Etiquette Hell

Hostesses With The Mostest => Entertaining and Hospitality => Topic started by: zora19 on April 19, 2014, 02:55:16 PM

Title: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: zora19 on April 19, 2014, 02:55:16 PM
BG: I recently made a new friend ("Megan") though my religious community. Megan is new to the area and relatively new to the U.S.  She and her husband have a child the same age as my little one, so I've tried to reach out to her and see how/if I can help the family get acclimated. She grew up in Australia.

I had Megan over this week, along with another friend, and she asked if I could give her a summary of "the culture." I wasn't sure what she meant, and asked for an example. She explained that she was confused because no one had responded to the invitations that she sent for her daughter's birthday party - she said that out of around 20 invitations, not a single person had responded.  :(

I was surprised. While I've certainly experienced the fact that people aren't always good at rsvp-ing, I'd never heard of no one at all responding. When I probed a little more, I found out some additional information:
1. Since she has only lived here a few weeks, she doesn't "really know" any of the people she invited. Most of the invitees are people who she has met once, and briefly (example: she gave an invitation to the grandmother of a child in her daughter's sunday school class on first meeting and asked the grandmother to give it to the child's parents). She couldn't tell me the name of a single other person, child or parent, who she had invited.
2. Some of the invitees are people she has never actually met. When people said "Oh, you will have to meet Sara and Mike, they live in your area" she would friend them on facebook, and then invited them to this party.

My feeling is that her expectations are really unrealistic, and that this doesn't really have anything to do with different cultural norms. Obviously, I think people should take the time to respond in the negative if they aren't attending an event, but I can see why this has happened. However, when I gently tried to explain that maybe people didn't really understand that she wanted an rsvp/that their presence was truly and very much wanted, she was fairly insistent that, no, it was clear from the invitation that an rsvp was requested. She didn't seem to hear my point, and came back to asking whether this was typical of American etiquette.

I would appreciate any insight into typical Australian etiquette - I've had friends from various parts of Australia and from NZ, and I've never experienced this type of issue before. Would it be common in the area to use a birthday party as an opportunity to make a bunch of new friends (as opposed to inviting existing friends)? Would it be normal to invite people you barely knew or did not know to a birthday party?

I'd also appreciate any suggestions on how I can help my friend get to know more people. Would it make sense for me to tell her that, in the US, birthday parties and the like are usually reserved for people you already know, and that it isn't typical to invite borderline-strangers? I'm thinking that, even if this is less of a transcontinental issue and more one of her being socially sheltered, I can still try to give her some tips. But I don't want to offend her, kwim?

For what it's worth, I live in Austin, which is a pretty laid-back place, so maybe that's part of the issue as well.

Many thanks!
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: #borecore on April 19, 2014, 05:44:57 PM
It may not be an American thing (it isn't -- but neither is sending your kids to strangers' birthdays), but when I lived in Austin (for 10 years up to last year) I know RSVPs were basically ignored.

It might've been my social circle (which did not involve many kids!), but I was repeatedly totally unaware of whether we'd end up having 5 or 30 people at a Friday night party at our (small) house; people just didn't go in for formality, much! We had 10 longtime friends text me during my wedding day that they weren't going to be able to make it to the casual reception they'd been invited to 5 weeks prior!

I think it's really smart to tell her that people aren't deliberately snubbing her; they probably just see a birthday invitation from a stranger or near-stranger as a very informal thing and not something that requires a response. We aren't used to these things when it comes to kids, really.

If she doesn't have any way of contacting these people before to check, then I guess she'll just have to try her luck. If she does have contact info, I think she should try them once more before the event to confirm.

Is her kid old enough to be in school? Perhaps she'd have better luck with schoolmates.

What method of RSVP did she ask for (phone, email, letter)?
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: sammycat on April 19, 2014, 06:13:42 PM
I'm Australian and IMO this has nothing to do with a particular country's 'culture'. I'd never dream of inviting people I hardly or didn't know to a party, and nor would anyone else I know. The only exception would be if a child is in daycare and has mixed with certain children over a long period of time. Even though I wouldn't know the parents, I'd go off recommendations from the teacher as to who my child plays with and invite them. So even though *I* wouldn't know them, my child would, which is fine. I don't think that way of thinking is unique to Australia though. But I don't think that is what has happened here.

It seems to me that this is a combination of one person maybe trying too hard and a bunch of very rude people who should've RSVPed regardless of how well they know the person (or not). This sort of rudeness wouldn't endear me to wanting to get to know these people in a more 'natural' way over time.

Edited typo.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: greencat on April 19, 2014, 06:29:50 PM
I think it is mightily strange to invite strangers to a milestone-celebrating kind of party.  I would be very confused to be invited to the birthday party of a child I'd never met, especially if I had never met the parents either!

I would, in the case of the Facebook invites, be sure I had been invited by mistake and remove myself from the guest list. 

Given the lack of relationship between the hosts and the invitees, and since it there is a very strong cultural expectation to bring gifts to a child's birthday party, I suspect the invitation probably came across as a gift-grab.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: PastryGoddess on April 19, 2014, 06:59:35 PM
The problem is not the difference between Australian and American etiquette, the problem is that she's inviting people to her kids birthday party that she doesn't know. 

People are busy enough as it is.  Attending a random kids birthday party would probably not rank all that high on people's radar. 

Once Megan makes some friends here, it'll be better. But this was too much, too soon. 
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: zora19 on April 19, 2014, 08:18:54 PM
Thank you so much for the quick replies! You all are confirming what I was thinking - that this would be strange regardless of the setting.

Re how she requested the response: She didn't actually invite most people via a facebook invitation or a personal message (which is how she invited me). She handed out paper invitations as she randomly met people that said "RSVP to Megan at 555-555-5555" OR sent a jpg of the paper invitation to people via facebook. So rsvping would have actually involved calling/texting a stranger.

That being said, I still can't believe so few people took the time to at least let her know.
Jmarvellous, that's really interesting to hear, and a good point that people's social circles can be very different even in the same setting. I don't know that I've ever had a major rsvp problem (aside from a party I threw in Houston last week - entirely different issue!) but we tend to either issue really small, personal invitations to a close group of friends, or massive facebook invitations to a wide group where we aren't really worried about rsvp's anyway.

And her kid is not in preschool right now, but I don't know about their long-term plans.

She and my other friend seemed to get along well this week, so we'll all probably get together with the kids again soon, and probably invite some other folks (not all from her/my religious community) so I think she'll start feeling better soon. I think I'll take the advice of trying to let her know that this isn't people deliberately snubbing her, which is probably how she is feeling.

She really is very nice - one of those people who I really wanted to get to know better as soon as we met. I think she is just very overwhelmed, and perhaps has only lived in smaller, more insular areas.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: EllenS on April 19, 2014, 09:06:57 PM
In the US here, in an area that is usually pretty good about RSVP's. What your friend did is so far outside the norm of party invites, I wouldn't even register it as an actual party invite.

If I got such a thing from someone I did not know, I would ignore it. I would assume it was either a mistake, or that it was some kind of bait-and-switch sales party. I would feel no more obligation to RSVP, than if someone left a flyer on my windshield.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: kudeebee on April 19, 2014, 09:28:25 PM
In the US here, in an area that is usually pretty good about RSVP's. What your friend did is so far outside the norm of party invites, I wouldn't even register it as an actual party invite.

If I got such a thing from someone I did not know, I would ignore it. I would assume it was either a mistake, or that it was some kind of bait-and-switch sales party. I would feel no more obligation to RSVP, than if someone left a flyer on my windshield.

Totally agree with this post.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: FauxFoodist on April 19, 2014, 09:36:54 PM
In the US here, in an area that is usually pretty good about RSVP's. What your friend did is so far outside the norm of party invites, I wouldn't even register it as an actual party invite.

If I got such a thing from someone I did not know, I would ignore it. I would assume it was either a mistake, or that it was some kind of bait-and-switch sales party. I would feel no more obligation to RSVP, than if someone left a flyer on my windshield.

Totally agree with this post.

Me, too.  I would've simply considered it a mistake and not thought any more about it.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: shhh its me on April 19, 2014, 09:38:38 PM
  The Sunday School grandam invite , I can understand that one. "Hi my daughter is in class with little Timmy here, could you please give his parents this invite."   I'm picturing a smallish class though with regulars. 

The FB friends of friends no definitely not a bday party maybe just maybe a "We just moved here and would like to introduce ourselves BBQ " 
kids birthday parties virtually require gifts its so odd to invite a stranger I would think it was an error.  (with previous exclusion of classmates)
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Ceallach on April 19, 2014, 09:44:31 PM
Definitely not a cultural difference!  It's somebody trying to make friends and who I hope won't push people away by pushing relationships too fast too soon.   I've moved internationally twice in my life and it's brutal having no social circle, but there aren't shortcuts to building one.    Inviting strangers to a kids birthday just comes across as weird.   She should have started out smaller, getting to know people and then inviting them to her home.   The birthday party thing may also have come across as gift grabby as well.   It's a shame as I hope she hasn't damaged some potential friendships for herself and her daughter with this poorly thought out hosting attempt.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: MurPl1 on April 19, 2014, 09:51:10 PM
We have a Google Group set up for our neighborhood and a new resident sent out an invite for her son's birthday to the entire group of homeowners.  She said she wanted to get to know us all.  Oh my!  That was definitely mentioned among my friends as to how far out of the norm it was. 

I can't imagine any of us RSVP'd our decline as it was clearly just a scattershot invite.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Harriet Jones on April 19, 2014, 09:55:47 PM
I wouldn't respond to a stranger's invitation, either.  Most likely I'd think it was a mistake. 
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: peaches on April 19, 2014, 09:58:29 PM
I don’t think her problem has anything to do with norms where she lives, which to my knowledge aren’t any different than other places in Texas or the U.S.

I think it would be fine (and perfectly polite) to explain that “Over time, as people get to know your family better, you should get more positive rsvp’s.” That might reassure her.

Inviting families from church and the neighborhood for a meal or playdate, as she meets them, will solve this problem eventually. Until then, having very small parties – which works fine for the littlest ones anyway – is the best way to go.


Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: zora19 on April 19, 2014, 10:25:12 PM
EllenS, thank you for articulating the situation so well - I think that's exactly what happened here.

Also a good point about the sheer number of invitations - 17 toddlers at a party sounds like the bad kind of circus (speaking as the Mom of a toddler!).

In a personal update to the situation, my little one has come down with a mild virus or something today and was running a low-grade fever, so I had to email Megan this evening and let her know that we will no longer be able to make it because she is sick. : (  So now I feel like a total schmuck.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: CakeEater on April 20, 2014, 06:56:42 AM
I'm in Australia. I've just sent paper invitations to my daughter's whole class of 25 five-year-olds expecting that maybe half will come, but prepared for all of them if they decide to come. I know very few of the parents, and have put my phone and email as an RSVP contact. So basically, all the parents will be contacting a stranger to them, but a parent of one of their child's classmates, so not totally a stranger. They've been together at school for 10 weeks now.

But I think what Megan has done is a bit strange. It's not culture to invite people to your child's birthday party who neither you nor your child have ever met.

And I agree - I'd feel completely free to ignore that kind of invitation.

Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Redsoil on April 20, 2014, 07:13:18 AM
Megan comes across as quite needy, which would be off-putting anywhere, I'd imagine!

What part of Australia is she from?  Perhaps if she's from a small town, that may explain things a bit?  Some places are quite "odd", just depending.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: rose red on April 20, 2014, 10:05:34 AM
Re how she requested the response: She didn't actually invite most people via a facebook invitation or a personal message (which is how she invited me). She handed out paper invitations as she randomly met people that said "RSVP to Megan at 555-555-5555" OR sent a jpg of the paper invitation to people via facebook. So rsvping would have actually involved calling/texting a stranger.

That being said, I still can't believe so few people took the time to at least let her know.

Sorry but if a stranger or near-stranger did this, I would feel no obligation to RSVP. It feels like being handed a flyer from a store clerk. I may even think they are setting me up for a sales party while the children played.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: cicero on April 20, 2014, 04:03:42 PM
In the US here, in an area that is usually pretty good about RSVP's. What your friend did is so far outside the norm of party invites, I wouldn't even register it as an actual party invite.

If I got such a thing from someone I did not know, I would ignore it. I would assume it was either a mistake, or that it was some kind of bait-and-switch sales party. I would feel no more obligation to RSVP, than if someone left a flyer on my windshield.
This. I think you could gently tell her that this isn't about RSVP culture, but rather that she sent out invites to strangers who have little to zero connection to her ( different from inviting one's child's classmates who you may jot know but they are in school with your child).


That being said, I still can't believe so few people took the time to at least let her know.

Why? If I got an invite from someone I barely/don't know, I would assume it's a mistake or some kind of bait and switch or Tupperware type "party"
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: FauxFoodist on April 20, 2014, 04:07:18 PM
I just reread the first post.  Megan doesn't know the name of anyone (other than OP) who she invited yet she expects these people to RSVP???  She doesn't know any of them.  None of them have an obligation to RSVP to a random invite from a stranger.  What a bizarre way of going about trying to make friends (and, had I been the recipient, I would've just considered it an invitation from a stranger to a gift grab and ignored it).
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: EllenS on April 20, 2014, 06:52:58 PM
I think the point about classmates is a good one. I don't know the parents of all my childrens' classmates, have not met most of them, but the kids certainly know each other, and those invitations are always identifiable as having come from school, or being in some way attached to a schoolmate.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: blarg314 on April 20, 2014, 08:00:40 PM

So someone gets handed a invitation to a party by a third party, to a toddler's birthday party of someone they've never met and whose name they may not even recognize (and it's not clear that the invitation even has their name on it).

I'd say there's a strong possibility that they assume it's a mixup and ignore it, or they are weirded out enough by it that they actively don't want to contact the invitee and get pulled into the craziness.

Getting an invitation from someone whose child shares a class with yours is different - there you have a context and know who the person is, even if you haven't met them.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: MommyPenguin on April 20, 2014, 10:53:50 PM
I sympathize with what Megan is trying to do, because we have been that family that moves a lot.  And our kids are always desperate to have friends to invite to their birthday parties.  But when you just moved into a new state at the end of September and your kid's birthday is a month later, it's really hard to know people to invite!

If she'd accept advice from somebody who has been there, done that, what I'd do is to put off the birthday party as much as possible.  Maybe have a small family recognition on the day of (a small cake or treat, family presents).  Give your child a few more weeks to attend church, daycare, preschool, AWANA, whatever program/class/group your child is in, and let them get to know people.

Then invite just a *few* kids, those your child is closest friend with.  I've usually heard that a reasonable number of kids to invite is one for each year of age your child is turning.  So a 3-year-old would invite 3 friends, etc.

She might also consider, when she talks to the people and hands them an invitation, that she's just moved to the area, her child is really excited about having playmates come to a birthday party, etc.  That might help them understand why she's inviting them when they don't know her well.

Of course, if the party is really soon or already happened (since you mentioned your child is sick and wouldn't be able to come), it might be too late.  But if your child was the *only* child coming and nobody else shows up, she might try a "do-over."  Another option could be to see if it could be a birthday playdate, with just your child and hers, if she just hasn't had enough time to get her child involved in groups so there would be kids to invite.

My heart hurts for that little one, if the toddler *is* old enough to wish for friends to come to her party, as I know my daughters really struggled with this.  They've each developed differently because of all the moving.  One is more of an introvert and entertains herself really well.  Another is really, really top-notch at remembering people's names and making friends.  We were out of town this weekend and went to a new church, and she made a friend, visited with the friend after church, and wants to go to that church every time we're in that area now, so she can play with her friend again.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: LifeOnPluto on April 21, 2014, 10:45:11 PM
Another Aussie here.

Megan's behaviour is quite strange. It's definitely not a "common practice" in Australia to invite a whole heap of strangers to your child's birthday party.

That said, some of my peers/acquaintances are very intense when it comes to making "instant friends". They'll meet someone new (like at a party or through a mutual friend) and within five minutes, add them as a Facebook friend. Within half an hour, they'll invite them over for dinner or something. Perhaps Megan is like this? Especially if she's under the age of 30.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Ceallach on April 22, 2014, 06:49:59 AM
The sad thing is there are ways she could have approached this that might have had a better outcome.   In my international moves I've found that many people are friendly and receptive if you make the effort, some people even like feeling as though they are the "welcomers" and the novelty of getting to know the newcomers.    For example, if she'd taken the time to *talk* to the parents, and then said:    "You know we're new here and don't know many people.  It's Sally's birthday this week so we're going to have a small celebration.  Sally and Mary seem to be getting along so well, I'd love it if your family could come over on Saturday and join us for lunch."    Something like that.   They'd get a celebration and a chance to make new friends.   Which presumably is her goal - to create a new social circle.   

Instead the way she's gone about it comes across as if she's not particularly interested in their friendship, just in filling seats for her kids party.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Fliss on April 23, 2014, 03:22:31 AM

What part of Australia is she from?  Perhaps if she's from a small town, that may explain things a bit?  Some places are quite "odd", just depending.

It's a lie I tell you, a lie!

(ahem) Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go oil my webbed feet and feed the drop-bear.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Redsoil on April 23, 2014, 08:02:14 AM
*cough*  Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

*Sticks tongue out at Fliss and flees, before she can sic the drop-bear onto me!*


Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Fliss on April 24, 2014, 02:58:44 AM
*cough*  Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

*Sticks tongue out at Fliss and flees, before she can sic the drop-bear onto me!*

(narrows eyes and flicks open the hunstmans' cage) Attack!

Seriously, and strangely for me, back on topic -- this would be an odd thing to do even in Oz.

Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: greencat on April 24, 2014, 03:08:17 AM

What part of Australia is she from?  Perhaps if she's from a small town, that may explain things a bit?  Some places are quite "odd", just depending.

It's a lie I tell you, a lie!

(ahem) Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go oil my webbed feet and feed the drop-bear.

What is a drop-bear?  I am afraid to google.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Fliss on April 24, 2014, 03:13:08 AM

What is a drop-bear?  I am afraid to google.

http://australianmuseum.net.au/drop-bear

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2013/03/drop-bears-target-tourists,-study-says/
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Redsoil on April 24, 2014, 03:56:49 AM
*Grabs the mighty flame-thrower, set to repel all attacks from unsavoury (and distinctly smelly) adversaries!*

Ha!
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Julian on April 28, 2014, 08:00:44 PM
Fliss, those links are wonderful!  I must search a little more and see if I can find the fangaroo and the hoop snake...   >:D
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? Or just unrealistic expectations?
Post by: Fliss on April 28, 2014, 08:28:13 PM
Fliss, those links are wonderful!  I must search a little more and see if I can find the fangaroo and the hoop snake...   >:D

I'd forgotten about them!

I think the hoop snake is extinct these days. And what's weird is the Fangaroo actually did exist, and was living within Aboriginal times.
Title: Re: US-Australian Etiquette? unrealistic expectations? Weird update p. 33
Post by: zora19 on June 11, 2014, 07:40:53 PM
Can I just say how much I love the links?  :)

Overdue update: I did end up missing the birthday party because my daughter got sick, so about a week later I contacted Megan to see if she'd like to have a playdate. We met up later that week at a playground near her house.

Since this thread had confirmed to me that I'm not a crazy person, I had decided to be more direct with her if she brought up the birthday party again. I really think I equivocated a lot when she asked me the first time, in part because I didn't want to hurt her feelings and in part because I was kind of stunned by the question.

The kids played together for about an hour, but turns out she didn't bring up the party at all.  However, she did ask if it would be possible for me to make a slight change to the time when I host the playgroup at my house. She was only asking to move the time by 30 minutes, and she was very clear that if that didn't work then she totally understood. I'm not sure how to convey the tone, but she was very polite and I could tell she would genuinely have understood if my own schedule made the change impossible.

I told her that I was pretty sure that would work for us, and that I wanted them to be able to come, and also mentioned that I was going to send out an invitation for the next week's playgroup that evening. She thanked me. So, that evening when I sent out the invitation, I went ahead and made the half-hour time change that she had asked about. Maybe an hour later, I received this text:

"Hi Zora! Just wanted to let you know not to worry about changing the time of the group for us, I signed daughter up for swimming classes that day of the week."   ???

So . . . I was pretty . . . miffed by that exchange. She has just seemed so anxious to get to know people, and especially to establish a network of friends within religious community for her family. I was baffled that she would ask me to change the time for her because she "really wanted to attend" the group, and then hours later go "meh, I'd rather do swim classes at that time."

However, upon contemplation, I think she's just a person with a really unusual social blind spot, in that she seems to have NO IDEA how to make friends with people that are new to her (as opposed to people with whom she has some automatic connection - family, friend of family, etc). She has continued to contact me, so I think she just doesn't have an idea how she's coming across, or of certain social norms in general, if that makes sense. I know she has only lived in her home city, and in a second city where she had a huge family, so I'm sympathetic to the fact that she's alone and trying to make friends on her own for the first time as an adult in her thirties. The real problem, in my opinion, is that she doesn't know what she doesn't know, if that makes sense.  As an aside, she also ended up purchasing a house is SUPER far away from where I live.

So anyway, I'll continue to try and be welcoming to her, but frankly given the distance I think more likely that she'll start getting to know people who live closer to her.