Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lifts - Giving & Getting

Public transport is a wonderful thing, easy on the environment and easy on the wallet, but let's be honest, in Australia, even in the major cities, it can't get you everywhere, and that's when the trusty car comes into play. Of course, in any group of friends, especially people in their 20s, there will be some lucky folk with cars, and some without. This means that at some point, you will either have to give someone a lift, or get a lift yourself.

Giving Lifts

If you are lucky enough to have a car of your own, the world is your oyster. In particular, the plans of when you arrive and leave various events are yours to decide.

Be upfront with people that you're giving a lift to. Tell them what time you'd like them to be ready, and if you're running late, ring them and tell them the new time. Don't make a big deal about how fantastic you are for giving them a lift. Tell them the time you plan to leave the party, as well, and give them some notice before that time on the night. Telling people you want to leave in about half an hour gives them time to get their affairs in order, as it were.

Getting Lifts

It's important to be able to ask for a lift without putting the driver on the spot. It's generally best to organise a lift to and from an event as soon you can. Waiting until the driver is almost out the door is extremely bad form. Never assume you can get a lift. Even if you live next door to your best friend and they've got a car, you should still always check. Don't go to the party assuming you can magically score a lift back from some random person.

Don't ask for lifts from people whom you otherwise don't like. It's poor form, and makes you a user. Don't be that person who only ever contacts someone when they want to be driven somewhere, it's disrespectful and a bit cruel. Other people don't exist merely to do your bidding.

Avoid being passive-aggressive. When asking for a favour, always be direct and polite. Ask for what you want, but make it clear that it's fine if your friend can't grant the favour. Don't put people on the spot, or make them feel as though they have to offer you a lift. It's rude, and it will make them resent you. If they're unable to give you a lift for whatever reason, and you make them feel as though they have to give you a lift, they will feel awkward and uncomfortable. Being direct (but polite!) means they can turn you down without feeling too bad, if they have to.

Here is a correct way to ask for a lift:

"If you're planning to drive to Heather's party, would I please be able to get a lift with you, there and on the way back? It's fine if you can't, though."

The following method is incorrect.

"So... it's a really long way to Heather's party, isn't it? It's going to be really hard getting there by public transport."

If the person you ask is unable to give you a lift, be gracious. Make sure they know it's not a big crisis. If they're not planning to even attend the event, don't try to make them go just so you can get a lift.

If you're lucky enough to score a lift somewhere, there are certain things you should do.
  • Firstly, let the driver decide what time they will pick you up, and make sure you're ready to go at the agreed time. If the driver is late, don't complain.
  • Likewise, the driver should decide when to leave. If the driver is feeling ill, or tired, or has work the next morning, be happy to go at that time. You can check what time they're planning to leave before you get to the party, so that if their preferred leaving time is completely incompatible with yours, you can organise another way home if necessary.
  • Don't ever make your lift wait around for hours while you flirt with that boy you really, really want to sleep with, unless you've discussed it with your lift beforehand and he or she is fine with waiting a bit longer in aid of your romantic pursuits.
  • Don't get excessively drunk, to the point where your lift has to leave early to take you home, or to the point where you throw up in their car or have to be carried out of it. If you throw up in someone's car, you'll probably never get a lift from them again, and your other friends may be wary of driving you anywhere, too.
  • Never offer a lift to a third party on behalf of the driver without checking with them first. Ever. You can ask the driver for a lift for yourself and others, but it's extremely rude to show up with a friend who hasn't been okayed by the driver, even if it's someone you're trying to sleep with.
  • Remember to thank the driver, when they pick you up and when they drop you off. They're your friend, not a taxi driver.
  • Give the driver clear instructions about where your house is.
  • Never, ever, criticise the car or the driver, unless they're driving in a way that makes you feel extremely unsafe (as in, they're driving over the speedlimit, or running red lights). Avoid being a backseat driver as much as you can.
  • Never feel compelled to get in a car with a driver who is under the influence of any substances.


The partner or love interest of the driver gets automatic shotgun. Don't quibble about this. Aside from that, the rules are pretty relaxed. If the car is very full, it's poor form for extremely skinny people to call shotgun. The smallest people should go in the back, so it's not too uncomfortable there. However, don't say "Well, Jane, you're a prizewinning heifer, you ride upfront." That's not good etiquette. Rather, if you're slim, just say you're happier in the back. Unless you're the partner of the driver, of course. However, injured or pregnant people should probably be given shotgun, even over the partner.

Petrol Money

Unless you're a completely broke student, I find it's impolite to always ask for petrol money. If you're driving someone to Katoomba, asking them to pitch in $5 or $10 is fine, but if you're driving them from Glebe to Stanmore, and it's on your way anyway, it's better to be a bit gracious. After all, friendships tend to even out in different ways. If you are asking for petrol money, it's best to organise it when the lift is organised, rather than getting to your destination and holding out your hand.

However, if you're the one getting the lift, you should always offer petrol money, certainly the first time you get a lift with someone. If they refuse, offer to either pay the toll, if it's a toll road, or at least to buy them a coffee next time you're together. If you live nearby close friends who are happy to give you lifts, obviously you don't have to do that every time, and continuously offering petrol money may offend them. Just try to grant them favours when they ask, if it's in your power.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


RSVP stands for Répondez s'il-vous-plaît, or, in English, "please respond". This is the method of responding to an invitation.

Weddings and Other Formal Occasions

Weddings and other formal occasions have the strictest rules and standards for RSVPs. Most of the time, half the work is done for you, and you will receive a small RSVP card with the invitation, with boxes to tick about if you are attending, how many people on the invitation will be coming, and whether you have any specific dietary requirements. However, this may not always be the case.

How To Write an RSVP for a formal event

If the RSVP simply gives an address or email to respond to, you will have to write a brief letter. The level of formality varies depending on whom the RSVP is addressed to. Here are some examples.

1. An RSVP to a host you are on close terms with, such as a friend or relative.

Dear Jane and Matthew,

Thank you so much for inviting us to celebrate your wedding. We will definitely be attending the ceremony and reception. Andrew is vegetarian, and Robert does not have any particular dietary requirements.

We can't wait, it'll be fantastic.


Andrew and Robert.


Dear Jane and Matthew,

Congratulations on the wedding! We're terribly sorry to say that we won't be able to make it, due to being overseas/having a work event/attending another wedding that day. Good luck, though, we're sure the day will be perfect. We would love to catch up with you at some point after the wedding.

Love, Andrew and Robert.

2. An RSVP to a host you are not as familiar with, such as the parents of the bride or groom.

Dear Mrs Johnson,

Thank you very much for your kind invitation to Jane and Matthew's wedding. Both of us will be attending the ceremony and reception. Andrew is vegetarian, and Robert does not have any particular dietary requirements.

We are looking forward to attending this wedding.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Smith and Robert Wilson.


Dear Mrs Johnson,

Thank you very much for your kind invitation to Jane and Matthew's wedding. Unfortunately, we are unable to attend the wedding due to a prior engagement. Please give the bride and groom our apologies, as well as our congratulations on their wedding.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Smith and Robert Wilson.

Things to remember
  • Always respond by the requested date. If you are mailing the invitation, look at the address and then go to the Australia Post website and determine the number of days your response will take to arrive. The RSVP date is the date your response should arrive, not the date you should send it. RSVP as soon as you are able, rather than leaving it to the last minute. This gives you time to make changes, if necessary.
  • It is your job to inform the host of any special dietary requirements. If the RSVP does not ask specifically for them, or does not mention your particular requirement, it is still your duty to inform the host if you need vegetarian/vegan/kosher/halal/lactose intolerant/glucose intolerant etc food.
  • If the invitation does not specifically say "and guest" or "plus one", do not assume you can bring a date. Although it is the norm in America to bring a date to weddings, this is not necessarily the case in Australia. If the invitation does not ask you to bring a guest, but you are in a relationship that the hosts may not be aware of, it is acceptable to contact the hosts before the RSVP date to enquire if you may bring your partner, however please do not be offended if there is no space. Weddings are extremely expensive.
  • If the invitation is for multiple people, some of whom cannot come, it is important to specify which guests are attending and which ones are not.
  • Specifically for weddings, engagement parties and baby showers, it is considered polite to send a gift even if you are not attending, and especially if you are.
  • It is not acceptable to leave early or arrive late to formal events, unless there is an unforeseen emergency.
  • If it is a family event, you are required to attend, especially if it is for a family member you see at least once a year (for Christmas etc). Being out of the country or in hospital are some of the only excuses for not being able to attend the wedding or engagement of a close family member.
Parties and Informal Occasions

Informal occasions will very rarely require written RSVPs, but will often ask for RSVP by phone or email. There may be a RSVP date, but this is less common. Still, once again it is polite to inform the hosts as soon as you can about your availability.

How To Write an RSVP for an informal event.

Hi, Robert and Andrew,
I'm definitely coming to the party. Thank you for inviting me! Is there anything I should bring? Can I help out with anything beforehand?

See you then,


Hi, Robert and Andrew,
I'm really sorry but I can't make it due to (family commitments) (work) (essay). I hope you have a fantastic time, though, and thanks for inviting me. Hopefully we can catch up soon.

Talk soon,

Here are some very incorrect RSVPs.

Yeah, I might come, if I've got nothing better to do.


No, I'm not going, it sounds like it will suck, anyway.

There is never any cause to be impolite in response to an invitation. If you are not on particularly good terms with the host, a brief email saying you can't make it is appropriate.

Things to remember
  • It is much more acceptable to ask to bring a date or guest to an informal party. Do not feel uncomfortable about asking, especially if it's a house party. If it's a small dinner party, only ask for a guest if the guest is your partner, or a friend from out of town staying with you that night.
  • If you have to arrive very late (more than two hours) or leave early, it is polite to notify the hosts in advance.
  • Do not feel obliged to attend, especially if you do not know the hosts that well.
  • If you have to cancel at the last minute, it is polite to contact the hosts and apologise, rather than just not showing up.
Facebook Invitations

Facebook makes it extremely easy to RSVP to events, with their "attending/maybe attending/not attending" function. However, no matter what you select, it is polite to write a brief note on the event wall. Generally people only post to the wall if they can't make it, and it's a little dispiriting for a host to have a big stack of posts saying "Sorry, I can't make it." even if there's a large number of people attending. A quick "I'll be there! Should I bring anything?" will make the host happy.

Things to remember
  • The event page will give information about whether it is okay to invite other people. Please stick by these guidelines.
A final note

If you are not invited to an event, it is not acceptable to gatecrash, or to ask the hosts why you have not been invited. Perhaps there is an issue with numbers (this is particularly important for formal events). Perhaps the event has a small mix of people carefully chosen by the hosts, and you might not fit in. Perhaps the main point of the party is something you might not enjoy, for example, an election night party where everyone is a member of the Greens, and you vote Liberal. If you are very close to the hosts, and it is an informal party, they will generally contact you to explain, however, you should not automatically be offended at not receiving an invitation. The hosts are not obliged to invite anyone they don't want to.

Welcome to Chastity St James' Guide to Modern Etiquette

We no longer live in an age where one's social status can be measured by how one holds one's teacup. Many formal rules of etiquette, especially ones involving gloves, no longer apply to the modern young man or woman. However, there are still many social mores and rules of etiquette that one is expected to follow.

The etiquette and rules outlined in this blog are distinctly for an Australian audience. We live in a country where there are many standards of expected behaviour, but very little information given about these standards.

This blog will not merely answer such mysteries as what, exactly, a fish knife looks like, but will also give information about correct etiquette and proceedure for parties of all levels of formality, how to behave correctly in a cafe or restaurant, how to write a formal letter, and even how to conduct oneself in a job interview.

Happy reading!


Chastity St. James