Tessa’s Book Recommendation: How to Be a Perfect Stranger: the essential religious etiquette handbook

Categories: Blogs,Staff Reviews


Now in its 6th edition, How to be a perfect stranger is a unique and essential resource for the cross-cultural guest. Voted Best Reference of the Year, I highly recommend checking out this book as needed. Anyone who is invited to a wedding or other service of a religion other than their own will be completely assured of their dress and behavior after consulting this terrific introductory resource.

Each chapter answers the questions in the essential checklist: How should I be dressed? What will happen during the service? What will happen after the service? Should I bring a gift? Will I be expected to participate in any way? In addition, there is a very brief history with a few main beliefs, a short description of a basic service, a section on holy days and festivals, then a section covering life events including marriages and funerals and specifying when and what gifts are appropriate. A final section on home events is included, although it doesn’t apply in many instances. Certain sections vary in length due to the intricacy of a service or rite.

Many different Christian groups are covered in the book, including African-American Methodist, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal, and more than a dozen others. In addition, other religions included are Native American, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, Jehovah Witnesses, Judaism, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist. One humorous note–every group was asked if people could or would contribute, and almost all said that, while not necessary, a contribution of $1-$10 was appropriate. The Baha’i, Christian Science, Islam, and Native American groups were among the exceptions–Baha’i do not permit non-Baha’i to contribute. The others don’t take up contributions.

Two great features of the book are the contact information for a main organization and several resources to which one can go for more information. In addition, useful vocabulary and phrases are given along with descriptions of appropriate greetings in different circumstances.

5 out of 5 stars

Author: The Jackson District Library

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