What's a good sort-of-host-gift for a first-time house visit?
July 10, 2013 5:51 PM   Subscribe

At the behest of a third-party acquaintance, I'll be visiting the house of someone I don't know, to see a Cool Thing that's relevant to my interests. What (if anything) is an appropriate gift to bring along in these circumstances?

AFAIK, I'll be visiting for a few hours with the owner of the house and the Cool Thing (let's call this person B), plus B's spouse, plus the mutual acquaintance who arranged this (let's call them A). To my knowledge, no meals will be served (maybe snacks?), but the B will doubtless spend some time showing me around. I don't know B at all, and A is an acquaintance/professional superior of mine; B and A are good friends with each other. Both, if it matters, are significantly older/more professionally advanced/economically better-off than I am.

I think it was extremely nice both of B to agree to welcome me into their home and show me their Cool Thing, and of C to make the connection and arrange the meeting; but my etiquette banks contain no templates for dealing gracefully with this particular sort of encounter. Do I bring anything for B or B's spouse when I arrive at the house? If so, what? (Again, I don't know B at all, and Cool Thing is sufficiently recherche that I wouldn't be able to do a themed gift along those lines). Also, I'm assuming heartfelt thank-you notes to both A and B afterwards, but are there any additional post-facto demonstrations of gratitude that are appropriate in these circumstances?

Thanks in advance, MeFi! You make me want to be a better person.
posted by yersinia to Human Relations (18 answers total)
A bottle of wine is always good if you can find out if/what they drink. I always think it's so nice when we have people over and they bring wine, its more the thought than anything so don't feel like you have to go buy a super expensive bottle of wine. Just buy a nice middle of the road wine and put it in a gift bag and call it a day.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 5:55 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wine. Bring a bottle of wine.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:03 PM on July 10, 2013

I would bring a small plant in a nice, tasteful container. Not everyone drinks wine. And yes on the thank you note.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:05 PM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you know that they drink, wine. If you're not sure, flowers.
posted by quince at 6:09 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bring nothing, thank you note (mailed, NOT email).
posted by arnicae at 6:09 PM on July 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

A thank you note is fine.

If you really don't want to show up empty handed, how about homemade chocolate chip cookies?
posted by Fairchild at 6:19 PM on July 10, 2013

Check with A to find out what they like. I'd be likely to go in the wine/flowers/nice baked good route, but I'd hate to end up giving those things to a recovering alcoholic/hay fever sufferer/diabetic. It sounds like A knows them well enough to provide guidance.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:23 PM on July 10, 2013

Wine generally goes along with a dinner, so I'd bring flowers or a plant. If you like to bake, people do appreciate a tin of cookies or a pan of brownies.
posted by xingcat at 6:23 PM on July 10, 2013

Barring any allergies, what about a potted plant or something pretty like an orchid?
posted by floweredfish at 7:00 PM on July 10, 2013

Are there any books or magazines related to Cool Thing that is relevant to your shared interest? A copy of one would be most apropos. Alternatively, a Cool Picture of your version/thinger of the Cool Thing printed and slapped into a cheapo frame goes a long way too. If this is a connection you want to sustain, I'd bring something more durable/memorable than food drink or flowers (no on the potted plants, you never know what stresses people out, unless this Cool Thing is a garden/aquacultural Cool Thing). Finally, don't just whip it out as you're greeted at the door. See the Cool Thing, talk about the Cool Thing and then, if there's a lag or other opportune moment in the conversation, THEN bring out the book or other Cool Thing related item.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:00 PM on July 10, 2013

I would bring a box of really good chocolates.
posted by gt2 at 7:28 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

A lovely lily in a nice pot. Cheap, easy to maintain and utterly non-offensive to anybody.
posted by goo at 8:12 PM on July 10, 2013

Bring something from your hometown - chocolates, a baked good, whatever. It's a gesture.

Oh and yes - a gracious thank you note.
posted by 26.2 at 10:46 PM on July 10, 2013

For what it's worth, my grandmother always detested lilies because they reminded her of funerals....

Something thoughtful, not necessarily expensive, that's related to the Cool Thing seems like a good way to go.
posted by ambient2 at 11:44 PM on July 10, 2013

If Cool Thing is obscure, and if I was person B, and someone who had a similar interest in Cool Thing showed up, I'd be thrilled to have someone who'd listen to me talk about it because my spouse and friends are sick of it by now.

A handwritten card would be wonderful. Heck, I'd probably be most thankful to have another person show up who shares my interests, and be the one sending out the thank you!

Of course, if we're talking about something "ordinary", then the card is still plenty. If the relationship continues, the a small gift the next time you visit is great. (But no more than that.)
posted by mightshould at 2:32 AM on July 11, 2013

As Cold Lurkey says, it's kind of awkward for the first conversation in the foyer to be "hello, nice to meet you, and here is a batch of cookies". I'm not a fan of flowers or plants, because you spend your introduction obviously holding a gift. My preference for gifts is something that is physically small that can spend time in my bag and I can decide when it's the right moment for a gift (if ever; I've once or twice brought something, then during the event decided it wasn't appropriate to the person or to the occasion, which is totally not a problem, since mailing a thank-you card is also a totally reasonable "hostess gift" for a situation like this).
If you make cookies, wrap them up as a tall stack of about 6, or in a little box no bigger than 4" cube, not in a big tin that you have to hold flat, or a bag that can get crunched if you don't carry it carefully.
Tea is a nice compact gift idea, especially if you know of a store that sells interesting good-quality bags (giving someone looseleaf tea is iffy, you have to assume that they already have a strainer, or give them yet another).
posted by aimedwander at 7:12 AM on July 11, 2013

A bag of nice coffee, a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers and fancy soap for the guest bathroom are standard gifts in this kind of situation.

Follow up with a handwritten thank you note.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:34 AM on July 11, 2013

Ask A: "What shall I bring as a host/hostess gift?"

Get whatever A says, even if they say you should bring nothing. You are coming A's guest, as well as being a guest of B, and asking A for guidance will keep you from selecting anything that would make A feel any embarrassment.

You'll want to present any gift later on, as it's awkward to receive a gift from someone on first being introduced.

If you happen to be visiting to interview B about cool thing, a gift is probably not appropriate.
posted by yohko at 5:35 PM on July 12, 2013

« Older What is this game called... "Asia ball"?   |   What is this lullaby? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.