Raya is here, and we’re sure your schedule is jam-packed with houses to visit. This is a season to catch up with friends, have good food and eat all the goodies and cookies. Most of all, it’s a time to … mind your manners!
Being Malaysians, we’ve experienced it all: during Christmas, Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, and even birthdays. We’ve seen some very gracious efforts from guests, and witnessed some very unbecoming and downright appalling behaviour from others.
With that in mind, here’s a quick and easy guide as to how to behave when you get invited into someone’s home during the festivities:
1. Keep To The Timing
The thing with many Malaysians is that their timing or rather, their idea of timing is … questionable. When your host or friend says come at 10, be sure to be there around 10, and give yourself a grace period of 15 minutes after to make it to your destination (parking, Waze unable to detect your even in wide open spaces, traffic, etc).
Essentially, don’t come too early BUT don’t come too late. You don’t want to go in while your host is still setting up, or when they’re about to hit the sack.
2. Dress Appropriately
Come on, people, we’re at a celebration, and someone’s house, at that. Be sure to make extra effort to dress up, so that means it’s time to iron those shirts, trousers and dresses, and polish those dusty shoes.
Otherwise, stick to the theme: baju kurung or kebaya during Raya celebrations, festive dresses during Christmas parties, sarees during Deepavali and red clothing during Chinese New Year. If you don’t have appropriate attire, stick to semi-formal attire.
3. Bring A Gift
“I’m your gift” isn’t a legit excuse, despite how funny it is. Yes, of course your host is happy to see that you came all the way to see them. But take it up a notch and pick something up on the way; preferably something that can be shared e.g. a box of cookies or drinks. And remember to prepare duit raya for the kids as well! Otherwise, if you’re one to take the act of gifting seriously, check this list of fancy gifts out.
4. No Surprises!
When someone invites you, always accept with the knowledge that you’re the only one invited – unless it’s explicitly said that you are welcome to bring your partner, or plus one. Therefore, it’s always polite to ask if it’s alright that you bring someone, or your kids.
If your kids are coming with, make sure you mind them and that they don’t get up to no good and make a disaster out of your host’s house!
5. Be Clear About House Rules
You may have adopted the Westernised style of wearing your outdoor shoes inside, but some of your friends may not. Ask about whether your host prefers shoes to be kept outside (and where). Also ensure that you use serving spoons when scooping up food. At home, we may just use our own spoons to get more food, but at someone’s house, respect that they may have a different way of doing things.
Also, it’s good manners to greet the people associated with your host: their spouse, parents, children and/or pets, so be sure to say hello to everyone before you get comfortable.
6. Don’t Overload Your Plate
Yes to the roast chicken, or the chicken rendang. Absolutely yes to the raya cookies and dessert tray. Actually, yes to everything on the table, but don’t overload your plate so much that it resembles Mount Kinabalu. However, if the host is the one overloading your plate, politely laugh it off and decline more food. Finish what you have first, and then top up.
You don’t want to get caught taking too much and then end up throwing it in the bin face down to ensure that nobody sees how much you’ve thrown away (we’ve all been there). That being said, try not to waste! Food wastage is as much of a sin as gluttony!
7. Clean Up
Although you are a guest at someone’s house, it’s always good manners to clean up after yourself. Typically, you’ll make it as far as the kitchen before someone grabs your used plates from your hands and insists that you go back and have fun inside, but it’s the thought that counts. If nobody stops you on the way, you can even go as far as cleaning up in the kitchen.
However, pay mind to the old wives’ tale that those who clean up in the kitchen during the first visit may not come back. Check the house rules, as mentioned earlier!
8. Offer To Help
Your host may have invited other guests too, and sometimes, it can get too much for them to handle at one go. You may be busy patting your very full belly at this time, so why not get the extra exercise by helping out where help may be needed. Of course, your host may insist that they are fine, but you can insist on repaying the favour of feeding you by taking some things off their hands.
9. Stay Off Your Phone
Food coma or not, keep your phone away and inside your pocket or bag. There is the customary ‘do it for the gram’ photo with your host and other friends you may have bumped into, but don’t spend time editing and posting at that moment. Instead, enjoy the moment and catch up with your friends over some gossip (or more food), and connect with people offline instead of online.
10. Know When To Leave, And Thank Them For Inviting
There’s nothing worse than not being able to pick up social cues, especially from your host. If it’s way past their bedtime, and everyone’s yawning, and you’re probably the only one left (about to fall asleep on their couch as well), then it’s time to go.
Ideally, one should not spend more than 3 hours at a party – unless the host wants you to stay, and if you’re practically family.
BONUS: Don’t Take Anything Back!
Yes, we know the food is good, and yes, your host has A LOT of leftovers but don’t ever openly ask to take it back. It’s only acceptable for your take something back IF your hosts insists that you do. Tip: if you really do want to take something back, keep complimenting them on it, and they will be flattered enough to send you home with some.
Also a tip: this does not apply to furniture, decorations and other things that you might want.