Life in the USA
When You Entertain
When you entertain Americans in your own home, your task is to make them feel as comfortable and as welcome in your home as possible. When a guest comes to your door, shake the guest's hand and usher him or her inside with a welcoming gesture. If the guest has a coat, offer to take the coat and store it neatly, letting the guest know where he or she can retrieve it when it comes time to leave. Introduce each of your guests to the others, and do your best to keep conversation going between them. If you have music playing, keep the volume low enough to allow conversation. Keep in mind that a volume level that sounds low to you may make it difficult for some of your guests to hear. Tastes in music differ, so no music may be the best course.
If you are preparing and serving food to your guests, it is thoughtful to have nuts, cheese or other appetizers available to tide your guests over until you serve the main meal. If you are just serving snacks or light items, you must let your guests know what to expect before they arrive. It is also essential to see to it that your guests each get something to drink almost as soon as they arrive. Bear in mind that, even in cold weather, many Americans prefer ice in their drinks. The ice you prepare yourself in your freezer might not be sufficient; a purchased bag of ice from your local market will be handy. Have ample supplies of paper napkins handy. A nice touch also is to purchase disposable paper guest towels for the bathrooms.
When serving food, if you do not have enough room to serve your guests all seated at a table, Americans usually do not mind eating “buffet style” wherever they can find a place, as long as you explain the necessity to them. If using paper plates for this, however, you need to spend a little extra money for the sturdiest, to avoid mishaps. If you prepare food that is easy to eat neatly, your guests will be thankful and the group dynamics will improve. Some guests may be shy about “going for seconds,” so make it clear that you have plenty of food, which, of course, you should.
Some or all of your guests might require the bathroom at some time during the evening. Answer their requests quietly, discretely showing them where they can find “the facilities.”
After your party, thank your guests for their visit. Some people send notes through the mail, but these actually may make people uncomfortable, if they are not note senders. A solid e-mail thank you, which will allow the recipient to give a quick friendly reply, is perfectly acceptable.
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