There’s something about Nature that inspires people – in all sorts of odd ways. We’ve all seen it:
There’s the co-worker who, because it’s a hot summer day, decides to sport his Speedo at the company picnic;
There’s the beer-swilling bunch at the next picnic table who decides everyone for miles around should know and respect their speed metal screamo mixtape…
…of course this same bunch believes that empty beer cans are best left strewn on the ground and that swearing loudly in front of your children is an undeniable sign of manliness;
There’s the couple who insists on sharing their undying passion for each other with the rest of the world by publicly swapping spit for hours on end;
Oh, and of course there’s the family of ten who, after having RSVP’d to your invitation and volunteering to bring chips and sodas, shows up with a single bag of Lays and a six-pack and then makes sure their herd is the first to the trough;
There’s the folks who decide that, since the great outdoors is free space and open to everyone, they are free to invite their friends to your event with no notice whatsoever;
There’s the parents who figure they’re due a good time like everybody else and therefore they rely on everyone else at the gathering to watch their uncontrollable kids;
There’s those that systematically show up late and then leave early – being sure to meticulously hunt down and take all their leftovers in the process, and never ever helping to clean up one tiny little bit;
There’s the folks who think it’s ok to leave a picnic table covered in food smears and spills because it’s no longer their problem;
There’s those darn people who insist on setting up their tag football game right next to your picnic spot, clearly not caring who or what they trample in their wake…
Eeeeesh. The list goes on and on.
Here’s some friendly tips on how to behave when you’re dining in the Great Outdoors:
Shared space is exactly that: shared space.
You don’t own it. It shows well to behave appropriately and with extreme consideration for others.
Unless it’s a crowded park or beach area, as a rule most people prefer lots of space between you and them. It’s best to be respectful and keep your distance when at all possible. After all, the wild blue yonder is deep and wide; there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Gauge your activities, behavior, conversation and tone of voice on the following:
Are there people close by?
Everyone might have a better time and feel a little more free to be themselves if you choose a site away from others.
Are they in earshot of your conversation?
Consider the words you choose, your tone of voice, the volume of your laughter, the subject of conversation, etc. accordingly.
No matter how public a space might be, it’s just plain rude and ignorant to subject strangers to your personal conversations, no matter what the topic happens to be. Off-color jokes, topics, and foul language should be treated with even more care. If you think your party will end up heading in this direction, simply choose a site away from everyone else, be yourselves, and have fun!
As a general rule, most people come to enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors. It’s best to enjoy your music at home.
Can you see them? Can they see YOU?
Curtail any rude gestures or questionable body language if someone outside your immediate party can see you.
While everyone in your party might be accustomed to seeing your sweaty beer belly at friendly family functions, rest assured the folks at the next picnic table are best left unexposed to your “endowments”. Please keep your shirt on.
You might be experiencing the most romantic picnic the world has ever seen. If that’s the case, well, good for you! But please, if you simply cannot control yourself and feel you have no choice but to demonstrate your overwhelming passion for eachother, do it in a place where no one else has to watch. (Ahem! Get a room!) Here’s a different way of thinking about it: If you happen to find yourselves in the company of strangers who appear to be enjoying watching you and your loved one “get it on”, you’d be smart to be concerned. Be very concerned.
Set up any games away from others’ space. Sorry, but badminton birdies and potato salad just don’t get along. And be extra-aware of any small children who might have wandered into your game – nothing will spoil a good time faster than an injury.
If you’ve been invited to a picnic:
Ask what is going to be served and what you can bring to help out. It’s a good idea to ask how many others will be coming so you can plan to bring enough.
If you’re a vegetarian and the main course is to be hamburgers and hot dogs, ask the host/ess if he/she minds if you bring a vegetarian option to supplement. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get an objection, and you just might have helped your host/ess avoid a potentially embarrassing situation. The same principle applies to folks with food allergies. Even if you’re darn sure you’re the only vegetarian/allergic person in the bunch, bringing only enough of something for yourself looks stingy. Be sure to bring enough for others to sample, as well.
It’s best to at least offer to come early to assist with setup; it’s always a good idea to stay to clean up, as well.
Be sure to label the bottom of any food container or serving platter with your name; in the event you leave the dish in its container for others to enjoy, it will make it far easier for the host/ess to get it back to you.
If you’re bringing a dish that requires a serving utensil, be sure to provide the required utensil.
NEVER bring others who are uninvited to any gathering without asking the host/ess well in advance.
Even if your host/ess assures you that everything’s covered, never show up empty-handed. At the very least, bring some extra water bottles or a box of chocolates to share.
Remember to leave your picnic site better than you found it; you’ll make someone else’s day by leaving a super-clean table and picture-perfect site.
Keep It Classy!
Feel free to submit any additional tips or rules of picnic etiquette through the “Contact Us” form here.