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A dinner/lunch guest should be sure to......

I am at an age where I am attending lots of luncheons and dinner-parties.. yet I was raised by parents who really never much went out and never hosted dinner-parties...

Therefore, I would like to know all of the things I should be sure to do--like offer to bring a dish, offer to do the dishes, etc.

What do you expect or would you appreciate a dinner/lunch guest to do?

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  1. Make conversation, use your manners, say thank you, and reciprocate. Oh, and to someone's home, bring a hostess gift.

    15 Replies
    1. re: tzurriz

      I thought I responded to same suggestion below, but I guess not.

      I don't think reciprocate is something that is expected or that one "should" do. One may offer, but I don't think it arises to "should" in proper etiquette.

      1. re: FrankJBN

        Sorry, but no. If someone invites you to their home, or out for a meal, you reciprocate. That is simply good manners. Neglecting reciprocity is extremely rude.

        1. re: tzurriz

          I agree with Frank. If someone invites me to their house for dinner and I discover in the course of the evening that our views of the world are so different another get together would not be fun, I say thank you and that's it. No need for a second night of tortured conversation while my cats must be locked away because of their allergies and I have to remember to never say the name of our President.

          1. re: tzurriz

            I strongly agree. The failure to reciprocate according to one's means (so, that doesn't mean you have to host in your house at the same level; but you do need to host somehow, somewhere) in a timely fashion has long been considered a major rudeness in American etiquette, for what it's worth. Enough that someone would be considered within their rights to omit you from further invitations for your failure to do so (as as been illustrated on many Chowhound threads, just for starters). Reciprocity is the principle means of expressing gratitude for being hosted; all the others are incidental to it.

            1. re: Karl S

              And so if you did not enjoy yourself at a gathering and you choose not to reciprocate then you will be omitted from further invitations. And in some cases that's a good thing. On the other hand, there are people who cannot reciprocate for a variety of reasons, sometimes economic, sometimes lack of space and sometimes a personal reason. (I have a friend and her husband goes nowhere and does not want social events in his home. Some of her friends know this, others don't. She tries to make up for this in other ways.)

              1. re: escondido123

                Note, I've specifically said reciprocity is according to one's means. Anti-social people are, well, anti-social, so they are outside the normal realm of etiquette. I am not talking about the margins here.

              2. re: Karl S

                "Reciprocity is the principle means of expressing gratitude for being hosted; all the others are incidental to it."

                I thought saying thank-you was the principal way of saying thank-you.

                Again this seems so much to me like 'pay back'. Am I so different since I don't want to be paid back when I do something nice for someone? And yes, I will do something nice repeatedly for someone I want to do something nice for and not exclude them from future niceties, because of 'What have you done for me lately/"

                I don't see how failing to reciprocate can be considered rude, when the behavior you (not "you" alone) describe - came to dinner, no dinner invite back, no more dinner for them - seems to me to be the height, the very epitome of rudeness. A showing of lack of friendship and honesty, in short a demand for pay back, which means you weren't ever doing something for the person in the first place because you always expected to be paid for it.

                Not me. Not ever. If that's how people feel, i don't want to break bread with them.

                1. re: FrankJBN

                  It's not pay back. If it were, it would not be qualified according to one's means. Rather, it's the form by which the fundamentally reciprocal nature of social obligations are recognized and honore. You may not reciprocate, and others may not socially penalize you, but some of those folks very likely notice and make their own judgments, about which you may not care, but it's just built into the very nature of social customs.

            2. re: FrankJBN

              What if one doesn't have the space to hold a similar dinner/lunch? What if one cannot cook? In those cases shouldn't the extent of the friendship dictate reciprocity?
              Why not do as escondido's friend does, and help in a way that is more suitable, if one should desire to reciprocate.

              1. re: iluvcookies

                You can treat someone to breakfast at a diner, if that's your means. That's also playing host.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Or, I could make 200 cookies for their kid's bake sale. Or help clean out their garage, or babysit.
                  And what if the dinner was actually a thank you for one of those things?

                  All in context, my friend.

                  1. re: iluvcookies

                    Those are nice things, but they are not reciprocal hospitality. I am not going to argue at the margins, I am just emphasizing that there remains a norm that is not swallowed up by a cloud of exceptions.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      I think times have changed and reciprocating no longer has to be the same activity, just something that reflects mutual effort. (There are many more people than there used to be who socialize with people who are not the husband/wife couples that was the standard, specifically single guys who may not be good at entertaining, and I think that changes the dynamics.)

                      1. re: escondido123

                        Judging from remarks I hear from social and professional peers, as well as too many remarks from Chowhounds over the years, I think I am far from alone in saying that reciprocal hospitality remains very much a social expectation.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          I didn't say you were alone. You have your view and I have mine; it's fine that we see things differently. Best to you.

          2. Be there on time. Say nice things about the food. Smile. Talk about good things, no medical, criminal or funeral topics.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jmcarthur8

              Is it just me or would anyone else LOVE to hear about criminal topics?

              1. re: jmcarthur8

                Yes!!! Sometimes criminal topics can be quite interesting. Almost as much as the new school board budget vote!!

                1. All good suggestions. I would ask if you can bring anything and once there ask if you can help--if they say no assume they mean it. For a dinner party, I always bring a bottle of wine which is always appreciated. Oh, and I really like the idea of being on time, but never early.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: escondido123

                    "...if they say no, assume they mean it."

                    +1. I don't like to argue with guests, but when pushed and I have to say "my kitchen is off limits," I mean it, but end up sounding mean instead. I really don't need or want help. Just smile, show up on time, offer to bring something (and also trust I mean it if I say no thanks. However, a bottle of wine or flowers in a cheap vase are nice), and eat heartily.

                    1. re: pine time

                      Yes, the vase is key when bringing flowers. Please don't bring a bouquet and expect the host/ess to drop everything to find a vase to put it in!

                      1. re: Isolda

                        Should you bring flowers and/or wine, to have lunch at someone's house--if you are already bringing a food-item (and possibly a belated gift)?

                        1. re: GraceW

                          To me it's either/or, but both (food item and wine/flowers) aren't needed.

                        2. re: Isolda

                          I was taught that if flowers are your intended gift, to have them sent early in the day of the event so that the hostess/host can decide where they should go.

                    2. If I'm a guest, I reckon my job is to enjoy the event and say so. Even If I havnt.

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