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Your Guide to Party Etiquette in the UK

Image representing students learning about party etiquette in the UK

Every country in the world has its own unspoken rules and expectations of how to behave when it comes to social gatherings – and the UK is no different.

Often, people think that conventions in their own culture apply everywhere, or that the way you should behave is just ‘obvious’. That’s simply not the case, though; different nationalities see things in different ways, and something that might be perfectly normal to you can seem impolite somewhere else!

Let’s take a look at some of the ways Brits expect guests to behave at a party, to make sure you never accidentally ‘put your foot in it’ (make a mistake and upset someone without meaning to).

1. Don’t Arrive Empty Handed

In the UK and many other English-speaking countries, it’s generally considered very rude to arrive at a party without bringing something with you. Normally, people bring with them whatever they expect to drink – a bottle of wine or some beers, for example, as well as some snack food to share, like crisps / tortilla chips and dips.

If you’re not sure, ask your host in advance, ‘can I bring anything?’ – they might ask you to pick up something specific on the way. Usually though, they’ll tell you not to worry, which really means they just want you to bring any alcohol you plan to drink.

Oh, and if you bring a bottle of wine and it doesn’t get drunk, don’t take it away with you! That is the height of rudeness – leave it with your host as a gift.

2. Don’t Be Too Late (But Don’t Be Early)


Unless it’s a dinner party, you don’t need to arrive at a party at exactly the start time. If the host says they are starting “at about 8pm” for example, that means they’ll probably still be tidying up / getting drinks ready / doing their makeup at 8pm, and you’ll be the only person there!

At the same time, don’t be too late. In parts of Europe, turning up at a party 3 or 4 hours after the supposed start time is considered normal, but if a British person says their party starts at 8pm and hardly anyone is there by 9.30pm, they’ll panic that the whole thing is a disaster and no one is coming. Aim to arrive around 30 minutes after the start time… you can’t go wrong with that.

3. Be Friendly and Chat to People

When you are hosting a party, one of the more stressful parts is feeling as though you are responsible for making everyone have a great time – especially people who don’t know each other.

Don’t wait for your host to introduce you to people; take the pressure off them by being warm and friendly to everyone, asking lots of questions and starting conversations wherever you can. There’s nothing worse than a party where people sit in a corner and only talk to people they already know!

4. Don’t Assume You Can Smoke Inside

It’s a little thing, but it’s important. If you want to smoke, always ask your host if they would rather you went outside. Apart from the fact that lots of people don’t like the smell of smoke in their home, some UK landlords make their tenants pay a big fine if they find out that they are smoking inside the property. You don’t want to get your friends into trouble!

5. Offer to Help Clean Up

If you are there until the end of the party, or if it’s a dinner party, collect up some plates or glasses and take them to the kitchen / help wash up so that your host isn’t stuck doing loads of tidying the next day. They won’t expect you to clean up, but they’ll be very grateful for the gesture.

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