Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many students away at college, it is simply too expensive or too far to head home for the long weekend, which means that they will probably be spending the holiday with the families of one of their college friends.
For students who’ve never spent Thanksgiving away from their families before, it can be hard to know exactly what’s expected of them as a houseguest. “I think there is an urge when you are young to think that you are just visiting your friend, rather than their family,” says etiquette blogger Victoria Pratt. “I know I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger.”
Along with her friend and colleague Jaya Saxena, Pratt is the co-founder of Uncommon Courtesy, a blog that tackles the modern-day etiquette problems many millennials face. We asked Pratt and Saxena for their thoughts on how to students can gracefully survive Thanksgiving in someone else’s home.
Never forget that you are a guest
“It’s just making sure you clean up after yourself,” says Saxena. “Make sure that you pitch in. Be aware that other families do things differently.” Families have their own traditions and ways of doing things, and your visit is a great opportunity to learn from others.
Bring a gift for your hosts
Everyone knows that college students are on tight budgets, but it is still possible to get something nice for your hosts. “I like to bring some sort of breakfast treat, especially at Thanksgiving,” says Pratt. “That way they wake up and breakfast is taken care of.” You can also always ask your friends about the kinds of foods their parents would like.
Avoid controversial conversations
“Don’t feel super shy with somebody that’s being terrible and racist,” says Pratt. While you cannot react the same way that you would if you were in your own home, you can deflect the conversation. “You’re in school, so you can always start talking about your major or classes.”
There’s also always the option of temporarily walking away. “You can excuse yourself and go to the bathroom,” says Saxena. “You have to balance being a guest with your commitment to social justice,” she adds with a laugh.