’ll be prepared for all dinner parties. Of course, you should tailor these rules according to who you’re visiting. Close friends or family do not require the same level of decorum and etiquette. Play it casual!

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