Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rain, Rain and Rude..Get the f outta here...

Or...Go Away...but I prefer to REALLY tell it off. Stupid me, forgot to take in the big blanket from the clothesline last night and it must weigh at least 20 kilos now, drip drying in the rain.

We had a playdate today, little man and me. A cute little boy about a year younger than mine. I was flabergasted to see the Mom show up with flowers for me and some candies for the kiddies. Though Swedes are notorious for bringing flowers when they're invited somewhere, I didn't think a playdate counted. Better revise my "Etiquette according to Jenn" list. I'm so easily touched by the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness.

And that to me is what Etiquette really boils down to. Since you asked, here's my list, well a portion of it.Feel free to follow, ignore or give it the finger. My blog. My list (sticks tongue out).

1. Never, EVER under any circumstances show up to someone's home for dinner without a "gift".
What could this gift be? Well I defer to culture/country. For example, in Sweden, flowers are most appropriate. In Russia, flowers must be given in odd numbers and there are a few varieties to stay away from. In Spain, you also bring small gifts for any kids. Whether's it's a nice bunch of flowers, a bottle of wine, a box of chocolate, a handmade something or other, or a nice gift for the home, never show up empty-handed.

You can even look at it this way: It's a meal you didn't have to prepare/purchase, It's a house you didn't have to spend all day scrubbing and tidying, loads of dishes and clean up you don't need to worry about. So, why not show some thanks/appreciation? Trust me, unless your hosts are serving spaghetti with store bought sauce, your gift will cost you way less than the meal.
Exception to Rule#1: You're homeless or destitute.

2. Never, EVER show up to stay overnight at someone's home without a "gift". The value of said gift should increase with the number of nights you plan to stay. Staying for a week or heaven-forbid, more than that? Carve out some time to treat your hosts to a dinner out. You can be sure they have prepared for your arrival, have adjusted schedules, etc. You are, in fact, "putting them out". You are, in fact, saving loads of money on a hotel, meals, etc. I'm sorry but the pleasure of your company is NOT gift enough. Help out with dishes, keep your living quarters clean, etc. Do not expect to be waited on hand and foot. I think anything after 3 days, you cross over from guest to flatmate.
Exception to Rule #2: You're homeless, destitute, need some kind of "saving".
Soft Exception to Rule #2: Family. But be careful here. It's not necessarily an exception. Family should still be treated with the same level of respect as friends.

So those are the most basic Etiquette According to Jenn rules. How about a little test...

Please read through the following scenario:

You get a call from an old friend who is going through a divorce. She is actually divorcing your husband's best friend. Though you were ALL friends for a few years, the primary friendship is between your husband and her ex. This friend tells you she is going on a world tour and would like to stop by your country and stay with you and your family for over 10 days. You remember she is a vegetarian and make sure your fridge and cupboards are stocked with veggie-friendly food.

She arrives for her 10-day stay. And what does she bring you and your family? Does dirty laundry count? You drive and pick her up from bus stops and train stations on countless occasions and even take a bit of time off to ensure she gets a feel for the place. You and your family drive her into the big city for a tour. You stop for lunch. She orders a couple of beer. You and your hubby order soda. The minute the waiter arrives with the bill, she excuses herself to use the washroom. You pay the bill. She reappears, ready to hit the streets. She doesn't ask about the bill. She doesn't offer to pay. She manages to find a few gifts for herself in some nice boutiques.

Your realize you are out of wine. The lush has pounded back a bottle a night over the past several nights. You head into the liquor store, with her in tow. You pick a bottle and a box and she says, "Oh, I can pay for that bottle." You pay for the box.

You are going out for groceries, for the upteenth time since her arrival. You ask her if she would like to come along, in case there's anything she needs. You pick out the five items you need. She picks out her five. You arrive at the cash. You put your stuff down. She puts hers down but remembers she'd like some ice cream. She goes to get it. She comes back. You begin to pull out your card. She stands there motionless. You grab the plastic grocery separator thing and slam it down (a little too forcefully) at the end of your stuff. She is now obliged to take out her card. It was clear she wouldn't have.

She leaves for 3 days to visit a friend in another part of the country. She is coming back on your birthday and she knows that you'll be going out with a few friends that night to celebrate. She arrives with birthday hugs and shows you the nice things she bought for herself. You order the taxi. You pay for the taxi. Your friends pass you your birthday gifts. They're lovely. You thank them. Half an hour later she says, "X, I didn't get you a birthday present." (oh really? I hadn't noticed!) You state, flatly: "Oh. Don't worry about it." Another half hour goes by, "I feel bad that I didn't get you a birthday present." You say in the same expressionless montone, "Don't worry about it." It's the end of the night and it's time to pay the bill. Your other friends had ordered a bit of food. She didn't. Your friends say, "It's on us X. It's your birthday." She says, "Oh...uhmmm...yeah, how much do I owe? Oh, let me help to pay for this, after all it's X's birthday!" Then she really gets going, "Oh and X, don't even try to take out your wallet, it's on US...Just take the food off my portion." Another family friend who just happened to be there swoops in and covers the entire bill. Your guest didn't have to pay for anything.

She offers to split the taxi ride home.She is packing up to leave a few days later. She comes to you and says, "I don't have enough room in my suitcase for this (ratty, old, gray) sweater. I was going to get rid of it anyway but I thought maybe you would like to have it." She also hands you a small notebook that she points out was a gift to her from a friend but she has no use for it and it's taking up room in her carefully packed bag.

You take her to the airport, a 40-minute drive away.
If, after reading this scenario, you don't want to kick guest in the ass to knock her out of the car and onto the curb while simultaneously hurling her precious rucksack at her head, all while the vehicle is still moving, you FAIL this test.

a) In 200 words or less, please explain the error of the guest's ways according to Jenn's Rules of Etiquette.
b) Assuming the host was hurt and insulted by the guest's behaviour, should the host have expressed her feelings to the guest? And if so, how?


Mahällö said...

Hum, it would be a difficult but interesting conversation. Nevertheless, I'd rather feel like saying nothing. I'd think I should never, EVER have let her come... and I'd swear to never, EVER have her back. Or I would call her and telling her about my blog and this time, I would not hesitate to give her the address, I would even make sure she will find this article ! Ha ! ;o)

You story is painful but the way you tell it makes it very funny, thanks for making me laugh !

Richard said...

Hiya Jenn. That's a great etiquette guide - only two important rules to remember! It's tough with the friend, I guess arounf=d day 3 when you work out what's going on, you just have to say "This is my house, these are the rules..." Leave it too late, it's difficult.

Rebecca said...

I love these :-) There's a rule in my family, most of it's culture some of it are quirks expanded upon by the culture and personal's similar to yours. (we up the ante on some things tho')

She invited herself as a guest and should have brought something - if nothing else, money to cover the extra expense the host went through to provide for her vegetarian palette.

B. It's after the fact but I would have told her (since she wasn't homeless or destitute when she invited herself to begin with) that I would provide standard meal/lodging but any "extra's" were her responsibility. Especially on that birthday thing! omg...that was uncalled for. VERY rude to invite yourself and in the middle of a supposed visit - to dump your host for a 3 day excursion elsewhere.

That's grounds for getting your visit cut short in my house.

SwedishJenn said...

@Everybody: Another rule addendum: Put "gifts" into your budget. Our budget for Moscow automatically included gifts. If we couldn't have afforded to purchase gifts, we would not have been able to afford to go. Simple as that.

Oh and I forgot to include her use of my work computer for very lengthy periods of time. At one point, I remember saying, "T, I need to get on there for a few minutes." Her response, "Can you just wait 5 minutes until I finish editing this photo?"

@Mahällö: You know, we are obviously facebook friends but I've barely interacted with her since she left. Unfortunately, I believe she really has NO IDEA what she's done. And if and when she asks, I may be forced to tell her how her visit made me (us!) feel.

For awhile there I couldn't remember if I had told her about my blog, which is why I hesitated to expose this story. But now, I don't give a damn.

@Richard. The only "rules" are respect and thoughtfulness. How do you tell someone, "Please bring us a gift when you come." Or, "Don't you think you should buy your own specialty food?" Or "Wouldn't it seem appropriate to treat us to a meal after the dozens we've provided for you?" People should just KNOW this. At the same time though, people without this kind of upbringing or those that simply don't subscribe to this philosophy, how are they to know? If I was a friend, shouldn't I tell her that i consider her behaviour to be rude? She then knows MY truth and can react in whichever way she feels appropriate. But you're right, it was left too late to the point where we are no longer friends. This is so tricky.

@Rebecca: Would love to hear about your family's customs! Sorry for the miscommunication: She was invited out for my birthday because she was a guest in my home. So she not only knew it was my birthday,but she knew we were celebrating it that night!!! Making the fact that she never bothered to buy a small gift, that much more despicable in my books. But the best part, she realized she made a huge mistake there.

She KNOWS we are not stinkin' rich (not that it would be an excuse). She has a life that involves expenses like food, transportation, gas. Where does she think we're getting the money for these things? How could you not offer to help with expenses? And she's not some poor backpaper. She had plenty of money. You should have seen the thoughtful gifts she purchased for HERSELF.

Mon said...

holy crap, i don't know why but i thought this was a made up scenario! what a rude leechy bitch.

as for the rules, they make me itch a little, LOL< but i do understand they are part of certain societies. i just had a friend visit and she brought nothing, zero, the only reason i thought of it was YOU lmao. but it totally didn't bother me, i was glad to see her and her kids.

i don't like leeches, and i can be quite ruthless about these things, when my own nices, which i love, visited last year, i told them where the shops were if they wanted any food. seriously. they've been brought up a little socially clueless and we're too poor to indulge.... but of course they ate dinner & breakfast with us and all that. but they went off and bought themselves little treats, etc.

SwedishJenn said...

Hey Mon! The "rules" are not set in stone, are they? They vary by country, culture, income-level, social circumstance, event, you name it...

I was telling hubby about this post and he thought up a new exception: The friends who are "in the neighbourhood" and are invited/drop by at the last minute.

Anyway, It really is "the thought" that counts.

And this story is completely and utterly true. Hubby said he wants to post a link on facebook to my post as a public service. Lately her status updates are: "In X province/country" and change daily. He figures she is leeching her way around the world and others should be forewarned..ha!

Seriously though, I do wish I had been proactive about this from the get-go. Though I did drop some hints like, "We're watching our money, etc." But I should have been more forthright about what I expected. Like you were with your nieces. Regardless, her ignorance was unbelievable and completely unacceptable. She hasn't heard from me in a LONG time and I half-expect a message from her. Perhaps I should take that opportunity to tell her?

Believe it or not, we had the same problem with her and her hubby years ago. They would invite themselves up to our house for the weekend and bring NOTHING, zip. I'd have to run out and grab veggie burgers for the BBQ. They'd drink up a storm, etc. Until finally one day when they called to come up, I told her, "Could you please bring whatever you'd like to eat for the grill and whatever you'd like to drink?" They did and seemed to have got the hint as they didn't show up empty-handed after that. Well, they still only really brought for themselves but it was something. So for this reason, I didn't think I needed to spell it out for her again.

Urghhh...Can you tell how glad I am to get this all of my chest after so long? LOL!

Anonymous said...

wow thats a crazy story, that would have made me crazy and wanted to throw everything on the street:P

when if i think about it, i hardly bring gifts to anyone if its not birthday, if the ppl im staying at needs to go shopping food or stuff i usally tagg alongs and offers to pay for all the food we shopped or atleast half of it,
maybe buy alcohol if thats needed
but still i have save dmoney if you compare it to a hotel+food

septembermom said...

I think there may be an etiquette book here :) I agree that even the smallest little gift is a nice way to acknowledge friendship and good will. With my close friends, we just show up. That's how things go with me and my close friends. With people I haven't seen in a while, I will bring a gift.

Hyacynth said...

Oh my word. That was a really rude houseguest. Perhaps she's having issues with money, but then if she were, would she have not bought herself lots of presents on her little three-day jaunt.
I think I would explain that her lack of consideration for you as the host made you feel like you were being taken advantage of. Of course, when the hurt has passed, I would have a very simple conversation if you plan to extend the friendship.

The rules of etiquette? Do they really apply to playdates? Because I can barely get out of the house with both kids in clothin let alone remember to take presents with. So can moms with toddlers and little babies be exempt for playdates? Please? Or I might never leave the house until the boys are the ones driving me.

SwedishJenn said...

@Hyacynth: Oh she HAD/HAS money believe you me and she wasn't shy about telling me about the lump sum she was waiting for either.

LOL! Not they DO NOT (normally) apply to playdates. Seriously. This was a special circumstance. Playdates around here are usually held with old friends/neighbours, etc. Very impromptu, very last-minute. Her and I were sorta "strangers" so this was a big deal, I believe, for a Swede, in this instance. I NEVER would have expected anything on a playdate, which is why I was so shocked but I think it's because of the oddness of it all (here, in this culture) that she brought something. I don't even think me, Self-Proclaimed Queen of Etiquette would have brought something to her house. Well likely some candy for the kid, because we're strangers, but that's it. So you are absolutely unequivocally exempt from playdate gifts! ha! I had to respond to this immediately when I saw it in my inbox as it screamed, "Etiquette Emergency". Still laughing...

Rebecca said...

So sorry on the delay - it wouldn't let me post for some reason. But wow! ow! I thought that was a sample scenario, too. That's just too much! You are waayyy too nice! :p
In my family our custom is basically after a 2 or 3 day "showing off" period to guests - you're basically then treated like a member of the family. Which means you handle your own affairs. ;-) money and all - unless you're poor/destitute which this woman wasn't.
Yea...she wouldn't be allowed back into the family if that happened to me - we exile our own kindred for behaving like that :p (it's a crazy mix of Sicilian and Native American..umm yea and I heard all of the Columbus jokes) So on one hand you could get banned and on the other, you might get a vendetta on your head. haha! Depends on the bread-breaking - but then we don't let people "invite themselves" to begin with - that is the #1 rule of rude imo.