We all want to host a Thanksgiving dinner that’s not stressful and hectic, because that takes away from the holiday’s purpose: expressing gratitude. Your host has a lot on their plate (not just turkey!). If you find yourself on the guest list this year, follow these 5 secrets to be the ideal guest and help your host’s day run as smooth as gravy.
- RSVP ASAP: The number of guests in attendance affects everything: how much food to prepare, how much seating is needed, and what type of activities to plan. Be courteous; respond within 48 hours of receiving the invitation. If you receive an invitation after you’ve already said yes to another, immediately inform the latter host that you will not be able to attend.
- Arrive with Offerings: If you have any special dietary needs, bring a gluten free (or sugar-free, or nut-free, etc.) side dish. Remember to bring food ready-to-serve (serving spoon and all) and wine pre-chilled; try not to encroach on kitchen or refrigerator space. Call or text your host on Wednesday, asking if they need any last-minute items. If not, potted plants fend better than flower bouquets, preventing your host from scrambling through cupboards at the eleventh hour seeking a vase.
- Leave the Toast to the Host: Some guests don’t realize that giving the first toast as a guest is a big taboo. The host—the curator of the evening—deserves to make the initial toast. If you’re itching to make a big announcement or show your appreciation to the hardworking host, ask them privately when they will be making their toast so you know when your turn is coming.
- Appropriate Conversations Only, Please: A political brawl at the Thanksgiving dinner table is a host’s worst nightmare. Avoid inappropriate conversations at the table. Help the hostess keep the mood light by politely changing the conversation if you notice a discussion heading into dangerous waters. For example, if Uncle Joe asks for your thoughts on healthcare reform, try responding, “I’d love to discuss this with you over lunch tomorrow, but while the whole family’s here, you must tell us more about your new job!”
- Be an Extra Set of Eyes (or Hands): Observe how the day is going and tune in to wherever help might be needed. If your host denies your offer to help in the kitchen, designate yourself as the resident babysitter, DJ, or coat-check clerk.
Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks, so don’t forget to give thanks to your host! Stay away from offering criticism–they know that the turkey tastes perfect.
Sharon Schweitzer and Emilie Lostracco co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Emilie Lostracco is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication Intern with Access to Culture. The Montreal native is currently a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, studying International Relations and Global Studies. Emilie specializes in international environmental efforts, European studies, and French. She plans on graduating with honors in December. Connect with her via Linkedin.
Photo: Satya Murthy on Flickr