5 Ways to Be a Great Dinner Guest

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We've done a number of posts here on The Kitchn about how to host the perfect dinner party. Or a stress-free dinner party. Or a seasonal dinner party. But what about your dinner party guests? When you cover all of your bases with food, music and atmosphere — what makes a guest stand out as helpful, engaging and overall awesome? 

I was talking about this topic with my mom the other day, a woman who has hosted more than her fair share of dinner parties and gatherings. We were talking about the people you can't wait to invite back, and how there are a number of reasons why this may be. My list looks something like this:

1. Interesting Conversationalist: The guests I enjoy hosting the most are the ones I love catching up with. The people who have interesting stories or are, simply, attentive listeners. I don't have the opportunity for a lot of engaging, adult conversation in my everyday work life, so it's always really refreshing to sit around a table of people who I find exciting to talk with.

2. Appreciates Food: I don't need to be showered with compliments over a meal (in fact, that generally makes me quite uncomfortable) but it is nice to host someone who, at the very least, is a little interested in food and who will appreciate the meal. I always find I enjoy cooking and hosting a party more when I know there will be someone in the crowd who will truly understand the effort that went into it.

3. Is Laid-Back and Comfortable: We have a pretty laid-back household, so I love it when guests come in and make themselves at home. I find it helps everyone else feel at home, too. 

4. Offers to Bring Something: I guess I'm a touch old-fashioned in this way, but I do think it's polite to ask what you can bring when invited over to a friend's house. If they say "nothing, just yourselves," I think it's a nice gesture to bring something very small (a few wildflowers, some beer or a bottle of wine you're excited about). 

5. Reciprocates: In a way, this really should be towards the top of my list. This is something we deal with a lot here in Seattle for some reason — inviting new friends or acquaintances over for dinner or cocktails and then not hearing from them again about a social engagement. As petty as it sounds, I feel it's their turn at that point. Am I right? Speaking for myself, it gets frustrating continuing to host the same friends when they don't return the gesture. 

I'd love to hear from you: what are traits that you appreciate in a dinner party guest?

(Image: Gabriela Herman - A Spring Vegetarian Dinner for Six)

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