English in the Real World
How to be the Perfect Guest at an English-Speaking Dinner Party
Dinner parties are a popular type of social event in the United States, and if you are visiting on business or for pleasure, you may be invited to one by someone you meet. There are a few things you should know about how to act and what to do when attending.
First of all, when invited, there are a few questions you should immediately ask. One, ask, “What sort of attire is appropriate?” This means you want to know what to wear. If the dinner is formal, women will want a dress or a business suit and men will want to wear a suit.
Two, ask, “Should I bring any food?” It’s polite to help the host of the dinner party out by offering to do some of the work of preparation. Good hosts won’t ask for much, but they might ask for you to bring some dessert or some wine. Even if they tell you not to bring anything, it is polite to insist on bringing wine, at least, as a gift in exchange for their hospitality.
Come to the dinner party fifteen or thirty minutes after it is scheduled to begin – you won’t be considered late; this is customary. Once at the party, immediately find the host and tell them, “Thank you so much for having me.” It’s also polite to compliment them on something such as their house or the clothing they are wearing. “What wonderful dress!” The host will probably talk with you for a moment before running off to greet other guests.
At this point, you should mingle and make conversation with the other guests. If you are drinking, be sure to hold your glass in the opposite hand from the one you shake with. This way, if you meet someone new, your hand will not be cold and clammy.
At dinner, sit wherever the host asks you to and be sure to at least try whatever food is offered to you. You don’t have to eat anything you don’t want, though. Don’t eat with your hands and keep your elbows off the table. If you feel lost about which utensil to use or how to eat a dish properly, either copy your neighbor at the table or politely ask them what to do.
At the end of the party, find the host again and tell them “I had a great time. Thank you.” Don’t take back the food or wine you have brought unless the host offers (but you can take back the dishes that you brought the food on.) After the party, the next time you see the host, you should compliment them again to show your gratitude.
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