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Oh, for a little wine

Nicole Dyer Griffith MA Thursday, February 16 2017

I have received a number of different questions pertaining to each of the topic areas discussed: protocol, diplomacy and business etiquette. One such area of questioning revolved around interacting with a host. This topic was covered in an earlier article.

However, I would delve a little deeper to provide more specific examples of what could be done in various real life scenarios.

The question posed to me by an international reader was based on a scenario she encountered: she was invited to a dinner party in France, where after they were seated at the dinner table, the host offered her a glass of wine with her starter. She stated that she did not drink alcohol and instead requested a glass of juice. She stated her host appeared visibly upset, and she could not understand why. Now this example, though set in France, can be replicated in any corner of the globe – it particularly resonated with me, as I, also, do not drink alcohol. I have been in many a scenario where a quick judgment call had to be made.

In the above circumstance, a number of considerations must be taken into account.

These include the location (France), their customs, norms and mores (drinking wine), the indicators by the host (offering the wine), and your role as a guest (not to cause insult to the host). Taking a number of these considerations into account, the options available to the guest will be to simply recognize that it is virtually unheard of to dine in France, particularly in the circumstance described, without the use of wine. Even if you do not place the wine goblet to your lips, simply accept the offer, and even if you lift the glass during the meal, at least your host would not have been offended by the refusal – don’t worry, I am almost certain, a water goblet would accompany the meal, and as such, would provide the necessary accompaniment for the meal.

I have had to apply the theatrical technique in various social circumstances. At cocktail receptions, particularly where a toast is expected, possessing a glass of wine whilst mingling does not necessarily mean the contents will be consumed. The cocktail setting provides the opportunity to request an alternate and suitable libation– please note the dining experience provides a very different challenge.

Understanding your host and the customs of the host is extremely important in these scenarios. I recall on a visit to China, a delegation was invited to lunch, and the host proceeded to order on behalf of the delegation. Understanding the culture, it is considered impolite to interject with your personal meal preferences when being hosted. As such, you simply adjust to suit. Your level of interaction depends on who you are with.

If you are present with close friends and associates, etiquette guides are flexible However, if your objective is business-based, it is always better to be on the side of doing the right thing. In conclusion, there are several factors to take into consideration when employing entertaining theatrics.

These include, the relationship with your host, the nature of the meeting/engagement, the culture of the host/host country, and the objective for the interaction. Always consider the host. And perhaps, in like manner, your host may also consider “What would make my guest comfortable?” To Sarah J, who submitted this question on how to employ theatrics whilst being hosted, I hope this provides the necessary guidance

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