Is it rude to arrive unannounced? I say yes, and you should call whenever possible, even if it is just five minutes notice. [My partner] says no: it is a nice surprise and if they are busy, then they will say something. His family show up all the time unannounced, and each time I say, "You should have called...". Who is right? - Hectic Host, Auckland.
Here's the thing about unannounced guests: it's not the 1950s anymore. Few people bake fresh scones daily and can cater for guests on an effortless whim. Many of us live with just a half-empty bottle of wine in the fridge (if that) and a packet of stale crackers.
The thought of unannounced guests, thus, scares us all to death. While once it was a Sunday tradition to drop in to see friends and family, modern lives are all frightfully eventful. When we're not busy, we're usually "consciously un-busy"; trying to relax for but a moment before our lives are thrown back into the chaos of the daily grind.
In 2015, it is terribly poor form to arrive unannounced. It shows you have no respect for others' time. You're also putting someone in an awkward position (as you say you often are): even if you are busy, it feels very rude to turn someone away if they're already at your door. There's also the times when you actually can't host, but can't explain why - e.g. you're in the middle of a row with your partner, or you're about to have a little bit of sexy time.
In sum, rarely are unannounced visitors a nice surprise. You will almost always burden your hosts, even if it's just with awkwardness. Anyone with a speckling of social awareness should be able to take 20 seconds out of their (obviously unoccupied) day to send a text warning first. Or, use some actual good etiquette and actually ask if you're at home and available.
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Whenever I go to dinner at my mum's, she doesn't listen to me when I say I don't eat gluten. Then she's offended when I don't eat some of what she gives me. How do I convince her to cook something I'm happy with? - Wheat Woes, Auckland.
Refusing food when someone else is cooking for you is a hard thing to do. When it's a food you just don't like the taste of, the etiquette is to just swallow your feelings along with the Brussels sprouts you so despise. However, when it's a food sensitivity or intolerance, you have to speak up. No amount of politeness is worth the ramifications to your body that ingestion of wheat, dairy, sugar, etc. have on some people.
If you're diagnosed as gluten intolerant (your GP can facilitate a test) it's a no-brainer: be vocal and say gluten will literally destroy your gut. If you're not, you could fib and say you are - but then your ethics come into question. So, and particularly because she's your mum, just be honest and tell her why you are gluten free. Tell her bread makes you gassy! Tell her it gives you the trots! The woman wiped your bum a thousand times; she can handle it. Next time you go over she'll probably have gone gung-ho, bought a GF cookbook, and will be revelling in her new cooking skills.
I've heard mates worried about telling girlfriends how many women they've slept with. What's acceptable etiquette around numbers of sexual partners? Do I still use the rule of three? - Closet Casanova, Auckland.
The rule of three, traditionally, is where a man multiplies his prior sexual partners, because he wants to appear a ladies' man (or man's man). For women, this rule dictates women should divide their "number" by three before revealing it to others, so she doesn't appear too promiscuous. This rule is sexist bollocks, so let's put an end to it right there. Do not use it.
As a friend recently said to me, "You don't realise that you're actually any good in bed until you're doing it repeatedly with the same person". A high number of partners does not make you a Casanova. In fact, it might even reveal you're actually nothing to write home about - else your lovers would be coming back for more.
Whether you're being asked by your friends, girlfriend, or boyfriend, just be honest about the number of sexual partners you've been with; whether it's two or 200. Their thoughts on your past aren't terribly relevant to your present.
If you're embarrassed because your number is really low, preface your confession with the fact you've only been in long-term in relationships. If you're discomforted because it's high, say you've never kept count. No one will fault you for a poor memory.