Holiday Party Etiquettes in the Digital Age

As you are headed out to party with your family, friends or colleagues this holiday season, be an informed not a mediocre guest. Yes, as an adult, there are a few rules that you should know if you don’t already. Make sure you are not just a good friend, but an amazing guest to ensure that your host invites you back next season! 

Respond to Invitations on Time

Most people send digital invitations through email, Evite, facebook events, or paperless post type website. Ensure these are not getting to your junkbox and RSVP right away! As a general rule of thumb, you should reply to an invitation within a day or two. Even if you are not sure if you will be able to make it, thank your host and let them know why you may or may not be able to attend. If it’s a definite no, tell them why. Notify them as soon as your plans finalize, but please do not wait till the day before the party! There is nothing worse for a host to find out to buy more food and drink at the last minute.

One of my holiday party spreads

Who Do You Want to Bring Along?

If you have a significant other, it will likely be them. Some invitations are extended to kids and entire families, others are restricted to couples or maybe just a +1. When picking a friend to bring along, select someone who you think the host would enjoy meeting. Perhaps they have common interest and would benefit from the connection.

When you RSVP, let your host know not only how many people you will be bringing with you, but their names and relationship. If you are bringing someone they haven’t met before, specify what’s cool about them.

Read the Invitation Carefully

This is a no brainer but I see it happening all the time! People don’t read the entire invitation and keep sending emails or text with redundant questions – What time does it start? What should I bring? What’s the address?  

Be sure to check notes the host may have already have about food or drinks to bring, where to park, etc. Please don’t annoy your hosts as they may be busy prepping and cleaning up before your arrival!

Arrive on Time 

Unless it’s a rolling party, arrive at your destination on time, especially if it’s a sit down event. You definitely don’t want to barge in during special announcements or in the middle of dinner. If you have other commitments and will be late, notify your host a day before. Don’t be calling during the party as they may be busy talking to other guests.

Bring a Hostess Gift 

In my invitations, I generally ask guests to make a donation to Go Eat Give instead of bringing cards or gifts. (Evite has a nice feature that allows you to pick a charity and have a direct link to make donations). Still, I do appreciate if you bring a nice bottle of wine for the bar (something that you yourself enjoy drinking or know that your host would). I don’t care for food gifts or prepared foods with a short expiration date, because I usually have leftovers and would end up with more. A nice bottle of olive oil, a rare spice or gourmet chocolates are always appreciated though. 

My friends who always help me clean up – Ana, Jalal and Paige

Offer to Clean Up

If you are one of the last people to leave, help your host pick up glasses and plates off the table, put the food in the kitchen and offer to clean the dishes. They are probably tired from preparing and hosting, so a few helping hands would be appreciated. Plus, as a group you can get it done faster and share some memories from the party.

Say Goodbye Before You Leave 

I have seen this happen as well and it is rather rude when guests come, eat, drink, enjoy themselves and leave without a thank-you or a goodbye. Even if it becomes crazy crowded, do locate your host and say a quick greeting. 

Send a Thank You Message 

I love receiving messages from attendees about how they enjoyed a particular dish I cooked, the company, or catching up after a long time. Send a quick text or email the day after, a picture if you happen to take one and thank them again for their hospitality.

Kazumi & Mas pose for the best pictures

Reciprocate the Invitation 

After 20+ years of living in the US, I am surprised to see how few people reciprocate home hospitality in our society. Sure not everyone is into throwing lavish parties, but if someone has invited you say, a couple of times, it’s time to pay back. Note – pot luck parties and Dutch dinners don’t count as reciprocation.

If you are not a good cook, take your host out for a meal or oder in. A good friend of mine who doesn’t have a big space buys food and wine and brings it over to my place for a special treat. Another friend cooks my favorite Persian dish and comes over to my house. You may even send your host a gift card to a restaurant in their neighborhood!

I hope you will create wonderful memories with good food and friends this holiday season. But most of all, you will take a moment to reflect on what went on behind the scenes – who shopped for groceries, cooked the delicious meal, cleaned the space, decorated the table, took the time to put it all together – and be appreciative for having being included. 

Seven reasons to go CouchSurfing

CouchSurfing is the world’s largest social travel network, connecting a global community of travelers, adventure seekers, and lifelong learners who are dedicated to sharing their cultures, hospitality, and authentic experiences. Members use the website to arrange offline interactions like a shared meal, an overnight stay, or a hike. There are currently more than 4 million CouchSurfers, in 86,000 cities, speaking 366 languages. Continue reading “Seven reasons to go CouchSurfing”

Open world program opens homes and forms new friendships

I gave Mariya a Christmas ornament of The Fox Theater from Atlanta

Last week a delegation from Russia came to Atlanta to discuss social issues and healthcare through the Open World Leadership Program. The six delegates were hosted with families who have opened up their homes by being members of the Georgia Council of International Visitors (GCIV).

Mariya Yuryevna Solodunova, a young lady from St Petersburg was assigned to live with us for a week. She is a child psychologist who works in an orphanage providing counseling to children, parents and the care takers. Having volunteered in an orphanage in Yaroslavl in Russia couple of years ago, I was eager to learn more about what she did. Mariya (pronounced Marsha) is absolutely passionate about her work. She told me about how cutting edge her orphanage was and how her team has been on a mission to replicate its model to other places. Basically, they hired mothers to work as care taker with the orphan babies between the age of 0-4, a delicate age when they are most in need of emotional and physical care. This has changed their psychological behavior completely leading them to grow up to be healthy kids. More on that in my next post.

Mariya and I had a wonderful time together. This was her first visit to the US. Even though we live across the world from each other, we found we have a lot of similarities and could converse on practically any subject (even though Mariya said her English was limited which I disagreed with). One evening we had a girl’s day in and cooked pirogues (Russian stuffed bread), drank wine and shared stories. Needless to say I got to learn a lot about Russian traditions. Did you know that Christmas in not celebrated on Dec 25th in Russia? Also, they do not put presents under the tree till Christmas Eve and the children actually have to earn them by doing a performance or a recital.

One thing Mariya shared with me brought about a self awakening. She said that in Russia people are generally cautions about their belongings and their privacy, and would not leave their home open to a complete stranger. The fact that I gave her a key to my home after only a few hours of knowing her surprised her that I would trust someone so much so soon. I explained to her that we humans try to protect our materialistic things and forget that we came into the world with nothing and will leave with nothing. It is only our gestures towards each person leave an everlasting impact on one individual or an entire society. Then why do we give so much importance to the materialistic thing? A Buddhist believer, she found me to be. She said after staying with us, it has opened her heart and she will now be more trusting of people as well. Perhaps she will sign up to be a host family in her city.

GCIV Farewell party

The last evening, all the delegates, host families and GCIV staff members got together for a farewell celebration. We ate, drank and sang Russian songs. One of the ladies from Sibera even sang us a song in Hindi called “I am a disco dancer.” She did not speak English but her Hindi singing was awfully good!

It was wonderful to meet other like minded people who open up their homes to complete strangers and want to share their lives with others. Because of such people, visitors to the US have a warm welcoming feeling and great memories to take back home. Mariya was emotional when she was leaving us. She said she had not met such kind and compassionate people as she did during this entire visit and that she would love to come back soon.

I believe getting to know people from different countries actually teaches you a thing or two about life as well. In addition to learning about the culture, you get to learn more about yourself and your own culture.  I had a similar experience in India last month which I encourage you to read about.

Becoming a host is easy. All you need to provide is boarding, some meals, a friendly spirit and an open minded attitude.