Tuesday, 12 November 2013

10 questions of Social Etiquette...

The other day my neighbour and I were discussing social etiquette, and I thought I'd put our questions - and a few others - to my hundreds of readers (well, the one or two of you who glance at my mumblings).

1. When your guests bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party, are you expected to open it for consumption or put it aside in favour of the wine that your purchased yourself in the hopes they would like it?

The trouble with this for me is that sometimes I have chosen to take something like Rose, because it's what I prefer to drink.  However, sometimes I am taking a 'spare' bottle of wine, which we would never have used ourselves in the hope my host will enjoy it instead.

2. Is it appropriate to give a donation to charity in place of a gift - assuming you've not been invited to do that.

My neighbour is a retired teacher and one of her pupils would give her a card stating that a donation had been made in her name towards school dinners for children in India or something similar instead of a gift at Christmas or end of year.  She very much appreciated this idea, but not everybody would.  This is similar to the 'e-card' that people send and give money the money they would have given to charity.

3. Should you help with the washing up or generally help out when invited for dinner with a friend?

When I'm visiting friends, I often want to help them with setting up or clearing away - and I am very grateful when people offer to help.  However, there is a line between guest and friend.  The traditional response should be 'no, thanks, it's all under control', but what do you do when it isn't?

4. Is it acceptable to turn up empty handed when you visit a friend?

Even when I've just popped round for a chat with someone, I feel that I should take something with me - whether it be a cake, some biscuits or half a dozen eggs.  With some friends I don't worry so much, especially if I see them often, but then I wonder if perhaps they feel I am being rude not to.

5. If someone brings chocolates or biscuits when they visit, should they be opened while they are present or kept as a gift?

This is something I find very difficult.  Do I accept the chocolates etc. as a gift for myself, or do I consider it to be a contribution to our time together...  Sometimes it depends on the type of chocolate and how much I like them!  If they're my favourite they may well be stashed away for later.

6. If someone gives you baby equipment or books and they have no further need for it, do you have the right to sell it when you no longer need it?

This is probably particularly applicable if you have several children like we have and so many years have passed since you were given the items.  In the current fashion of selling everything on EBay instead of just passing it on to someone else, I wonder how often this happens.

7. If you borrow clothing from someone, are you obliged to return it washed?

Obviously I don't mean handing back smelly, dirty clothes but perhaps a jumper you borrowed just until you got home.  In our house it can sometimes take a while for things to resurface from the wash basket and I certainly would have no problem with someone giving something straight back to me.  This is something that occurs quite often with small children!

8. Is it acceptable to take a phone call (on mobile or otherwise) while you have a guest visiting.

This is something I really struggle with.  I always consider the person who is with me to be the priority, but equally the person phoning may not be able to contact you at another time.  I once deeply offended my husband's boss' wife by asking if we could talk later because I had someone with me at the time.  She didn't call back.

9. Is it still unacceptable to talk about "money, politics and religion" at a dinner party?

As I've mentioned previously, I'm rather prone to talking about these three subjects in what might be considered unacceptable situations.  I have very few qualms discussing the rising cost of our bills or our income with most people.  I find religion - especially mine - fascinating, so I tend to talk about faith a lot, wherever I am.  I'm also not afraid to bring up politics if I feel the occasion allows.  Am I being social obtuse?  (I don't care, to be honest, but it would be interesting to know what your opinions are!)

10. Do you have to have 10 things in any list?

So what do you think?  What would you do in these situations?  Do you have any other suggestions of Social Etiquette failure?


  1. Good one. I hate it when someone comes to dinner and insists on opening the wine they have brought. It makes me very passive aggressive and to me, signals that they assume my wine isn't good enough. However, as someone who can't drink red wine or Chardonnay, I should probably be more open-minded and just shut up!
    The few times I have given an adult a card saying I have donated in their name (chickens to a village in Africa) they were delighted. Probably not such a good idea with children.
    In the USA (where I am) people often do your washing up even when you beg them not to. After throwing a dinner party, I want to kick back and relax, but if half of my guests are in the kitchen, I feel obliged to join in. Drives me nuts.
    I found out recently that someone had sold something they said they wanted when I offered it. I am livid because they would have made a tidy sum. IN my view, if you don't want the thing you've taken you should give it back to the original owner. If they say "Keep it" then it's yours to do as you will with although it would be a nice gesture to give half the proceeds for it.

  2. Thanks for the great comment! Now, I quite like it when people offer to wash up, since it usually takes me a couple of days to actually clear all the washing up from a dinner party! I agree people should return stuff if they don't need it, certainly not sell it themselves! It's pretty greedy!


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