Friday, August 12, 2011

What Time’s Dinner? It Depends.

“Please don’t come to my house at 8pm sharp or earlier,” a friend in France pleaded. “Here we don’t like it when people come early. A little late is better, 20 minutes is fine.”

“Older Dutch people come to dinner right on time. I hate it,” explains Melvin in Amsterdam. “Most of my friends come later, good friends come early to help.”

If you don’t want to be invited back, show up late at a dinner in Switzerland. “It’s us ex-pats who screw it up by arriving late,” said an American living in Geneva.

For a business dinner in Nigeria, you can come politely 15 minutes late. For a social dinner, you can come a half hour late. “But most arrive about one hour late,” a Nigerian businessman told us.

In Greece, show off how rude you can be by showing up on time. For one hostess, 15 minutes late is fine. If you want guest to arrive promptly, you have to justify it via the food or the restaurant, e.g. the fish hardens if it’s not eaten promptly.

“Don’t ever expect Latinos to arrive on time or leave on time,” points out a Venezuelan. “They are known to stay late, so late, there’s even a song played at parties that means, “it’s time to go home”.”

Our friend Jim who used to live in London loved their wonderful expression when inviting, “Seven-thirty for eight”. Drinks begin at seven-thirty and dinner at eight.

Italy is pretty much like many places including New York, 15 minutes late is fine. But coming an hour or more late is unacceptable, especially if all you were doing was nothing.

We're taking the month of August off, we'll start posting after Labor Day.  Meanwhile, we're doing some recycling. We're trendy that way.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Even before the recent financial crunch, people have thrown birthday parties that require a fee. For some, it’s the only way they could have had a party. They’d rather their good friends join in on the fun at a reasonable cost than not to have anything at all. Sometimes the celebrant or friends and family execute this plan.

While that’s understandable, it may not be to guests who want to celebrate their friend’s birthday but can also be in the same boat financially. In fact, we were recently invited to a birthday party on a boat for a family member and not all of us will be on the same boat because of the cost.

We think the idea of charging for a birthday party should be floated beforehand – ask around and see how much the traffic can bear. You may find other options more comfortable for everyone. It’s one thing to agree on a place where there’s a cash bar. It’s another thing if there is literally an admission fee. You’re not having a party; you’re running a business. And if it’s a surprise pay party, it could be very embarrassing for the guest of honor when he/she finds out that their friends had to pay to party.

Yvonne remembers a pitiful birthday dinner for her when she lived in Italy. A friend, who didn’t know Yvonne well, tried to put a group together to have a surprise dinner for her at her favorite restaurant that wasn’t terribly cheap. What was supposed to be a group of six including Yvonne, turned out to be the big three. “When the check came, there was a bit of a scramble figuring out who had what pasta. I know that my friend meant well but she didn’t know my friends well enough to ask for that kind of financial commitment.”

Different from birthday parties, retirement parties and events honoring someone usually come at a cost and that’s fine. It’s an agreed upon group effort.

We don’t mean to be party poopers, quite the contrary. We’re just suggesting that the life of the party shouldn’t depend on the wallets of the guests.

We're taking the month of August off, we'll start posting after Labor Day.  Meanwhile, we're doing some recycling. We're trendy that way.