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Cultural Tips Question:
In America, if a person formally invites us for a party, then is it necessary to state if we will attend or not ? In India, we say, " we will try to come " and then might attend or not attend. Which reasons can be given as polite reasons for not attending? Which reasons are considered rude?
Yes, if one gets and invitation, the invited party must tell the host on the RSVP if they will come or not. Americans need certainty- so saying ‘we will try to come’ may make most Americans feel uncomfortable.
Reasons that can be given for not attending:
- “No, I am sorry I cannot come, I have a schedule conflict that weekend.”
- “No, I can’t come that weekend; something was already planned three months ago for me to do that weekend. Sorry, I can’t attend.”
- “No, I’m sorry I can’t attend that weekend I have a vacation and we’ve already booked our tickets to leave to go to Florida.”
If you’re not sure, you must also give a reason for that. Even if the reason ‘is sad’, Americans generally respect that over not giving an answer.
Reasons considered rude:
- Not giving a reason for not attending
- Not answering the invitation because you’re not sure if you can make it
If you’d like more information on this, read the text below or listen to this audio response.
(The following is in a conversational tone.)
Hi Everyone! I am Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys and Alaivani.com.
How are you?
Have you been invited to a party by your American friends, and you’re just not really sure if you can attend?
Are you wondering what to do with that invitation and how to respond so that your American friends don’t feel hurt or offended by your response to the invitation?
Of course, if you’re going, that’s pretty simple. Anyone would just tell you to tick the box ‘yes’ and send the RSVP card back. I should let you know that most parties have a RSVP which is a date that you should respond to the invitation maybe four to ten days before the party happens. Yes, do answer the RSVP by those dates. That is highly important.
If you’re not sure if you’re going to come or you know you’re not coming, here are the tips:
Knowing you’re not coming is pretty simple. You tick the box, ‘no’, and you write a short reason. The simplest reason could be, “No, I am sorry I cannot come, I have a schedule conflict that weekend.” Or “No, I can’t come that weekend; something was already planned three months ago for me to do that weekend. Sorry, I can’t attend.” Or, if you want to give a little bit more information, say, “No, I’m sorry I can’t attend that weekend I have a vacation and we’ve already booked our tickets to leave to go to Florida.” But, you don’t really have to say much more than that, but you must give a reason.
If you’re wondering if any reason is rude… not giving a reason is rude.
Not responding to the RSVP, not responding to the invitation because you’re not sure if you’re coming, that is actually pretty rude, too. Your host would be highly offended and would probably not invite you to another party. And, we don’t want that to happen!
The other thing I should mention is that if you’re not sure if you’re going to come or not. Now, I understand that in some cultures saying ‘no’ is highly offensive, not only to the person saying no (the person saying ‘no’ feels uncomfortable), but it would never be said because the receiver of that ‘no’ would never hear it. But, in America ‘saying no’ gets you more respect than saying ‘maybe’ and not doing anything about that ‘maybe’. If we hear a ‘maybe’, we still need to know a ‘yes’ o r a ‘no’ later on.
So, do not answer ‘maybe’ unless you have a reason for that, too. For instance, I would say, “I am not really sure if I can come because there’s been some emergencies in my family over the last couple months, my family member has been ill, and I am not sure if we have to go out of town unexpectedly.” You do have to give a reason, even if it’s a sad reason, because Americans would more or less respect that than not getting a response back at all. It is uncomfortable. Yes, even if I heard that from somebody, I would feel sad. But I would actually feel sadder and really upset if I never got a response back at all.
We can save some seats for those tentative people that aren’t really sure if they are coming or not. But, as long as we know you might be coming, we’re pretty happy about that, as long as you give us a reason.
So, I hope that answers some of your questions about party invitation etiquette. We can have more conversation about this. Do send your tips and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Creator of this cultural adjustment podcast, Jennifer Kumar is a multicultural mentor who is looking forward to meeting you via phone, Skype, e-mail or in person to help you adjust better to American culture or your cross-cultural lifestyle whereever you live. To know more about how I can help you on your Authentic Journey, visit my cross-cultural coaching website or send your questions to me at email@example.com. Thanks!
More etiquette tips.
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