Party Protocol: How to socialise in the city

Party Protocol: How to socialise in the city

Now that the partying season is upon us, here is an etiquette guide: we clue you into what is right and what is not when it comes to socialising in the city

By Aarti Jhurani (

Published: Fri 20 Dec 2013, 3:37 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:58 AM

Home to the tallest tower, the biggest malls and the most extravagant hotel in the world, Dubai is also the land of the most amazing parties. From the OTT kind to cosy homely ones, the city does not wait for the weekend to let its hair down. And while it sounds like a lot of fun and games, there are some basic unsaid rules that you need to know before you suit up in your finest and head out.

We spoke to some party specialists — both those who go to them and those who plan them — in the city, who clued us in to some dos and don’t of partying it up in this city that rarely sleeps. Meet our party panel — Seher Farooq, a party hostess, PR girl and avid party animal; Zainab Alsalih, managing director, Carousel Events; and Jawahar Chhoda, media personality.

Whenever you receive an invitation to party, acknowledge it, and let the host know whether or not you will be attending and if you will be getting along a plus one, advises Farooq. “Make sure the host is aware of who is coming, even if it is an open party, so they can cater accordingly. It can be very embarrassing for the host if the food falls short. Even if you are unable to attend because of an emergency, inform the host,” she advises. If you are unable to attend, acknowledge the invitation, and provide a genuine reason for not being able to attend, says Alsalih.

Dressing up
How you dress up depends on the kind of event it is. For a party at a nightclub, adhere to the dress code — don’t turn up in beachwear and flip flops; that is just inappropriate! Alsalih feels it is always safer to be overdressed than underdressed, when no dress code is mentioned. Chhoda agrees, and recommends that if there is a theme or dress code, take that extra initiative and put a little thought into your outfit. You don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb in your LBD at a Hawaiian theme party. When in doubt, just stick to a smart casual outfit — jeans paired with a blouse, a killer pair of heels and accessories. Men: a dinner jacket, white shirt and jeans combo is usually a pretty foolproof option.

Arriving at the party
This can be a tricky one. The city is notorious for never being on time (people usually get to the place a couple of hours after the mentioned time), and you need to follow the crowd on this one. But this again, depends on the kind of party you are going to. If it is a sit-down dinner do where dinner will not be served unless all the guests have arrived, don’t be more than 30 minutes later than the time given. It will put the host in a tight spot, and irritate the other guests, says Farooq. For a regular do, turning up an hour late is perfectly okay, and sometimes even preferred! “If I’m hosting a party, sometimes I am not fully prepared at the time mentioned on the invite, and if someone actually turns up on the dot, it makes me wish they had turned up late,” laughs Chhoda. But don’t turn up too late; you might offend the host, adds Alsalih.

To Gift or Not to Gift
Our experts say it is always a good idea to take a little gift for the host. It doesn’t need to be something extravagant or expensive; it just needs to represent that you were thoughtful enough to bring something for the host. If you are close friends with the host, then getting an extra dish at a dinner party is a good idea, else a box of chocolates will suffice.

“As a host, while it is not necessary to give a party favour to the guests, to make the guest feel special, you can add personal touches like cute placards with the guests’ names or a box of chocolates at their seat for them to take home,” advises Farooq.

At the Party

Before you mingle with the people, ensure you seek out the host and greet them. As a host, make sure you mingle, and constantly check with your guests if they are comfortable. “When I go to parties, I usually tend to grab myself a drink and a table, and this one time, when the hosts noticed there was no one around me, they kept me entertained till there was someone else to do so. It was a very large do, and they didn’t need to do that, but the fact that they did made me feel extremely special,” says Chhoda.

Another thing that needs to be absolutely avoided is picking a fight at a party — it completely ruins the mood, and if things get serious it could include the cops, and everyone there could get into serious trouble. “As a guest, if you feel there is someone in the room who could potentially cause trouble, subtly drop hints to the host so they can take care of it before things blow out of proportion,” advises Farooq.

“Another thing people tend to do is complain about the party while they are still there! It is unfair to enjoy the hospitality of the host and then moan about it,” says Chhoda.

If you have RSVP-ed yes to a party, ensure you stay long enough, and not make an early exit to head to another party — it is disrespectful and offensive to the host.

We’ve all met people at parties who have promptly added us on Facebook even before we’ve reached home. Unless it is someone who you’ve made an instant connection with, chances are, you roll your eyes and press the ignore button. How do you figure what is the appropriate way to keep in touch with people you’ve met and liked? Here’s help!

“First of all, be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet or are introduced to, and ask them engaging questions — but don’t make them feel like they’re being interrogated. Another thing to avoid is to seem like you are talking to someone with the intention of making him or her a business contact. If you’ve formed a connection with someone, it is perfectly acceptable to exchange business cards at the end of the night. Facebook is very personal, and I would like to get to know someone better before I add them,” explains Farooq.

Chhoda feels people tend to be “clannish” at parties. “They all huddle into their own groups, and it is usually difficult to break into them,” he notes. “The problem with parties here is that people don’t usually introduce each other due to their own insecurities. But if you are introduced to a group by the host, be cordial and friendly — don’t get over-familiar.” When it comes to parties where there are mostly women, and you’ve formed a connection with someone, it is perfectly okay to exchange numbers at the end of the party, says Alsalih.

Making an Exit
When you feel things are beginning to wind down, take cue, thank the host and leave. There is no right time, really, but ensure you don’t stay too little or too long. Too little shows the party isn’t important enough to you, and too long will make you look like a pile-on.

“On weekdays if you need to leave early, people understand as you may have commitments the next day — in this case, midnight is a perfectly acceptable time to leave,” says Chhoda. “This again depends on the kind of party you are going to. If it is a dinner party, you should say your goodbyes after the post-dinner coffee. You need to understand that it is tiring to put together an event, and staying on too long might irritate the host, even though they may not show it. If it is a larger and open party, it doesn’t matter as much,” Farooq tells us. According to Alsalih, two hours is long enough to stay at a party.

Returning the Favour
It is only fair to invite those who’ve invited you to a party, and it is important you reciprocate so you don’t come off as a freeloader.

“Timing is essential. It shouldn’t be too soon; otherwise it will appear that you are doing it out of obligation, and not genuine desire. It is good enough to wait a month before sending out invites,” recommends Alsalih.

“People here throw one big party a season and invite everyone they have been invited by to reciprocate. But there is a lot of politics that goes on here. If you didn’t attend someone’s party despite the invite, don’t expect them to return the favour,” says 

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