Party fouls are awkward. Miss Manners didn't have this playbook, that's for sure. Here are a few moves that might score you some points.
- The protocol for arriving at and departing from a party is to personally greet and/or introduce yourself to all of the other guests. If you are going to a big party, and are an introvert like myself, you might want to arrive early so you only have to make the rounds once.
I always feel a bit like a campaigning politician, as this is something [way] out of my personal comfort zone. If on the other hand, like Pink, you enjoy letting people know that you've officially arrived, and "now we are going to get this party started," then this is right up your alley. Same goes for the end of the party…
Announcer: "Elvis has left the building."
- Be it a restaurant or Bar-B-Que setting where everyone is seated at a long table of about 30 or more, you may find yourself in conversation with someone across the table or to your immediate left or right. Perhaps the person in the opposite direction is not interested in holding a conversation with you, but that’s not a problem as someone else is… right?
As you can imagine, 30+ people will raise the volume a notch. This might prompt you to automatically lean into the engaging conversation you have found, which can result in a (previously-unknown-to-you) party foul. You absolutely may not turn in such a way as to cause someone else to have to look at your back – even if they could care less if you talk with them, or not. The back is bad.
Note: I’m not talking about doing this for the entirety of the party. Even thirty seconds is frowned upon, and you may receive a “helpful” nudge on your shoulder, to get you properly aligned.
People will also feel obliged to apologize to you if seating arrangements at, say, a cookout are such that they will be “giving you their back.” If you speak little to no Portuguese, this can seem to be a lot of ado over nothing.
I have asked if this is such a big deal, why there aren’t more round tables circa King Arthur, but no one seems to think that is funny. (Except me, of course.) On the upside, I have perfected the art of amusing myself.
- Children’s parties are fancier than in the U.S. - be sure you dress to the nines. Forget any children’s parties you may have seen in movies or real life, back home. Women, wear high heels & lots o’ bling. Think: New Year’s or Wedding party. Guys, clean up reeeeal good.
- When people sing the Happy Birthday song, they clap loudly… More often than not, the entire restaurant will join in. Sometimes there are 5 birthday parties in the same restaurant, at the same time.
While it can be fun enjoying the cultural differences in festivities and hearing the roar of 200+ people getting into it, it’s best not to lead. Feel free to join in, once you’re sure that your table is participating.
- If you are attending a party with lots of balloons, be aware that if you stay until the end, there is a debatably thoughtful measure taken to make sure you are not too tired for the trip home. At least, that's what I’m guessing...
Parties are generally done up right with bunches of balloons cascading around doorways and other areas of interest. Somewhere, at some point, some adult got creative in utilizing the help of the kids to pick up the party. They hand the most rambunctious children knives, forks, toothpicks or other pointy objects, and watch as they lay into the piles of balloons.
If this is your first rodeo, it may cause you to spill whatever drink or plate of clothes-staining food you may be holding... raise up from your chair about 6 inches, inadvertently knocking someone else's drink or plate out of their hands... or even result in an accidental headbutt if you happen to be hugging someone on your way out, if no one has shown you the ropes. So there ya go. Warn anyone with a heart condition.
Image found here.
Missing a beat with these cultural protocols is a flashing neon sign that can inadvertently start you out on the wrong foot. Stick to these tips and you will not only blend seamlessly into the crowd, but you might also appear to be a natural – which is not only worth 10 cool points, but is priceless in the saving face dept.
All images found on Google.