The isolation of the pandemic gave many of us a newfound appreciation for simple forms of socialization, like getting together at a friend’s home.
Although we might be more freely attending house parties, potluck dinners and casual living room gatherings to watch sports on the couch, that doesn’t give people free rein to behave however they’d like in someone else’s space.
We asked etiquette experts to share some common rude behaviors when visiting someone else’s home ― and advice for avoiding them.
Touching and moving things
“When someone says ‘Make yourself at home,’ they usually do not mean this literally,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “You should keep your feet off the furniture, and unless this is a close friend, you should not be opening the fridge without being asked to do so.”
Wait for the host to give you the go-ahead to touch or interact with things you see. Until that happens, quickly ask for permission if something strikes your fancy.
“Ask before touching an object or removing a book from a shelf,” advised Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert, and co-host of the “Were You Raised by Wolves?” podcast.
Expecting a tour
“Don’t demand a tour of someone’s home,” Leighton urged. “Wait to be invited by your host.”
Many people are happy to lead a little tour of their space when they invite people over, but that isn’t true of everyone at all times. And if your host doesn’t offer a tour, don’t take it upon yourself to give yourself one, either.
“Don’t take a tour of the house unless you are encouraged by the host to ‘wander’ around,” said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
Overstaying your welcome
“Know when it’s time to leave,” urged Leighton. “The number one complaint we hear from hosts is about guests who overstay their welcome.”
You might still be enjoying your nightcap or get the sense everyone is having a great time chatting. But pay attention to the hosts’ body language and suggest that those who want to continue hanging out relocate elsewhere.
“If your hosts have changed into their pajamas, that’s probably a good sign that it’s time to go,” Leighton added.
Hiding a mess
Unfortunately, things happen when you’re in another person’s home. You might accidentally spill red wine on the carpet or knock over a lamp. Don’t ignore or try to hide it.
“If you break something, or even just finish the roll of toilet paper, it is best to let your host know as quickly and quietly as possible,” Smith said.
“Refrain from peeking in cabinets and cupboards,” Smith advised.
Of course, it’s natural to be a little curious, and we’ve seen this exact behavior in countless movies. But resist the urge to look inside the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
“Beware that some hosts put glass marbles in their medicine cabinets to catch snoopers in the act,” Leighton said. “The marbles will ping around the bathroom and make a lot of noise for your host and all other guests to hear.”
Bringing an uninvited plus-one
“Never show up with an unexpected plus one,” Gottsman said.
Sure, you might know the host loves hanging out with your cousin, or you think everyone will enjoy meeting the new guy you’re seeing. But that doesn’t mean you can extend an invitation without getting the go-ahead.
Unless you were explicitly told that you may bring a plus-one (or plus-five), always ask before bringing anyone else into someone’s home. Even if it’s a casual gathering, shoot the host a quick text to make sure.
Waiting to share dietary restrictions
“If you have been invited for a meal, any dietary restrictions should be shared well in advance, not when you sit down at the table,” Smith noted.
Don’t just expect the meal to be vegan-friendly or not contain any of your allergens. Tell the host as soon as possible about any limitations you may have (and stick to actual limitations, not preferences).
Feeding the dog
Regarding dietary restrictions, it’s important to remember that the host’s pets may have some, so don’t share your food.
“Don’t feed the host’s dog under the table unless you ask your host first,” Gottsman said. “The dog may have an allergy or be on a special diet.”
Disrespecting shoe rules
“Shoes on or off tends to be very individual specific,” Smith noted. “Listen to what your host prefers.”
It’s understandable why many people prefer not to track the dirt and germs of the outside world into their homes when possible.
“Be prepared to remove your shoes if asked,” Leighton said. “Throw a pair of socks or slippers in your bag if you don’t like being barefoot and think you might be heading to a no-shoe household.”
Smith also believes hosts should be prepared for their ask.
“Hosts that want shoes left at the door should also have slippers or socks for the guests,” she said. “Hosts will also need to understand if the guest declines. Fashionistas prefer to keep their shoes on as part of their ensemble.”
Interfering with the setup
“Don’t switch place cards at the dinner table,” Gottsman advised.
People put time and effort into hosting events like dinner parties, so respect what they put together and don’t try to interfere or make changes.
Showing up empty-handed
“As a guest, you should arrive with a small gift for the host,” Smith said.
However, there’s no need to be too extravagant or overthink the host’s gift. Pick up a nice bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers. It’s the thought that counts.