They are congenial, undemanding, thoughtful and entertaining towards other guests and the hosts. They are natural at small talk, witty, clever at picking up small clues, filling awkward silences, making people feel comfortable and keeping the mood light. If you’re a perfect guest, no-one will expect a reciprocal invitation – which is lucky, because you’ll be out all the time. You’ll never have to cook again.
A good guest is rarer than a good hostess.
Arrive on time
Never earlier, and never more than twenty minutes late.
Don’t turn up like Santa
Flowers, wine or chocolates are acceptable, but bring no more than two gifts. It looks as though you’re paying the host for dinner. The idea is to make a small gesture.
Don’t pressure your hosts
To serve your bottle of wine – unless it really is an amazing treat. Chances are they have already lined up bottles with considerable care. Champagne or dessert wine are good ‘let’s-try’this-tonight’ wines to present, because they won’t interfere with the meal.
Work the room
Put in the hard years when it comes to socializing. Don’t just sit there or talk about the weather. Be at pains to remember people’s names and keep a mental note of what they do.
Don’t just be politely interested
Be fascinated by what your fellow guests say and do. Lauch at anecdotes, don’t get worked up about politics, and become an expert at steering stormy conversations into calmer waters.
Splutter in private
If you need to blow your nose or have a thorough cough, trot around the corner.
Be considerate to others
Use small gestures at the table: no cutlery slicing through the air, no comments like ‘I’m stuffed.’
Go the distance
Every guest should stay for at least one hour after dinner, because an early departure may break up the party: it’s like sticking a pin in a balloon and makes the hosts feel like caterers.
Know when to call it a night
Learn to recognize the signs of tiredness (people looking a bit drawn, awkward silences, muffled yawns). Just stand up and say, ‘Well, it’s been a lovely evening….’ Say your goodbyes to the other guests, than your hosts and leave. At a big party, find your hosts, congratulate and thank them, and make your own way out.
Share the love
It’s a big mistake to flirt with one half of a partnership and ignore the other. It will come back to haunt you.
And so to bed
After spending the weekend at someone’s house, don’t leave your bed in a muddle. Strip off the sheet’s and pillowslips, fold them and leave them at the foot of the bed, or take them to the laundry. Then just tidy up the bed, pulling up the cover.