Is there an etiquette to picnics, that most casual and relaxed of summer get-togethers? Sadly, yes – just a little – because wherever humans gather in groups of more than one, the potential for thoughtless behavior exists. It’s a bummer, I know, but just a little bit of self awareness and forward planning can help ensure that your next sunny day in the park or out in the backyard with friends will be as much fun as you imagined it would be.
If you’re headed to a public park, there are a few things to consider before you go. Check the weather and be prepared: if it’s going to be hot, take along extra water and sunscreen. If it’s a windy day at the beach, bring extra blankets and make sure your food has covers, to keep blowing sand out. Fresh air builds big appetites, so bring more food than you’ll think you need. People always eat more when they’re enjoying a day out. And if you live in the south or midwest, put a piece of plastic sheeting or tarp down before you plop your picnic blanket on the lawn, in case there are chiggers. Chiggers are tiny, disgusting mites that can burrow through your blanket and clothes and bite you many times before you even realize it, followed by days of itching red bites in parts of the body you’d rather not have to scratch.
A few other thoughts about picnicking in a public area: keep the volume on your musical choices low enough to avoid annoying others. Not everyone may be in the mood for Fetty Wap at their picnic. If you’re including kids, bring along some accessories for games – balls, Frisbees, kites, hula hoops – the best toys are things they normally don’t get to play with at home because they require lots of open space. Or bring along things that allow them to run races – ribbons to tie together legs for three-legged races, plastic garbage bags for bag races, or spoons and eggs for races. Water pistols are always popular.
Think ahead about the necessities: mosquito repellant, ice, bottle openers, trash bags for clean up, corkscrews and paper towels if you’re using picnic tables that haven’t had a wash since the last rainstorm. And be sure to clean up after yourself – if you look back at your picnic space as you’re leaving and there’s nothing there but a little flattened grass, you’ll know you did the right thing.
Office picnics are really business events, and have their own set of rules. Even if you hate office picnics, you need to be a good sport and go – and stay at least an hour. Be sure you make the rounds and see plenty of people, including your boss. (If you’re getting the vibe that I don’t like office picnics, you are so right, but somebody must like them because companies keep having them.) Observe the same rules as you would about the office Christmas party – don’t drink too much, dress comfortably for the occasion, and be a good sport about the organized games. Take the opportunity to get to know coworkers you don’t normally interact with, and be nice to everyone. Be sure you know the food situation before you go – if it’s potluck, find out what you need to bring and bring enough of it. If it’s “bring you own food” don’t get overwhelmed by putting together something elaborate – a little wine and cheese, some good bread and fresh fruit can be picked up at the store on the way to the picnic and you’re more than covered. Have fun with it – after all, it’s a picnic.