5 Must-Know Tips for Surviving Family Get-Togethers

Plus go-to answers to the uncomfortable questions everyone is going to ask you.

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Holding lit firework

With the Fourth of July coming up, now seemed like the ideal time to compile some survival tips for the upcoming festivities, or any summer get-togethers you might have on the horizon.

If your family is like mine, your main focus on the Fourth will be surviving or — worst case scenario — completely avoiding those awkward moments that seem to happen at every family get together.

Below, I’ve compiled some tips to help you do just that.

Tip 1: Your seat is crucial

If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent a get-together or two sitting next to someone you didn’t know. This could be a family friend or even a distant relative. Odds are that they knew you, though, and the conversation got a little awkward when you had no clue who they were.

If you want to avoid these encounters entirely, it’s best to choose your seat very close to the moment you arrive. That way, you won’t be stuck on an end surrounded by people you don’t know.

You could always sit next to the cousin you like most, your fun aunt, or if you’re like me, your parents. The way I see it, my parents usually save awkward questions for when we’re away from our extended family.

Making sure you have the best seat for you is important, though it is easier to achieve if you follow the second tip.

Tip 2: Try to arrive early

Woman checking time on digital watch

In the past, I have only been able to achieve this by traveling to the event without my immediate family. For the most part, my family was only early to the occasions we were hosting.

Arriving early is a good idea for a number of reasons. If you arrive early you can help set up, which is a great way to ease in to a get-together and say hi to people as they arrive. You also have early access to the appetizers. (Yes!) Lastly, you can reserve your seat as I discussed above.

Tip 3: Try to bring something

Most of these get-togethers/parties will include food. And if food is involved, you can bet that the party will benefit from you bringing something. It’s good manners to bring a little something to any party you attend, and it will put you in the host’s good graces.

If it’s a potluck or barbecue situation you can bring a small dish of food. (Avoid bringing a main course unless you were asked to do so.) If more food isn’t needed (or you’re not a cook), you can always bring plates or other supplies. This saves someone from having to make a supply run later.

For other events, it’s best to determine what would best fit the situation. Setting off fireworks: bring some of your own to light off, or matches. Having a bonfire: you could always bring the s’mores, or extra skewers. Etc., etc.

Whatever the occasion, try to remember to bring something that could help the host and the party thrive.

Tip 4: Pack the essentials


Family events can be long, all-day affairs, so it can help to bring a little “survival kit” of items you may need throughout the day.

If I’m attending a full day of festivities and I know I’ll have some down time, I always try to bring a phone charger/charging bank, a notebook and a pen, a book, and my earbuds. I also bring my water bottle sometimes if I know there won’t be any there, or if I don’t want to use the regular plastic bottles.

Most of these are to provide entertainment during a very long day — hence the notebook and book. I recommend the charger and earbuds in case you want to watch a Youtube video or play a mobile game with the sound on. Listening with headphones is more polite.

Tip 5: Have answers ready for the awkward questions

I don’t know about you, but if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me about my post-graduation plans, I’d have enough money to buy a very expensive textbook.

Young woman wearing black holding her head

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting there, minding your own business when suddenly a question you’ve answered twenty times before comes up, again.

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re repeating yourself all day, or worse, that you’re being asked something you can’t answer in a non-awkward manner.

Though I wish I could tell you how to answer all of these questions, it seems best to focus on a few.

1. What’s your major?

The most popular question of all has to be the one above. This is an easy ice breaker for people who don’t know you well, so it makes sense that they ask… but I think we can all agree that we’re tired of answering it.

I’ll be honest: The response I would like to give is something along the lines of “The same major I’ve had for four years, the one I told you about ten times now.”

It is best to refrain from this, though.

When you’ve been asked a question that you don’t want to delve into, my best advice is to keep your response short and polite. The way I see it, if you tell them your major, make a little small talk, and then excuse yourself from the conversation or purposefully change the subject, they get their answer and you don’t need to get frustrated over it. Win-win.

2. What will you do after you graduate?

For me, the thought of the future and this question sends me running for the hills. Anyone else feel this way?

If you, like me, don’t really know what you want to do in the future (or how to even begin to answer the question), it’s best to keep it formal. Try to answer this the same way you would in a job interview.


Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: I’m not positive yet. I’m currently keeping my options open and when the time comes I’ll look for something that fits my interests the best.

If, on the other hand, you know what you’re going to do when you graduate, I am proud (and envious) of you. In that case, you can explain to them what your plans are, and it will likely lead to a good conversation. After all, we all enjoy talking about subjects we’re passionate about.

3. How’s your love life going?

I may be exaggerating in how blatant this question is, though it is often something along these lines. Although I feel like this question is inherently a little rude, there are ways to answer without being rude yourself.

If you really don’t feel it’s their business — because let’s be honest, it probably isn’t — you can tell them that you don’t feel comfortable discussing the topic. You could also give a short answer and then change the subject. (“Fine” usually ends a conversation quickly.)

If you want to tell them, but don’t want to reveal your whole life story, you can give a brief summary of where you’re at currently: e.g., happily single, still looking, with your s.o., or not interested in that sort of thing.

Basically just tell them your Facebook relationship status, or what you wish it was. And then get prepared to answer this question again and again all day. Ah, family reunions.

I want to hear from you!

What tips do you think you’ll use the next time you’re at a family event? What other occasions would you like guides for? Leave a comment below.

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