One Question Quiz
Photo: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller
Photo: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

OPINIONSocietyDecember 14, 2021

How not to be a dick this holiday season, traffic-light edition

Photo: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller
Photo: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

What with Covid restrictions and the demands of the festive season, we’re all stressed out. Here’s how not to take it out on others.

Was there ever a point in time where the end of the year didn’t bring stress? Absolutely not! On top of all the usual pressure of the holidays – seeing people, not seeing people, buying things for those people – there are the added worries of a pandemic and a new set of rules on how we engage with the world. 

It’s hard! It’s stressful. And when times get hard or stressful, people can be a little unkind. They can be, you know, dicks. That’s true whether it’s about something as trivial as a sausage roll, or as emotionally tricky as a store being out of stock of that toy your kid had their heart set on for Christmas.

In light of New Zealand’s first (and hopefully last) holiday season under the traffic light system, I’ve updated my list of how not to be a dick at Christmas with a few fresh tips aimed at relieving your own stress while also relieving the stress you might unwittingly inflict upon others. You know, by being dicks to them.

Are you a benevolent or entitled consumer this Christmas? (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)


  • Wear your mask (unless of course, you have a mask exemption). If you’re asked to wear a mask, because you forgot, don’t be a dick to the person asking you. They’re doing their job.
  • If you’re told that something is out of stock and you want to order it in, believe the staff when they tell you that they’ll do their best to get it in for you, but understand that it may take a while to arrive. While you wait, might I suggest reading this informative piece about the supply chain crisis?
  • Click and Collect! We’re all familiar with this now. Use it. The less face time you have with somebody, the less likely you are to be a dick to them.
  • If you need to do anything beyond just buying a thing from a store (exchanging, returning, signing up for a membership, refunding et cetera), it can almost definitely wait until the new year. Or if it absolutely can’t, then at least be polite about it, and try to go at an off-peak hour. So not 7pm on December 23.
  • Give yourself more time than you need! Stores are absolutely teeming at the moment. Check the website: a lot of stores will already be operating under extended opening hours.


  • Wear your mask, don’t be a dick if you’re asked to wear your mask, you know the drill.
  • Follow the rules – both the traffic light system and those of the place you’re frequenting. If you don’t, it’s just going to make things stressful for the people serving you, and then make you more stressed because they’ll probably have to ask you to follow the rules, which is embarrassing! So just do it.
  • Patience is a virtue, and a necessity. You will need to rely on it even more now that you have to be scanned in before you’re seated. The waitstaff know you are there. They will get to you. They don’t want to keep you waiting either.
  • The staff are there to facilitate you having a nice time, but if you go into your dining experience as an absolute dick, that’s the energy you’re going to get out of it. It is not the waitstaff’s job to turn your frown upside down, unfortunately.
  • If you’re having a big, boozy, rowdy Christmas lunch, the staff are accommodating, and you rack up a considerable bill, consider tipping. It’s a nice thing to do, and it makes everybody feel a little bit better, I promise.
Do right. Do like Shortland Street.

Festivities (Work Christmas Party)

  • I know we’re all over drinking outside, but maybe consider an outdoor location this year. Covid spreads more easily indoors, we know this now, and hey, it’s summer! Chances are it’s pretty nice outside. 
  • Similarly, just because you’re drinking on your company’s dime doesn’t give you an excuse to be a dick. Know your limits better than you know the work credit card’s.
  • If you’re arranging a scavenger hunt, try to avoid places of business unless you’re planning on spending money there. And even then, I’d recommend against it. Nobody wants people in fancy dress who are also maybe a little buzzed on morning mimosas messing around with their merch. Also? We’re in a pandemic. Perhaps reconsider a Christmas party involving multiple locations, some of which are indoors.
  • Look after your workmates! If someone is getting a bit too blotto and you know they’re not a regular at the Friday booze-up, keep an extra eye on them when the drink is flowing.
  • If you’re lucky enough, your work will sort you out a Christmas party somewhere that’s a bit fancy! This is, once more, not your chance to act like, as my bartender friend would say, “an absolute donkey”. Treat everyone with respect and they won’t kick you out.

Festivities (On Christmas Day)

  • Be gentle with each other! A lot of us haven’t socialised for several months, or, on the flipside, the people we’re going to be socialising with might also be the people we were locked up with for several months. This is not going to be a normal Christmas, so don’t put that burden on yourself.
  • Never ask someone why they’re not drinking. It’s none of your business. I guarantee you nobody wants to be asked why they’re not drinking, and if they want you to know they’ll volunteer the information themselves.
  • If you’re inviting someone who’s vegan for Christmas, please be kind enough to ensure that there’s some kind of snack to keep them going. You are not going to stop someone being vegan by not giving them vegan options, but you might stop them coming around ever again.
  • If you’re a vegan or someone with other dietary requirements that might be out of the norm, check in about the food situation beforehand. Make sure they know, and maybe offer to contribute. (I’d also suggest that you still offer even if your dietary requirements are non-existent!)
  • If you can’t cope with other people eating what you’re not comfortable with at Christmas lunch, maybe skip it? You’re not going to have fun evangelising, and neither are the people on the receiving end.
  • Nobody has ever convinced anybody to change their beliefs over Christmas lunch/booze. This is not the year they’re going to start. A boozy lunch is generally not where good, healthy, lifelong habits and philosophies form. Act accordingly.
I don’t think this represents self-care, I just think it’s very funny. (Photo: Getty Images)


Not being a dick to yourself on Christmas Day just as important as not being a dick to others. We often forget this, so here are a few pointers on how to be kind to yourself. I feel these also work more generally, but are especially important at this time of year.

  • Set expectations for yourself and those closest to you. You know your limits better than anybody and know what you need! If you need to be around people, let people know. If you need to be by yourself, do the same. It’s a stressful day for everybody, whether you’re hosting it, participating in it or actually working it. 
  • Give yourself time. Give yourself rest. Give yourself space. It’s a holiday, remember! We wait the entire year for this, and we’re allowed to take a break from things that are stressful or laborious for us.
  • You did not “ruin” Christmas. 
  • Truly, I say this one again, for posterity: You did not “ruin” Christmas. Not if you didn’t get someone that present they really wanted. Not if you overcooked the ham. Not if you cooked ham at all! Not if you disagreed with someone. Christmas is a concept, and it happens every year. It will endure, and so will your relationships.
  • Honestly, it’s just another hour, another day, another year. You have permission, from me, and then hopefully from yourself, to chill.
Keep going!