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Overextending One’s Welcome

I desperately need advice on this. I believe it is rude when someone comes over to not invite them in. I understand not inviting strangers in, including salespeople and the like. However, what about neighbors and acquaintances? Several times, my daughter, husband and I have become friendly with neighbors, particularly those with children. We would go over while they were outside, and would stand around for hours with no invitation inside. One family we were quite friendly with (went to each others’ kids’ birthday parties, spoke to often), the time we went over there (just us) so the kids could play, they were already outside. We stood around in the yard for hours in the 100 plus degree heat, before we gave up and went home.

We once had a (prearranged) meeting with our landlord and his wife, with whom we were very friendly. We stood outside on their porch in the dead of winter with our four month old baby for over a half hour without so much as being asked to step inside. The way I was taught, when someone comes into your yard and you know them, they are now a guest. You invite them in, and offer them something to drink. I’ve gotten mixed opinions on this. Again, totally understandable if the person/people are strangers. But not someone you know! Am I too sensitive? Is this rude?

When someone invites themselves onto another person’s property as you are describing in the first scenario, I don’t think they should have an expectation that the homeowner owes them hospitality.   The impetus is on the “guest” to not overstay his welcome and to pick up the subtle hints that now is really not a good time to visit.  Not inviting you into the house is a a big, “in your face” clue that the homeowner is not prepared to host you.

In the second scenario you, if there is a pre-arranged meeting, then the host should invite the guest into the house.  Just because it is a pre-arranged meeting does not give the guest carte blanche to monopolize the host’s time.

There is a little socially polite game guests and hosts commence to  “play” when the guest announces his intention to leave after a suitably shortened length of time visiting.  The host will protest in varying degrees of intensity and the guest responds back with,  “No, I must go”.  At that point, if the host does not beg you to stay further, it’s time to make good on that declaration and leave.  It is incumbent upon the guest to read the signals so as to not overstay their welcome or possibly put their host in a very awkward situation of trying to shoo someone out the door politely.  To be honest, if you are standing around “for hours” visiting with neighbors, you are probably not getting the hint that you are overstaying your welcome.  I’d be hesitant to ask you into my house for fear you would monopolize my time for hours and I’d never get you back out the door.  I’ve been in that situation where a guest presumes I have all the time in the world and my invitation to share lunch has stretched into me continuing to play hostess for hours into the afternoon and even evening.

{ 72 comments }

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  • Maitri September 15, 2010, 4:49 pm

    @Gloria Shiner – the OP already admitted in the comments that her first post wasn’t clear and she *had* been invited over by the neighbors.

  • Dina September 15, 2010, 5:21 pm

    Just a hint to Michelle – it’s really not wise to put your full name out there, especially on a forum where you feel people are being rude to you. I don’t believe the majority of Ehell people would be so crass as to track you down and do rude things, but it only takes one jerk on the Internet with a grudge. Be safe!

  • LilyG September 15, 2010, 7:24 pm

    “The way I was taught, when someone comes into your yard and you know them, they are now a guest.”
    You’re absolutely right, this was the way you were brought up. It is not the way everyone was brought up. Please make allowances for other people’s backgrounds and they will make allowances for yours.

    Where I used to live, a small village in far northern Norway, there was a complicated schedule of who was “at home” when. When it was your “at home” or “hjemmetid” afternoon or evening, people dropped in, you had cake and coffee, cards*, conversation and games and homebrew in the back for the men. I loved it; there were clear rules for behavior and you knew what was expected.

    However, we are a very diverse society here in America with all kinds of backgrounds and their differing rules. Let us be gentle with one another.

    Try playing Nine card Hold ’em in a rural dialect not in your native language. THAT’S hard.

  • Shalamar September 15, 2010, 7:45 pm

    I have a neighbour next-door-but-one who is, to put it politely, bonkers (another story in itself that I won’t go into here). When the weather’s nice, she sits outside and waits hopefully for her immediate neighbour to appear. If/when she does, Bonkers waves frantically and motions for Neighbour to come over and visit. Neighbour, being polite, feels that she has no choice but to go over. She’s tearfully confessed to me that she hates that she can’t go outside and play with her kids in her own yard on nice days anymore without feeling pressured to spend time with Bonkers, but she can’t think of what else to do.

  • Toni September 15, 2010, 7:46 pm

    When my children were in elementary school, a neighbor and I would take turns picking them up from school. I would take her children out of the car, trade a few polite “hello, how are yous” and go home. She would drop off my children and come into the house. Then, she’d stay until I started to get ready to serve dinner. Once, I pretended I was vacuuming when she arrived, and had all the kitchen chairs on top of the table so she couldn’t sit. She just walked over, took one down, and patiently waited to start yakking until I was finished vacumming. I would even have my coat on ready to leave when she arrived, and she’d come in and sit down anyway. I was a lot younger then, lacked a backbone and didn’t want to insult her. At my current stage of life, I could firmly tell someone not to come in because I don’t have time to visit.

    To the OP: No one was rude to you. You were not clear in your writing and asked for advice. And yes–you are too sensitive.

  • Rebecca September 15, 2010, 10:58 pm

    Perhaps the OP is the only one who was uncomfortably hot. I like it hot, but I have friends who always want to sit in the shade. I often find it cold sitting in the shade. And when everyone else wants to go in “to get out of this terrible heat” I want to stay outside.

    Even though they did invite the OP over for the kids to play in the yard, I don’t think that necessarily extends to an invitation into the house. Sounds like they really did mean, “Come over and hang out in our yard.” Perhaps the OP is not actually the type who hangs around on and on overstaying her welcome, but she might want to think about the possibility, just in case. Nobody wants to be “that person.”

  • lkb September 16, 2010, 5:00 am

    OP said: “I should have made it clear that I was invited to the neighbor’s house in the first scenario. They were outside with their kids, and when we went out to go run errands, they specifically invited us over. We went to leave twice, but they and their children asked us to stay (wanted my daughter to play with the kids) “Just a little longer.”
    At risk of offending you, OP, there’s invited and there’s invited. It still sounds to me like this was a last-minute thing rather than a pre-arranged time together. As such, the neighbor still may have not been prepped for full-out entertaining (clean house, refreshments etc.) This sounds more like, “sure come on over for a few minutes since the kids are here anyway.” I still wouldn’t have stayed for hours, especially as it seemed clear I was not going to be invited inside.
    Also, “just a little longer,” I consider “a warning shot off the prow.” (I tend to give my kids, “five more minutes.” When those five minutes are up, they know it IS time to leave, no excuses.
    I am sorry if any of my comments were among those that offended you but I agree with the other posters that there seemed to be information left out originally.
    This seems to be a sensitive issue for you or perhaps this all happened at a bad time for you. I’m sure the posters here only attended to offer the advice as was requested.

  • essie September 16, 2010, 6:17 am

    “I believe it is rude when someone comes over to not invite them in.”

    “The way I was taught, when someone comes into your yard and you know them, they are now a guest. You invite them in, and offer them something to drink.”

    @OP: Both of these statements indicate “people who just drop by”, not invited guests. Since you say you WERE invited, then the comments here clearly do not apply to you or your situation, so how can you say people here were rude to you? If I say “People who wear thongs are ___,” and you don’t wear thongs, then the comment wasn’t about you and have no right to say I offended you.

    “We once had a (prearranged) meeting with our landlord and his wife, with whom we were very friendly.” Okay, if it was business meeting, then the fact that you’re friendly with them didn’t need mentioning. On the other hand, if it was a social call, then the fact that they were your landlords didn’t need mentioning. Including all that information only confused people. (BTW, being “friendly” and being “friends” are two entirely separate things. I’m friendly with people at work and people I see every day at the commuter stop, but we’re not friends.

  • Xtina September 16, 2010, 9:48 am

    @MichelleP–please don’t take offense; as others have noted, you did ask for advice and it was presented to you based on the information you provided; if you go back and re-read your post from our point of view, you might have come to the same conclusion. It is difficult to read intonation into written words, so perhaps those posts you thought were a bit harsh would not have been so much if the person had been speaking directly to you.

    However, the addition of the extra information you provided changed the situation you originally presented quite a bit, and I would have approached my own answer differently now that I realize that you had indeed been invited over to those people’s homes.

  • Nichs September 16, 2010, 11:13 am

    The first time I read this, I misunderstood the first part and thought that the OP would go over to the neighbors’ houses while they were inside or in the back yard. I had this image of a family standing around in somebody elses yard trying to get the attention of the people in the house for hours, before finally giving up and going home.

  • Elly September 16, 2010, 2:20 pm

    I had that very same disturbing image, Nichs.

  • Kriss September 17, 2010, 7:33 pm

    OP, you are more than capable for speaking up for yourself and the safety of your child. If you were too hot you could’ve suggested sitting in the shade or said “It is too hot out here for me and I need to get in the house for a while.” At that point they would’ve either invited you in or let you go home. Either way, problem solved. You could’ve even suggested leaving your kid there and asking them to either send her home or call you to get her. If the kids were too young to be left at a neighbors house without you that’s a big sign to me that they were also too young to be left outside on their own which would explain why the neighbors wanted to stay outside. This story is either an exaggeration or you were willing to risk your kid’s health for the sake of politeness. If it’s too hot to be standing outside it’s certainly too hot to be running around and playing! Especially for hours.

    As for the landlord I am assuming “dead of winter” is like PA’s dead of winter. If that’s the case it’s not about being polite but protecting your baby from the elements. Either cut it short or insist on doing business inside. You can’t control another person’s etiquette (or lack there of) but you can certainly control your involvement in it. You have a duty to your children to protect them whether you appear rude or not.

  • Babs September 18, 2010, 9:15 am

    I think the expectation of being invited in is a little old school, when moms stayed home, kept their spotless house, had cookies ready for the kiddo’s when they got home from school, etc. Seems like this tradition was more in my parents and grandparents era. Now, people are just so darn busy, most women work outside the home, and have a bizillian things to do in their “free” time. If they are outside, they are usually doing something outside they need to do. Standing around “for hours” would make me freakin’ nervous. You should not ever assume that your free time is your neighbor or friend’s free time. If you see them outside and visit for a little bit, why wouldn’t YOU say, “Why don’t you come over a little later today and we can catch up over a cup of coffee?” To assume that because you are free and have nothing to do but visit, that this is your neighbor’s schedule for the day is presumptious. As an earlier poster said, “After 20 minutes, you can assume they are not going to invite you in!” GO HOME!

  • Michelle September 20, 2010, 2:30 am

    Here’s the awful, “horrific” rude OP again. Reiterate AGAIN: never invited myself anywhere or stayed longer than I should have. EVER. I’ve read the posts on here about the horrible neighbors who stay and (AGAIN REITERATE) have never been that person. I’ve been on the receiving end of those neighbors; worse, I’ve had two that would constantly dump their kids off on me. One neighbor I had never even bothered to introduce herself to me, but her six year old constantly came to my house. I wouldn’t be hateful to the child, but the mother was never home for me to talk to about it. (Older sister was supposed to be watching her.) Anyway, I honestly don’t get where any of you got from my story that I was “THAT neighbor” who “constantly comes over and won’t leave.”

    Thank you to the posters who politely responded to me and acknowledged that I tried to clarify my OP; I realize that I left information out, but I still believe that rudeness doesn’t beget rudeness.
    @Kriss, don’t imply that I’m an irresponsible parent. I’m not.

  • Bint September 20, 2010, 6:45 am

    OK, but I still don’t think people are rude to not invite you into their house, even if they’ve invited you over.

    “Anyway, I honestly don’t get where any of you got from my story that I was “THAT neighbor” who “constantly comes over and won’t leave.” ”

    Because in your first post your wording was unclear. You didn’t say you were always invited; you just went over. And you ‘waited around for hours’ more than once. You didn’t say you chatted, played or watched your kids. You said you ‘waited around’ before you ‘gave up’. I’m not sure why you can’t understand from that the image that you gave out was the one everyone read it as – of someone sticking it out for something their neighbours don’t want to give them. I’m genuinely baffled why you did wait ‘for hours’ instead of just leaving. If you aren’t that neighbour who won’t leave, why are you waiting so long? This isn’t me being rude either, just trying to explain why your post gave such a drastically different impression to the one you intended.

    Everyone’s done it. All you do is send an ‘oops, sorry, I wasn’t clear’ email afterwards. It works better than shouting in all caps and telling everyone they’re rude.

  • Elizabeth September 20, 2010, 8:31 am

    Michelle, not everyone reads all the comments before posting. As I was reading those comments about “that” neighbor I got the feeling maybe some of them didn’t get through to your clarification comment. I do have to say that I feel you are taking things a little personal. This is the internet and these people are all strangers. So what if a few of them may get the wrong idea about you? As someone stated earlier, you ask and got answers. Even some proper ones once all the facts were given. Just please, trust me when I say the internet is so not worth getting offended over. I have been there (years ago) and it just causes stress over things that in reality have no effect on you. And to be honest, I don’t think anyone who posted a comment was rude or trying to be rude. But that may be just me.

  • AS September 20, 2010, 4:48 pm

    @Michelle, Bint and Elizabeth already said it; I am just reiteration it. The wordings in your first post weren’t clear and you left out critical information. That happens to most of us, and you cleared them in the comments. All that you had to do, as Bint pointed out, was to say something in the lines of “I am sorry, I think I didn’t make my post clear. I was always invited…”. I don’t see why you are getting so upset, and criticizing everyone of being rude to you when all they are doing is offering candid opinions based of your posts. No one in this forum knows you personally, and hence the only way they can know what you are is based on your post. I too don’t think anyone who posted the comments was trying to be rude to you. We don’t know you, so why should we be rude to you? It seems like you are taking the comments way too personally. Lot of the comments are just opinions, some pointers and for you to think over to see if they are true or not. If you are not something that someone (especially the ones in this forum who don’t even know you) says you are, just their saying is not going to make you one.

    After your previous comments, most people have acknowledged the added information makes the situation very different. Several people probably did not read your comments before posting (I hadn’t as I admitted that I saw your comment after I posted), but then acknowledged too that you did clarify. Wouldn’t it be polite of you to stop accusing everyone of being rude to you? You asked for advice. People gave you advice. If I ask for an advice, I use my brains to decide what advice to take and what not to. Also, when I ask for advice, I am willing to hear bad things about me too, which may or may not be right (it is up to me to decide that). I’d not get extremely angry at someone, even if I know them well, for telling something which is not true if I realize that I hadn’t given them the full picture. Also to tell you the truth, based on your original post, I thought the comments on this post seemed way benign than some other posts where the LW is being nit-picked for a tiny etiquette blunder. This forum has a bunch of people who have developed (or are developing) their spines. So, no one will just say something is right if they don’t think it is right. Most people are courteous in their approach and I did not see any loss of courtesy in the posts. I know you wouldn’t like my last sentence, and I am sorry to say this – but if you are constantly going to keep accusing people of being rude to you (when they were not), and being sarcastic to everyone, you are ending up sending yourself to e-hell.

  • Kriss September 20, 2010, 9:32 pm

    Michele, you can’t control another person’s actions but allowing yourself to be held hostage by your hosts isn’t being polite, it’s being a doormat. If a situation like that arises again you can firmly say “I would love to chat more but I’m hot and I’m worried that my daughter will over heat” and you would not be rude for doing so. There was no reason to add the part that it was 100+ degrees outside if not to point out that it was not only impolite to not ask you in but downright thoughtless to your safety and comfort. That is on the dangerous side of hot in the afternoon. I went so far as to question whether you exaggerated the length of time or heat. I’m sorry if I’m blowing that detail out of proportion but it worries me.

    I admit that your defensive and downright sarcastic and rude responses have colored my response in a not very positive or polite way. Why can’t you tell the little kid who keeps coming over to go home? Why not tell the sister to keep the kid home? Why do you need to say that to the mother personally? You are using etiquette as a tool to allow yourself to be victimized and you aren’t coming across as polite or good for doing so, just angry and bitter.

  • Shannon September 25, 2010, 4:26 am

    I think if it’s not announced then yes – sometimes the home isn’t ready to entertain guests and the ‘hosts’ may not be prepared to entertain.

    As for the original poster, I saw the clarification that you had been invited over and it seems like it was meant to be a play date. Perhaps they wanted to stay in the yard so the children could keep playing outside and they could keep an eye on them.

  • karma September 26, 2010, 12:15 pm

    From the two examples, it sounds as if the OP does not know when to leave. Not being invited inside is a CLEAR clue that someone does not want you to stay long. It seems to me that the OP may not be good at taking social cues if this happens often.

  • Chelsey October 30, 2010, 11:43 pm

    @OP:

    “Anyway, I honestly don’t get where any of you got from my story that I was ‘THAT neighbor’ who ‘constantly comes over and won’t leave.'”

    I’ve read through all of these comments and I would say that if you can’t figure out why people are jumping to that conclusion after having read your original post, then maybe you should consider the possibility that you ARE the kind of person who just doesn’t “get it” and perhaps that aspect of your personality is making its way into your social life with neighbors.

  • Annoyed January 28, 2012, 11:43 pm

    Know the feeling