Miserly Hosts Make Guests Miserable

by admin on April 19, 2012

My sister is the real author of this story but allowed me to repeat it here. Her friends, let’s call them Sam and Julie invited a group of friends they all socialize with regularly to their home to watch a hockey game. Nothing was said specifically about refreshments either one way or another.

As it happened, Julie and Sam provided absolutely no food at all at the get together. There wasn’t so much as a bowl of chips on the table. My sister brought over chocolate chip cookies that she made thinking that this could help with the food – but there wasn’t any. Julie took the box of cookies into the kitchen and left them there and came out eating one of them herself. She didn’t offer the cookies to anyone else. Somewhere into the middle of the game Sam & Julie thought it would be a good idea to order pizza. They ordered 2 pies for the group of people and asked them all to chip in to help pay for it. The pizza was enough for everyone to have a single slice.

So I was thinking this through and I wanted to get everyone’s opinion. Is it a breach of etiquette NOT to offer refreshments at a “get together” at your home? The invite was only to come over and watch the game. In my world, I would have put out a little spread – chips, appetizers etc. If I was providing something more substantial and ordered pizza I certainly would not have asked anyone to help with the cost and I would have ordered more than enough. To be fair to Sam & Julie – are they under any obligation to provide anything in the way of food/drink if they invite people over and absorb the cost?

In the middle of the game, though, Julie told everyone that they were talking too much and were too loud so she went into another room to watch the rest of the game alone. 0416-12

The bare minimum of hospitality every guest should expect from their host is the offer of something to drink.  To offer nothing at all is inhospitable.   If the “get together” occurs during a meal time, guest rightfully have an expectation that food of some sort will be provided by the hosts.

I think your sister should lead by example and host her own get together to watch some sporting event while providing drinks and nibbles such as cheese and crackers, chips and dip, cookies, etc.   If Julie and Sam don’t get it and continue with their niggardly hospitality, they will eventually wonder why no one RSVPs or comes to their get togethers.

{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

DGS April 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Cami, where in the world do you live? That’s terrible..to invite someone over, especially a child and not to offer them food or drink is abhorrent!

OP, I think Sam and Julie were beyond rude. The way I was raised, anyone who sets foot in your house in a social capacity gets offered food and drink, anyone who sets foot in your house period (repairman, delivery person) gets offered something to drink, and the hosts budget and pay for whatever they are serving (anything else brought by guests is a nice bonus). To do less would be unacceptable to my DH and me.

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Cami April 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I live in the upper midwest. I will not say the state/area because there is tremendous “local” pride and when I’ve idenfitied the area in the past, I get scads of pms and nastygrams from locals defending their practices.

I will add that I’ve had conversations puzzling about this from people who — like me — moved here from somewhere else and have experienced it as well. In fact, I warned one mother who was sending her son to a sleepover that he had better bring his own food and she told me how glad she was that I had warned her because her son too was excluded from the dinner and breakfast meals.

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Cami April 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I just wanted to say how much your supportive comments have meant to me. The lack of hospitality is the tip of the iceberg of how unwelcoming people are here and if I could go back in time, I would have never moved here.

They are superficially friendly — as in inviting my dd over for sleepovers and what not, but have little true hospitality. My dd regularly went to birthday parties where she was required to pay for her own food (only the cake was ‘included’.)

I am an extrovert and friendly person and have never had trouble making friends anywhere we’ve lived, but have had trouble here because the prevailing attitude is that if you did not grow up here, there is no reason to be friends. I had one woman tell me — after many meetings and what I thought were fun conversations, at which I asked her to go to the movies or out for coffee — that she couldn’t be my friend because we had nothing in common. I told her that I was honestly perplexed by her response as we had a lot in common — both women, both the same age, living in the same town, both with one child (a daughter) who went to the same school, both of us have college degrees in the same field, watch many of the same tv shows, and clearly our many enjoyable conversations would seem to indicate we had plenty in common. She then told me, “But we don’t have what’s IMPORTANT in common — you’re not family and you didn’t grow up here. Therefore you’ll be a stranger forever and I’m not friends w ith strangers.”

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Cady April 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Cami, you’ve really got to spill where you live so we know not to move there! Horrifying!

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AS April 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm

The OP’s submission baffled me until I read Cami’s comment! Jeez… not give a child food that too for a sleepover?!? That is simply cruel! I hope you taught your daughter to take after your ways of hospitality. Like other posters, I’d also like to know where you live – so that I can avoid going there, and if I do go, to have something edible with me.
I don’t have children of my own, but when I was a child, my friend’s parents used to offer me something edible even when I stopped by only for a few minutes to go out with my friends. In fact, my parents had to teach me to be a good guest and to politely say no to anything offered on such short stop-overs, especially if I didn’t have any plans of eating them.

Back to the OP’s story, Julie’s eating the cookies that OP’s sister brought, in front of famished guests is extremely offensive. Even if they don’t offer a full course meal (or want people to pitch in for pizza), they should have at least offered some chips or something. It would have also been polite of them to let the guests know that they’d have a dutch-treat pizza.

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Striving For Sense April 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Oh, Cami, where do you live?

I suppose that if everyone there lives to the same standard, it can be termed local etiquette. However, if this location is within the US, then it means that the whole community is out of step with American etiquette. Likewise with UK and Australia, and the locals ought to WARN newcomers of the difference. Surely, they are aware of the difference in thier little community, versus the country at large.

Or is this a non-English-speaking country?

And reaming you out for giving her daughter the idea that it’s nice to share food and drink? What does she think it is, then? Mean? “Oh, how CRUEL of you to share your food and drink with others!”

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Striving For Sense April 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Cami – this was a sleepover where they failed to feed your child? So, both dinner AND breakfast?

Why didn’t they call you and ask you why you were being so irresponsible as to send your child away overnight without food? That would have alerted you to pack a brown bag dinner/breakfast, bring it over, and apologize to your child for “forgetting” it, in the rush to get out the door. Then she doesn’t suffer, no one loses face, and you are educated on the proper way of doing things in that locality.

I can’t believe they actually let a child go hungry for two meals and didn’t even bother to call her parents.

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Laurita April 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm

The thing with the cookies was absolutely rude, and I would also expect there to be some sort of refreshment for the guests. Even if people drop by unexpectedly we always offer a drink at the very least. For a get together I would expect at least some snack foods and an assortment of beverages.

Also, when you invite a group of people over to watch the game, it is reasonable to assume that they will chat during the event. If a group of people enjoying each others company while watching the game is too distracting, you shouldn’t invite guests.

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Jane April 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm

@Shoegal – Thanks for clearing up how the invite was issued, I was wondering about that because IMO that makes a big difference.

I do wonder if anything was said when the invite was extended. Where I’m from it would have been perfectly acceptable (and almost expected) to say, “Can I bring anything?” or “Do you need anything? I can bring drinks…,” etc. Basically – to plan it out while you’ve got the host on the phone.

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sv April 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm

If a guest simply showed up unannounced I could forgive not offering some form of hospitality (although I still can’t imagine not even offering a cup of tea or something along those lines) but to plan a get together and not also plan refreshments boggles the mind. Why invite people over in the first place if it is not to share the hospitality of your home? And I won’t even go into the whole bizarre behaviour of watching the game in another room. My advice: next time they offer, politely skip it :)

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Lizza April 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I’ve had that happen to me, in a way. In high school I was close with two other girls – both living with their divorced moms. Two of us quickly learned that food was a rarity at #3′s house. We once slept over and had a garage sale the next day, from early morning till about 5 PM. We were asked to come over after dinner and were offered nothing at all the next day! Our hostess went inside “to use the bathroom and talk to mom,” which actually meant she was going to eat lunch! While we sat outside with nothing. We practically had to beg for water. That was the worst incident, but there were others. We asked about it once and she said, to me, “Well my mom isn’t rich like some people’s parents.” other friend piped up, “My mom’s not rich either but we still feed our friends!”

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Shalamar April 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm

JustLaura, I loved your response to the boors who thought it was fine to show up at your house with little warning and eat/drink the contents of your home. Even if your husband (or you) does make a lot of money, that doesn’t excuse free-loading.

We have friends who can’t seem to make up their minds about contributing to a get-together. Sometimes they stagger into our house carrying ten grocery bags full of chips, desserts, and drinks, and other times they show up empty-handed and demand to know why we don’t have any ginger ale (my husband and I don’t like it and therefore never buy it). In fact, I had a story about them published on this site a few months ago – if anyone remembers, it was the story in which they showed up at our house with a bottle of wine. For one reason or another, we didn’t open the wine that night, and when the husband noticed that it was still unopened as they were preparing to leave, he asked for it back.

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Drawberry April 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Boyfriend and I have friends over often, and go over to friends often as well. Every time whomever is the host always has plenty of drinks and for get together of more then just one or two friends-snacks.

Most of our friends are big pop (soda) drinkers, so we usually get two large cases of soda. Usually one like Coke, and another like Sprite. Those who don’t care for soda or want their own always show up with something themselves but are welcome to whatever we have.

If we don’t have snacks, we almost always all end up going out to dinner anyway.

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delislice April 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Seriously?

We had a new bed delivered last week. The delivery guys were here maybe 10 minutes and I offered them lemonade.

I offer water or lemonade to the Mormons who come to the door in bicycles.

And if I _invited people over to watch a sporting event?_ A slow-cooker of homemade chili, a couple of bowls of chips, salsa, brownies, and a veggie tray, plus soft drinks and a couple of six-packs. Or I wouldn’t be organizing a game-watching party.

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Nannerdoman April 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Once, in my misspent youth, a friend invited me to come over to her house and just hang out for the day. It was a Saturday, and her parents were out of town–we were in high school or college then. After 5 or 6 hours, I excused myself and went home.

When my mom asked why I was home so early, I explained, “I got hungry.” To which she responded, indignantly, “You were over there all this time and she didn’t offer you anything??”

At least in this case there was a reason, of sorts–my friend’s parents were extremely frugal and hadn’t left her enough grocery money to buy food for more than one person. No excuse for Cami’s daughter’s hosts, though. I also wonder where she lives.

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kingsrings April 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm

At the bare minimum, hosts should be providing a small choice of refreshments. If the event is occuring at a meal time, then it should be increased to a meal. This kind of event I think it’s okay to ask guests to pitch in money or potluck for the meal. And I can’t understand why the OP’s sister didn’t put out the cookies herself for the guests, especially when she saw the hostess eating one in sight of everyone else. I see nothing rude about politely correcting the host that the cookies were brought for everyone and then bringing them out. I’m seeing people get more miserly about these types of things recently. I can’t remember the last time I was invited to a indivdually-planned party and not expected to bring something, or more than one item. Whatever happened to proper hosting?? If you can’t afford it, then don’t throw it.

Cami – that is one of the most shocking and saddest things I’ve read recently. Your poor child!! Please stay city’s-length away from these people, they are beyond despicable. And seriously think about moving, or at least aquiring some new friends.

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FerrisW April 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Like everyone else, I’m horrified by Cami’s story. I can’t imagine anyone not feeding a hungry child, regardless of whether they were ‘family’ or not.

I’ve always thought I had a terrible sleepover-related food incident, but it’s nothing compared to that!

For me it was a case of three of us being invited to another girl’s house for a sleepover. We were around 8 or 9, and went straight after school. We played until dinner time, when the three of us who were visiting were sat in the kitchen with a peanut butter sandwich, while the girl we were visiting sat with her family in the dining room and had a full meal. The next morning the same thing happened- we were sat in the kitchen and fed cornflakes, while the family sat in the dining room and had bacon and eggs. I must have complained to my mum, because she asked the other mother about it and was told they didn’t have ‘money to waste on feeding other people’s children’.

My mum didn’t want me to go back, but I liked the girl, so she allowed me to return one more time. Again we had a sandwich for dinner, although this time the girl we were visiting sat with us in the kitchen, eating the family meal. Only one other friend joined us, and she became very ill in the middle of the night. We were both bundled into the car and taken to the sick girls house, which was several streets away. I remember standing in the cold, in my nightdress, while the mother banged on the door until the sick girls father opened it. He took one look at his sick daughter and whisked her and me off to the hospital, mad that the mother hadn’t thought to take his daughter there (or call an ambulance- she was that sick!). My poor parents were awoken with a call from the father telling them we were at the hospital. There was definitely an argument with the hosting girl’s mother and our parents, wherein she said it was too far and would cost too much to drive to the hospital and it wasn’t fair for them to expect her to pay for the gas to travel that distance (only a little further than to the sick girl’s house, although in the opposite direction). Needless to say, when an invitation to go to another sleepover at that house came up, I was never allowed to go after that.

Anyway, my point was that at least we got fed there- the idea of a child being left to go hungry really upsets me. I hope Cami doesn’t let her child attend sleepovers at that house anymore!

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Spike April 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Wow. If someone came by for an unscheduled visit, I would offer them at least water or coffee or tea, or other drinks or snacks if I had them, whether I really wanted the visitor there or not. If it was a scheduled visit, even if it wasn’t “for” food, you can bet I’d have at LEAST a bag of chips on hand, probably more. I thought that offering snacks or drinks when someone comes over to visit was just really basic etiquette. I guess Sam and Julie missed the boat on that one.

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Moonwheaties April 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Wow, no food or drink offered? Yes, that is beyond poor manners. I can’t imagine having people over without offering anything!
I am reminded of the time my husband was invited to an acquaintance’s birthday party. I wasn’t invited, he went and the “hostess” apologized because she didn’t know he was married. We are always together and she was told I was his wife. My husband had to stand the entire time he was there because they only have enough chairs for 4 people, had an ice cream cake and never offered anyone even as much as a glass of water.
But this is the same woman who said she was having a hard time putting together her own baby shower and asked my good friend to do it. She refused and told her she should not be hosting her own shower. Someone else stepped in then backed out and the couple complained about it and said they would have a housewarming instead. They got married at a JP office so they would be married when the baby came but are planning a huge white wedding next year complete with big reception and are hoping to get a lot of gifts. Sadly, they are not really part of our crowd, just show up when they know we are getting together and barge in so their lack of any courtesy doesn’t really surprise me.

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Jenny April 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Am I the only person who LOVES picking out food and drinks for parties? There’s a really nice sense of satisfaction from putting out a meal that people enjoy. Same thing when you deliver a “meal in a box” (last time it was a lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and wine) to a friend.

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Mary April 19, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Cami, I am still dying to know where in the Upper Midwest that this occurs! I grew up in Southeastern Wisconsin and have lived in several areas of Minnesota and usually hosts try and overfeed you!

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Angela April 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Wherever Cami might live, those people are missing out on some of life’s great moments. My daughter and her friends have great memories of sleeping over at each other’s houses. Apparently our house is known for having a good breakfast.

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Carrie April 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Jenny – you’re not the only one. My husband and I are moving soon and I’m already planning my housewarming, what food and beverages I will serve, etc. And I’ve also have planned on what to feed those friends who help us move for lunch that day. I look forward to it. I also offer glasses of water to Mormans or people soliciting for donations when they come around (they usually ride their bikes or walk…and midday in the southeastern summer heat? I can’t in good conscience let them go without a glass of water, no matter how annoying I find them.) Or I’ll let them come in and refill their water bottle if they have one.

It’s beyond my scope of comprehension to NOT offer some form of food or beverage to a guest, even if they are only there for five minutes.

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PM April 19, 2012 at 8:26 pm

What happened to showing deference to guests? FerrisW, that family sounds like a “defensively frugal” person, the type that is convinced that everybody is out to steal their precious money. In my parents’ home, the guest had clout. The guest was served first, before the family. If there was one piece of chicken left, on the platter, the guest got first dibs before anyone else got a crack at it.

There were limits, of course, like my sister’s friend, who was picky eater and declared that she didn’t want what mom was cooking, she wanted pizza. Mom told her the menu wasn’t up for debate.

(As a sidenote, I have to admit that if a child became ill at my home, my first instinct would be to get them to their parents ASAP. Mostly because I wouldnt have the authority to approve treatment for the child and I think those choices need to be left to the parents. But I would have driven you home to your own house, instead of further burdening the dad who is trying to take care of his sick daughter.)

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Calliope April 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I’m really surprised to hear that Cami is from the upper Midwest! I grew up in Wisconsin, and I’ve never heard of food being only for family. That kind of rudeness is most certainly not a regional thing.

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Andi April 19, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I’m vote the couple in the original post is “rude”. I’ve never lived anywhere where you didn’t at least offer drinks and snacks when you invited people over. My hbby and I overfeed everyone eggar comes over for more than 5 minutes

Cami – I’m originally from Chicago / suburbs of Chicago and I’ve NEVER heard of not feeding slumber party children! Please tell me you’re not near there because I’d die of embarrassment on my hmetown’s behaf.

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Sarah Peart April 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I have to add my vote of horror when I read Cami´s story. Somehow this seems more important than etiquette fails – no-one suffers that badly if someone is rude to them however that child may never forget the sleepover. My first thought was that wherever it was it would not be in America anyway, maybe some third world country where life is “dog eat dog”. A place where people cannot afford to be generous as any hospitality means they would literally be taking food from their own mouths. Please Cami, get out ASAP and when you are out let us know where this piece of hell can be found. Seriously I truly believe this would be my own personal hell – a place of suspicion and lack of common decency.

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--Lia April 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Cami– Then if I understand you correctly, there is an area of the U.S., at least the size of a city, where it is considered normal for people to invite others (including children!) over and then not offer them food at normal meal times nor after many hours. Everyone knows this, so they all bring food for themselves when visiting. And this is considered so normal that they berate others for offering food in their homes. Nor are any of these people people particularly impoverished as you’d find in times of famine or war. The people who do this do not belong to a particular ethnicity or fringe religious group; they just happen to live in the same place. Is that it? (I was thinking I’d look up the habits of the strange group just as I like to learn about people who wear different clothes, eat different foods, speak different languages, etc.)

I’m shaking my head in disbelief. (I mean, I believe you, but you have to admit that it’s still unbelievable.) I can understand (sort of) people who never entertain in their homes. They never invite anyone over so they never have to offer anyone something when they come over, but to extend the invitation and then starve the guest (a child!)? I try to look at the bright side of everything or to at least offer some advice that can make things go more smoothly the next time. This one is a challenge for me, but here goes.

I don’t know how old your daughter is, but first, I’d review the lesson with her about how she’s welcome to call you any time from anywhere if anything makes her uncomfortable. Once you’re on the phone, you can help her decide if there’s truly anything wrong or not. She may not get it right every single time. She might call you when there’s not really anything the matter. But at least if she calls, you have the option of going to get her. In that way, she can learn what’s considered normal and what isn’t. And these people can learn that whatever they do will be reported on immediately (in case they had anything worse in mind). I like to think that from the first moment your daughter noticed that everyone else was eating and that she was getting nothing that she would call you and you’d go get her so she could come home and get dinner.

Second, and this is a stretch, but if I lived in that community, I’d be tempted to show people how it’s done. You said you got reamed out by one parent for offering food in your home. I’d continue doing it. Nevermind return hospitality. Just keep inviting people over and giving them normal, not-fancy, time-of-day appropriate food. (In other words, just a soft drink or snack in the afternoon, a sandwich or soup for lunch, a little light dinner in the evening, whatever you’re eating yourself.) The chances are good that nothing will come of it, but it’s also possible that you could run into the one other person who lives there and is also appalled. I think it’s worth it.

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--Lia April 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Oh, and Cami– I’d LOVE to hear the locals defending the practice– in their own words. If they think there’s nothing wrong with inviting a child to a sleepover and not giving her food, then they shouldn’t mind if you mention where this place is on a public forum. And now I’m going to get sarcastic. Do they not offer the child a place to sleep because they might have to wash sheets? Do they not give the child a place to sit or light in the room because she might wear out furniture or use up lightbulbs and electricity?

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Yuki April 19, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Cami- I also live in that area, does it happen to be the North Shore of Chicago? While I’ve never seen people explicitly do this, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone did.

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Just Laura April 19, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Shalamar – my husband was a foreign contractor, so a few years back he made good money, but has since invested in a home, so doesn’t have a lot just lying about. Still, some people thing, “oh, he made money 3 years ago, therefore he must make money today so I don’t have to pay for anything.” It’s very frustrating, to say the least (particularly since I don’t make a great deal). And yes, I do recall the wine story! I am happy to say this has never happened to me.
PM – these are friends of friends. I’m sure you know the sort.

Still, my story doesn’t come close to the OP’s, nor to Cami’s. For that I am grateful.

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HH April 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Oh Cami, could you move maybe?!

Striving For Sense – “Or is this a non-English-speaking country?”
Somehow, you would understand the lack of hospitality if this was a non-english speaking country then?

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David April 19, 2012 at 11:58 pm

@Cami;
That’s interesting – I knew someone from a small town in the upper midwest who absolutely refused to socialize over food. She would go to the restaurant with people, but refuse to order and stop mid-sentence if anyone at the table took a bite of their food. I wonder if the “food is for family” meme was why she was like that.

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HH April 20, 2012 at 12:03 am

“My first thought was that wherever it was it would not be in America anyway, maybe some third world country where life is “dog eat dog”. ”

These assumptions are really bothering me. What in the world makes you assume that so-called-poorer countries would lack in hospitality and Americans are all excellent hosts?? Have you ever been in any of these countries you speak of – ever experienced life there? It’s like PM said, the guest is always given more inportance than family – families would literally be willing to eat next to nothing but make sure that a guest is well-fed!!

Please don’t throw out assumptions when you’ve obviously never seen any evidence of this.

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admin April 20, 2012 at 7:08 am

HH, You make a very good point. When a friend of mine went to India to visit several poor villages, his hosts literally scrapped together what few pennies they had to buy him a can of soda, which for most of them was a luxury, and very proudly served it to him. Being the recipient of hospitality in poorer countries can be hubling experience and a lesson in learning to be grateful.

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PM April 20, 2012 at 12:18 am

Lia, I agree. I would be absolutely obnoxious in my quest to be gracious! Fruit platters, random fondue, chocolate fountains. Commemorative t-shirts!

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Angela2 April 20, 2012 at 12:50 am

Jenny- I also love picking out food for parties. I get ideas for creative food at local food festivals (Taste of ) or magazines, but I also like a lot of good old standard party fare.
I join the crowd of folks who are horrified by Cami’s story. I’m from the Midwest too, but have never experienced that kind of “hospitality”.
I have a couple of related stories:
We have some acquaintances who routinely invite a lot of people over for a backyard BBQ, but provide almost no food. I have no problem with potluck events, or “bring something to throw on the grill”, but it seems to me that *hosting* a party means you go to some effort beyond sending an email. Salads, chips, veggie platter, drinks etc to form the nucleus of a meal at a bare minimum.
At a recent movie marathon night, I swear we brought more food than these hosts put out. Good thing, too – this wasn’t billed as a potluck event, so no one else brought food.
So, OP – I agree with you on the original story. When you *plan* a gathering that happens at a meal time, you’re obliged to provide food.

Another time (when I was much younger and inexperienced), an acquaintance from community activities stopped by our house one afternoon with her two children on some sort of quick errand. We were hospitable, perhaps too much so, as they stayed, and stayed, and stayed … Eventually, I couldn’t put off making dinner for my family of 6. We were cooking and setting the table, and they were not showing any signs of departing, so we ended up asking our acquaintances to stay for dinner since we couldn’t very well eat in front of them. If I had been prepared to entertain, there would have been plenty of food, and it would have been nice. As it was, I had fixed a big batch of ravioli for my family, but it wasn’t really enough for 9 people, so I threw a frozen pizza or two in the oven to quickly supplement. All good, right? Then the mom called her husband to join us for dinner (now 10 people!). I want to be clear: SHE was inviting him to dinner at my house -this was not me extending the invitation. I did not have additional frozen pizzas to cook up, and wasn’t really prepared to fix him something from scratch when we were practically ready to sit down to dinner, so I suggested that the husband might bring another pizza if he had one, or if he wouldn’t mind stopping at the store that he passed on the 4 min drive to my house. He refused! And then he arrived, ate our food, and complained about the quantity. I was both mortified and annoyed at this weird situation. I wouldn’t want a guest to go hungry, but I was not very well prepared to feed 10 people on short notice. Not to mention, ravioli and pizza wouldn’t have been my menu of choice for a dinner party.
So I mentioned that I was young and inexperienced. This helped me get over that.

But this doesn’t hold a candle to Cami’s story.

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lkb April 20, 2012 at 5:40 am

Please Cami — please tell me you don’t live in Michigan, please, please, please…

(If however that’s the case, please be assured, fellow readers, it is not true in all parts of the state.)

What a horrendous situation for you and your family Cami.

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Aje April 20, 2012 at 6:21 am

Hahaha. Cami should submit some of these stories to ehell! I think there´s a certain understanding about adults not being fed, but if you do that to a child, man, what are you thinking?

My best friend is not a kid person. But she has a great art talent and volunteered one summer in a school in our city that was giving art classes. (the kids would have a morning class, a break for them to eat their packed lunches, and then have an afternoon class) She said she was astounded how many kids showed up without lunch or without money to buy it. Then she was floored again by how many parents never bothered to find out what time to pick up their child at the end of the day. Some parents were like, ¨Oh, we knew you´d call eventually.¨

How do you send a kid away for four hours to a SCHOOL (a friends´house I understand, but a CLASS?) and not even both to check what is going on for lunch? Most of these kids were sponsored because they couldn´t afford the classes- and their parents, rather than being happy the kids had the opportunity, were angry that they had to provide food for them. (What, you mean, you couldn´t pay for lunch for my kid as well?) My friend is not maternal whatsoever, but even she knew that much!

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Aje April 20, 2012 at 6:29 am

Oh, and to add, Cami, please print out these comments and the website and tack it to these people´s doors. XD

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Shea April 20, 2012 at 7:38 am

For those seeming to say that they’d understand Cami’s neighbours’ lack of hospitality if it was “some third-world country”, I must say that’s an interesting assumption. I’ve traveled extensively in Central America and North Africa, and experienced wonderful hospitality in many places there, even from people who were quite poor. In North Africa especially, people I’d only just met often invited me to visit their homes (sometimes they’d just flat-out insist that I visit), and would set out tea and snacks, sometimes even a meal. Many of them were hardly well-off, but they were incredibly generous and hospitable. The idea that people in “non-English-speaking” countries are somehow less hospitable than people in the US is just offensive.

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The Elf April 20, 2012 at 7:50 am

Hmmmm….. Maybe the roots of the traditions of Cami’s town is in poverty? My mother’s family is from the upper midwest as well (though they don’t practice that tradition to my knowledge), and to hear my Grandmother tell it, they barely made it through the Great Depression alive. It makes sense – if you don’t have enough to feed your own family you wouldn’t serve food to anyone else. While that may not be the case any more, the tradition may still stick.

HH, I understand the point you are making about poverty and generousity. I’m not saying that all people in poverty would be miserly. I’m just saying that it would be an understandable reaction to poverty and maybe that’s just the way it went down there. It’s about the only explanation I can come up with.

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The Elf April 20, 2012 at 8:16 am

Jenny, I love the “food planning” part about throwing a get-together too. My husband loves to cook, but is very meat focused, so I usually let him handle that and I throw together a few nice sides, desserts, or snacks. If I invite a vegetarian (or someone who simply avoids a lot of meat), then I grab the opportunity to make a vegetarian entree. I love those kinds of dishes, but usually don’t have an excuse to make them! But even for those occassions when I don’t have the time, I like to pick up fun trays prepared by local delis or something.

I don’t offer drinks to solicitors, including religious missionaries, because I find the entire practice rude. Seriously, you’re coming to my house and then telling me I’m living my life wrong and you know what’s best for me? Or, in the case of solicitors, you’re interrupting my day to try and sell me stuff? Like I don’t have access to an abundance of stores and the internet where I can get pretty much anything? If I needed it and could afford it, I would have bought it before you rang my doorbell. If I wanted to convert to your religion, I’m pretty sure I could find my way to your church. I don’t slam the door in their face, but I will interrupt their speil with a firm no. Offering them water just opens me up for a conversation I’d rather not have, IMHO, and would make it harder to get rid of them when I’d rather just go about my day in peace. Somebody I invited over, or who dropped by and invited into my house, is another story altogether. Solicitors and missionaries are definitely not invited and most unwelcome. So no offers of hospitality.

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Striving For Sense April 20, 2012 at 8:56 am

Cami – this community is a subset of American Mid-West culture? I’m shocked and bewildered. Also, I from your story about how you are “a stranger” and how the woman can never be friends with a stranger, I fear your only hope is a sort of “Scarlet Letter” situation, where the meaning of the A is turned from adulteress to angel of mercy. If you’re there long enough, and are kind enough, you might just make them forget you are a stranger. Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps. But don’t hold your breath.

I’m afraid that your only true option if you stay in that community is to uphold your own standards in your own home (and hope they spread, but don’t count on it), and go prepared to uphold the community standards everywhere else. Always have some non-perishable food in your car or purse, in case you receive a spur-of-the-moment invitation, and never let yourself be surprised by their behavior.

Somehow, they created an entirely different culture than the one that surrounds them. I don’t know why. Is it a small town, founded by a very few families, that tended to keep marrying each other, so that it’s more of a large clan? That could explain the insularity of relationships, as well as the difference in culture, particularly if they don’t have a lot of new blood moving in very often. In such a situation, family house rules become neighborhood rules, become subdivision rules, become city-wide community standards, which is how cultures are born. In that case, treat it as you would any foreign culture – with tolerance, acceptance, and a focus on the good in people everywhere.

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Melissa April 20, 2012 at 8:57 am

Cami, you’re unlikely to get blasted here for saying which area of the upper midwest it is. For one thing, our email addresses are not publicly accessible, and another these comments are moderated. I think you could speak without worry. If the people who live there don’t like it, maybe they’ll rethink their ways. And best case scenario, you’ll find some posters who live there who are NOT like that, thus encouraging you that there is hope in finding some hospitable people even there.

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Striving For Sense April 20, 2012 at 9:04 am

HH – I knew a man who was fed the family dog, as a guest in the house, so yes, I know about the sacredness of feeding the guest in another culture.

That said, in some cultures, food isn’t the issue. Pride of place is the issue.

In a culture where poverty and starvation are prevalent, you’re more likely to find pride of place, rather than pushing your own children past the brink of starvation and into death, just so that the guest can feel warm and fuzzy and full. If you live like that for enough generations, it will become the cultural standard.

This board has readers from many different countries, and a lot of us are world travelers. Don’t assume that we are assuming that anyone “not us” is bad, and that we are great. As you can see from this site, Americans are certainly NOT all excellent hosts. No one here has made that claim.

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Piratelvr1121 April 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

This kind of made me think of the line from “Iowa Stubborn” from the Music Man that goes “Join us at the picnic! You can have your fill of all the food you bring yourself!” only the OP brought food and wasn’t even welcome to that!

Whenever I know people are coming over and will likely be around for a meal, I provide dinner even if we just plan to get takeout, just so long as our guests are fed. Sometimes our friends will offer to bring a snack but if they don’t I provide something and will even try my best to cater to anyone’s diet needs (one friend and my kid brother are diabetics), including getting drinks, unless they bring their own. If there’s going to be drinking I ask them to bring their own, as a PP said, that can get pricey and it’s easier than guessing everyone’s preferences. And of course I don’t let people drive home if they’ve been drinking.

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Striving For Sense April 20, 2012 at 9:15 am

In a ceratin country, where the tax rate is 60-70%, and people are well-known for pinching pennies until they bleed, my family was invited to dinner. Our hosts saved for SIX WEEKS to buy that meal. In return, we brought grape soda and stale donuts (the hostess absolutely adored stale donuts. She didn’t like them fresh, so we had to get them a week in advance, and be sure they didn’t mold by the time we delivered them. It was tricky). My father sat at the head of the table for that meal.

The meal included our hosts’ specialty – well-tenderized and spiced raw meat. Basically, he rubbed spices on the meat, and beat it into submission, then served it, still warm from the pounding. I found it utterly disgusting, but ate it and smiled, right up until the point where I threw up a little in my mouth. At that point, I had no choice but to ask him to cook it. He seared it for about 30 seconds (didn’t want to ruin it with too much cooking), and gave it back to me. By then, I had mastered the gag reflex and ate the rest of it, smiling. We left shortly thereafter, and all of us threw up as soon as we got to our hotel.

These people are some of our dearest friends and that meal is one of my fondest memories (we laughed a LOT!), and we would never hurt them by telling them this. Gee, I hope they’re not reading this. It’s not their first language, but they are well-educated and all speak English. In fact, they made it a point to only speak English at the meal, despite the fact that we had learned their language. They, however, had learned ours better than we had learned theirs, so they spoke ours, to make it easier for us, their guests. They were always so kind and gracious to us.

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Striving For Sense April 20, 2012 at 9:22 am

Aje – my aunt was a teacher for many years, and you’d be surprised at the stories she told about parental neglect. Feeding your child laundry starch for breakfast and dinner, in order to fill their bellies, and then send them to school knowing that the school would provide a free lunch. The school insisted that all children eat lunch, because otherwise they would fade in the afternoon. Any child without a lunch or lunch money was given a cheese sandwich. Now imagine that you teach a child whose entire diet consists of 5 cheese sandwiches a week, plus laundry starch.

Now imagine that you have taught that child for 9 months, and sent them on their way for summer vacation.

I never heard her talk about sleepovers.

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Striving For Sense April 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

Non English speaking countries =/= “less hospitable” but simply “differently hospitable”.

After all, they DID invite the child over for a sleepover, and presumably some form of fun. That’s a form of hospitality, right there. Entertainment, and socializing is hospitable, even if food is not present.

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DGS April 20, 2012 at 9:32 am

Ditto, Shea – having grown up in what would definitely be considered a developing country and have gone hungry many times in my youth and having spent some time in so-called ‘third world countries’, I can assure my fellow E-hellions that in the poorest areas, people literally scrounge up their last penny to serve a meal or a drink to a guest. In most of those societies, the guest takes precedence and is treated to the choicest food, drink, bedding, etc., even if the family itself has to go hungry. It’s the code of honor of offering hospitality to a visitor.

Cami, I am so sorry that you and your daughter have been treated so poorly by the community where you currently reside. I cannot imagine that even in the midst of a war or a depression, one would not offer food to a hungry child, especially after inviting that child to spend a night in one’s home. Would moving be a possibility for you?

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