I have repeatedly threatened to write an article entitled, “The Coaster is NOT a D2!” and submit it to Dragon Magazine. I rather doubt that it would be published, but I think many a hostess of gaming groups would agree that far too many gamers display a regrettable lack of courtesy while in our homes.
I find, unfortunately, that while the issue is most marked in the gaming groups I’ve encountered, there are entirely too many people my age and younger who seem to have completely missed many of the most basic niceties expected of guests in a residence. There are also far too many people who have missed out on some of the basics of being a polite host, but that’s another article. Detailed issues regarding visiting others’ homes with your children could easily be yet another.
I’ve actually come up with a list and would appreciate input on it. Do they make sense? What did I leave out? If you disagree, be specific as to why you do so. No, I don’t expect this to ever make much of a difference to the world at large, but this is partly a reality check for me — do I expect too much?
Basic Rules of Being a Polite Guest
There are certain rules of behavior that are expected in polite company. If you are not pleasant company, do not be surprised if you are not invited back into someone’s home.
If you have children, remember that you are always responsible for your children’s behavior. Your children will find it much easier to move through their lives if you model these rules of behavior and require their use at all times from toddlerhood (yes, at home and elsewhere). If you choose not to do so, at least control their behavior when they are outside your home.
1) You are a guest. The home you are in exists for the comfort and convenience of its residents. While good hosts certainly want you to be comfortable during your stay, please remember that you do not live in this residence. Do not treat it as your own home. “Make yourself at home,” is a polite invitation to be comfortable, not to forget your manners.
2) If you have any health concerns, such as dietary restrictions or severe allergies, make those concerns known to your host well in advance of your visit.
3) When in a private residence, the only things you own are those you brought in with you. If something does not belong to you, and you have not been invited to touch/use/consume it, don’t do so. Ask permission. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how unimportant it may seem to you—it may be someone else’s prized possession.
4) Unless you have been invited to make free with every bit of a residence, do not enter any area without a specific invitation to do so. It is generally safe to assume that common living areas are open to guests but do not open any closed doors without permission. Bedrooms, in particular, even if they belong to minor residents of the home, are private spaces. Even if the door is open, do not enter that space without a specific invitation to do so. Opening closets or cabinets without a specific invitation to do so is inexcusably rude.
5) If you need something, such as soap, toilet paper, or a napkin, ask politely (and discreetly, in the case of bathroom supplies).
6) Treat other people’s possessions with respect and reasonable care.
7) Drinks should not be placed on any surface that has not been generally designed or intended for the preparation, serving, or consumption of food without the use of a coaster. Whether or not you use coasters in your home, assume that they are in use in others’ homes, even if you do not see them. Ask for a coaster, if not necessary. If the host states that the use of coasters isn’t necessary, don’t worry about using one. But don’t ever assume that they aren’t necessary.
8) If you do not see ashtrays or other people smoking, assume that smoking is unwelcome in the residence. If you must smoke, ask the host where you might do so without causing any discomfort. Do not take out any tobacco products or accessories until you are shown to an area in which you may do so. If you are asked to smoke outside, do so away from any doors or windows, so that your smoke will not drift inside. Dispose of butts, ashes, or other waste in a trash container. Tossing butts outside is irresponsible and disreputable.
9) Humans over two years old do not spit in polite company. If you use chewing tobacco, indulge the habit in your own home unless you are specifically invited to do so or your host is doing so.
10) Do not use any object in a way not intended in its design. Cloth napkins do not exist for blowing your nose. Touching anything but food, eating utensils, or a napkin with greasy fingers is rude and can damage surfaces. Food dishes are not ashtrays.
11) If you drop or spill anything, clean it up immediately. This is particularly important if you drop or spill something on an upholstered or carpeted surface, as delay may cause stains. On hard floors, a spill might lead to falls.
12) If you use a napkin, tissue, disposable cup/plate/cutlery, or empty a drink can or bottle, throw it away in a trash can. Do not leave the trash for your host to clean up unless he or she insists on intervening.
13) If you do not care for the food or drink offered, the polite response will always be a variation on a sincere, “No, thank you.” If your opinion and tastes are solicited, offer them in a polite manner. Remember, however, that you are not in a restaurant. And even if you have medical or nutritional training, you have not been invited to a social occasion to comment on others’ dietary choices.
14) If you are invited to help yourself to food or drink, do so. Otherwise, do not open a refrigerator, cabinets, pantry, etc.
15) Do not turn on or adjust a television unless you are invited to do so. One presumes that you are present as a guest because the host wishes to interact with you in a social manner. Having a television on does not encourage quality interaction.
16) If you damage anything, offer to make reparations immediately and then do so. Follow up in a timely manner. Don’t make someone ask you to do so, or remind you.
17) Unless the host offers to do so, do not expect that family pets will be confined away from your presence during your visit. They live there, you don’t.
18) Musical instruments are often delicate, valuable, and very personal. Do not touch or play them without a specific invitation. If there is a piano in the home, do not place food or drink on it.
19) Should you be offended by the content of your host’s bookshelves, the art on the walls, etc. please remember that this is her home, and her tastes are every bit as valid as yours.
20) Should the behavior of another guest offend you, it is best to address the issue with the other guest. If you do not feel that you can do so politely, seek a private audience with your host to address the issue. You do not have to tolerate rudeness, but you should give your host the opportunity to correct the situation.