’Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. During the festive time, one can be inundated by invitations to all kinds of parties. While many go to an opening of an envelope and spread themselves too thinly by trying to appear at more than one party in a night, my suggestion is to be more selective. So with sanuk in mind, many Thais, myself included, tend to forget about one very important thing – the etiquette.
Thais are notorious about being indecisive when it comes to events and parties. No seems to be the hardest word. Even for weddings, most guests do not RSVP unless it is a formal sit-down dinner. Therefore cocktail parties are more successful than banquets, where tables are often left empty.
Thailand has its very own etiquette booklet, Sombat Phudee (Gentleman’s Treasures), but it is hardly Emily Post’s compendium. It only covers individual’s deeds in action, speech and thought towards others but doesn’t delve into the nitty-gritty on how to behave when it comes to revelry. Organising an impromptu dinner among friends may be hard when choosing a restaurant but it is easier than making guests commit to coming to a party. Here spontaneity rules the day.
So what has one to do when dealing with flakey friends who cannot respond soon enough or click their mouse when invited on Facebook? I have hosted and attended many parties, and have heard many excuses. Here are some tips to survive the celebratory season as either hosts or guests.
Many local event organisers and party planners know the tricks and use their invitations as lures. Sometimes those who reply early will get special treatments or those who bring the invites will get the party favours. Use these ploys and maybe your party will be hopping mad. It also helps shun some gatecrashers. Some guests are so fickle that they have to check on what’s on that evening. They would choose the best event to attend. Once I invited an acquaintance to join me at a performance; he asked me for the seat number. If it’s not good, he will not be there. Simply wipe these people off the list – forever. They were raised by wolves. Thais are very nosy and often ask the host about who’s invited. Just tell them it will be a surprise or give them some names with which they are familiar. Some even impose by inviting more guests on the host’s behalf. They have no manners. So stop them.
Avoid making these social faux pas when partying. Learn how to make an entrance and be fashionably late but not too much. At some formal dinner parties, I have experienced guests not showing up by simply forgetting or having double appointments. At a party on the river barge, a guest was so unpunctual that he literally missed the boat.
Some guests brought a plus one or an entourage along without informing the hosts in advance. It’s the sheep mentality. Thais love to flock together at the same watering holes. More isn’t necessary merrier. To solve these problems, good hosts should remind guests about the venue, time and privacy conditions. In the era of social networking, a discreet hostess requested her guests not to use the mobile phones or cameras for taking and posting photographs. She had hired a professional photographer so that everyone could check them out later. How refreshing that was!
At costume parties, wear one or dress up according to the dress code. I have seen guests turned away at the door for not doing so. Don’t be embarrassed by wearing a fancy conversational piece but be ashamed at being refused. Party games still work for breaking the ice or conviviality. Good guests should also remember to bring a gift. A bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers or a nice book would suffice.
When dining out, some make it look like high finance when splitting the bill. Just make sure that everyone pays their part. In Thailand, it’s an American share rather than a Dutch treat. Basically, divide it equally but those who drink should pay more. Be nice to the hard-working staff and leave some tips too. If it’s a house party or a pot-luck party, cook something; bring a dish or a bottle. Be chic and don’t be cheap. If it’s a party for charity, give some donations cordially. Don’t try to be exempted. When hosting, don’t brag about how much or little you spend on the spread. It’s about the value of friendship, not the costs of things.
In Thailand we never lack fun and frivolity and good times are surely had by all. For your next party, accept or decline the invitation tactfully and enjoy it. Let another silly season begin. Happy holidays!