Author Topic: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?  (Read 17732 times)

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perpetua

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What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« on: November 13, 2012, 07:09:34 AM »
This is a spin off from the 'When dinner is significantly delayed' thread (am I doing this right?)

On that thread and generally throughout the forum (and I'm leaving out the 'got to get the kids home' issue here) I've noticed that many people seem to socialise on very fixed timescales. For example: if a dinner invitation is issued at 6.30 they expect to arrive at 6.30, eat at 7 at the very latest or they'll start to think the host rude, then go home soon afterwards.

In my circle, as a PP said on the other thread, a dinner invitation means 'come over for the evening'. Dinner is just one part of the evening. It's understood that there will be some general hanging out before and afterwards.

I am always surprised when I hear of people turning up for dinner, eating then leaving soon afterwards. To me, that's rude. That says 'I'm only here for the food'.

So, I've been wondering if this is a cultural thing. I am not in the US - I am in the UK. But I had an American friend who would socialise quite happily over the dinner itself, but call the visit to a halt at the end of coffee. In other words, once dinner was over, so was the evening. He really did come over 'for dinner' - and that's what I'm seeing on the forum from reading these threads.

I'd be interested to know what people think.

Sharnita

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2012, 07:22:11 AM »
IMO, I don't undertasnd getting offended when people take you at your word.  If you mean something else, say somethign else.  It strikes me kind of funny to imagine somebody somewhere saying "Do you know that when I asked them over for dinner they only stayed for the dinner?" I mean, If I invited somebody over to watch the U of M game would it make sense for me to get huffy  that they didn't stay amd watch the Michigan State game too?

OP. it is great that people generally seem to know what you intend when you say "come over for dinner" but that does not make the odd person who thins it actually means dinner rude.

CrochetFanatic

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2012, 07:31:10 AM »
With family, I always took it to mean, "Come over, interact while dinner is being prepared or eat as soon as you get here, socialize over dinner, have coffee and/or dessert, interact some more but don't overstay your welcome."  I'm not a very social person myself, and I like to know (or have a basic idea of) how the event is to play out beforehand.  So, if dinner was several hours later than they said it was, there were very little or no snacks during a long visit (though snacks aren't a requirement), and conversation died before the visit ended, I'd probably be irked if I had to continue to stay.  It's one reason I prefer to drive myself rather than go with the family if I can get away with it, because I can only handle socializing in small doses.  I don't know if it's rude or not to leave a bit early, though.  I'm in the US, and I pretty much take my cues from what everyone else is doing.

secretrebel

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2012, 07:35:09 AM »
I think that was unnecessarily snarky, Sharnita. Idiomatic English is full of expressions that mean both more or less than the exact text of the invitation.

I think the OP may be right that there are cultural differences here. Like the OP, I am in the UK and as she says "come to dinner" does mean 'come and spend the evening with us including the meal of dinner'. That's understood by everyone I know. We'll also sometimes say "come to dinner, 6.30 for 7" which means come at 6.30 and we'll start eating at 7.

I remember Bill Bryson once said that in the UK when someone asks you out for "a drink" it means spending the evening at the pub while in the US it means meeting up, drinking one drink and saying goodbye. Maybe being invited out for diner has similar transatlantic variance?

I do find it strange the people who seem to think that a dinner invite means that they walk into the door, up to the table, the food will be brought out at once and they'll commence eating. To me that seems like treating your friend's house like a fast food restaurant.

In the UK a dinner party (even an informal one) would go something like this.
Guest arrives, is shown into the living room and offered a choice of drinks. Usually tea, juice or alcohol (not soda/pop unless they are a child).
Drinks are brought out by host and some nibble or canapes (nuts, olives, crudites)
People spend half an hour to an hour chatting and enjoying drinks and company.
Host says "shall we go through?" or "shall we move to the table" and company moves to the dining table or dining room and sits down. More drinks are offered, food is brought out and served.
People enjoy the good food, often lingering over courses.
After the end of the meal people continue to sit and talk at dining table or move back to more comfortable seats. More drinks are offered.
Eventually host says "i have an early start tomorrow" or "well it's getting late" and guests take their cue and begin to gather up possessions and say goodbye.
Saying goodbye can take a long time and if guests have travelled any distance the host will wave to them from the front door as they drive away!


Sharnita

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2012, 07:40:20 AM »
You know we have had threads about people who wondered why guests weren't going home in the evening.  Maybe some of these are cases where the hosts mean "dinner" by a dinner invitation and the guests assume it means somethign else.

secretrebel, I wasn't being sanrky.  I meant all of that genuinely.  I don't think this is a good example of idiomatic English, especially if the default is that people who don't know the hidden meaning are rude.

Out of curiosity, can people come over for dinner without it becoming a "dinner party"?

JenJay

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2012, 07:41:16 AM »
For my family it would depend on the circumstances of the invitation. If it says "Come over on Saturday at around 6 for bbq and drinks. Adults only!" then I'm going to plan to show up at 6, eat at 7-7:30ish and hang out for a few hours after. If the invitation was "Come over Wednesday at 6 for pizza. I'll get a movie for the kids and the adults can play cards." I'm going to plan on eating fairly shortly after 6 and hanging out until probably 8, 8:30 at the latest (weeknight+kids = gotta get home for bed).

perpetua

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2012, 07:41:38 AM »


I do find it strange the people who seem to think that a dinner invite means that they walk into the door, up to the table, the food will be brought out at once and they'll commence eating. To me that seems like treating your friend's house like a fast food restaurant.

Yes. This. Exactly this - that's what I was trying to convey, probably poorly, in the other thread.

To me, it's akin to treating your friends' house like a cafe.

perpetua

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2012, 07:43:45 AM »

Out of curiosity, can people come over for dinner without it becoming a "dinner party"?

Yep. It's just as likely to be a plate of spag bol on a tray in front of the telly as a full on sit at the table dinner.  More likely, in fact.


cicero

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2012, 07:47:30 AM »
it depends.

it depends on what the ocassion is - a t-giving dinner is different from a mid-week get together for families with young children. a meal where people just spent X hours in a church or synagogue or people just walked in after a full day of work, is different than a mid morning brunch.

It depends what kind of meal - a casual dinner with kids, a more formal dinner for adults only? a BBQ, for example, *usually* signifies a longer, drawn out, sitting around and eating for hours.

I've never gone to someone's house and just ate dinner and left. but i have had dinner (at my house with guests, or as a guest at someone else's house) where we did sit down to eat pretty immediately, and any "pre dinner socializing" was done *at* the table. so i would say that i expect *some* amount of socializing to be incorporated into the meal, be it before and/or during and/or after the actual food.

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Sharnita

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2012, 07:55:44 AM »
Yes, my experience is that you can and do socialize at the dinner table.  I also know a lot of people who don't drink so something like a cocktail hour isn't really a thing with a lot of my friends, nor do we do "nibbles" most of the time - meals are usually a bit more casual.

guihong

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2012, 07:56:33 AM »
I (in the US) was taught to leave after coffee or soon after you left the dinner table.  That's what "for dinner" meant.  Not sure of UK culture, but I've been to meals in other countries where "for lunch" would mean maybe getting back home at dinnertime.  I think this is just cultural.



Jones

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2012, 07:58:35 AM »
Definitely thinking this is a cultural difference. If someone invites me "for dinner" it generally means "dinner".

If it's "dinner and games," "dinner and a movie," "dinner and see my new Gizmo Box," "Barbeque with alcohol" that means the evening is going on a bit longer.

Talking a half hour or hour after dinner over cleanup (very good friends) is the most expected after "dinner only", in my experience.

Exceptions in my circle can be a holiday dinner (Thanksgiving or Christmas) in which some social butterflies will flit from one place to another, leaving gifts and grabbing pie, or if they're me (not a butterfly at all), picking a house and making a day of it. Depends on the invitation and casualness of all invited affairs.

perpetua

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2012, 08:01:23 AM »
I (in the US) was taught to leave after coffee or soon after you left the dinner table.  That's what "for dinner" meant. 

That's interesting. So in the case of my US friend, who literally did come over 'for dinner', he's thinking he's being polite, while I'm thinking 'wait, you only came for the food?!'

To me - and most of my circle - dinner is really the precursor to the rest of the evening. The main part of the hanging out is done after the meal. So I found it very odd that he would leave just as it was getting into 'full swing', as it were.

Quote
Not sure of UK culture, but I've been to meals in other countries where "for lunch" would mean maybe getting back home at dinnertime.  I think this is just cultural.

Yes, that's true. If I invite someone for Sunday lunch, I budget for them to be there for most of the afternoon, probably heading home around tea-time.

Sharnita

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2012, 08:06:14 AM »
perpetua, I think the idea is that the hosts have been preparing dinner, maybe cleaning, etc.  WHen the guests leave they can do any cleaning they saved for after the guests were gone, change into their comfy stuff and relax.  If it is a work night or school night it is especially important not to burdenthe host family by overstaying your welcome because that can seriously mess up theirschedule and even their sleep.

perpetua

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Re: What does "come over for dinner" mean to you?
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2012, 08:08:43 AM »
perpetua, I think the idea is that the hosts have been preparing dinner, maybe cleaning, etc.  WHen the guests leave they can do any cleaning they saved for after the guests were gone, change into their comfy stuff and relax.  If it is a work night or school night it is especially important not to burdenthe host family by overstaying your welcome because that can seriously mess up theirschedule and even their sleep.

Good point, but I don't think it really counts as 'overstaying your welcome' if your host has already budgeted for you to be there the entire evening.

Also, I'm more talking about casual dinners. Not a big production dinner party where there'd be a huge cleanup and hours of prep beforehand.