House visit etiquette

62 posts in this topic

Posted

My wife and I were recently invited to an German acquaintance's house. They wanted to get to know us better and we were happy because they are nice and we welcome new friends. This is the first time I have been to a completely German household and found it strange that there was a coffee table between the hostess and me with little snacks on it, which she munched on every now and then. The husband, who was sitting opposite, also got up a couple of times and helped himself. Not once during the approximately three hours we were there, did either one offer the snacks to us.

I was wondering if, in a German house, one is expected to serve themselves without invitation or are these people just bad hosts? I don't particularly care - they are very nice and interesting people and we shall definitely meet them again but it is good to know.

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Posted

I think the snacks were meant for all of you, actually!

If in doubt, why not simply point to them and say something along the lines of "oh, they look nice!" - this will either prompt the host/ess to say "please help yourself", or to totally ignore your comment, in which case don´t touch them with a bargepole!

It´s not just a German thing - some people are just more hospitable than others!

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Posted

Just sounds like very poor manners and lack of empathy for visitors, rodisi. Didn´t you even get offered a cup of coffee? This is not German etiquette in my experience!

Actually, we ( my girlfriend and I ) visited a Russian family on business today, were there for an hour and didn´t get offered a coffee or anything, either. But this is not my experience of Russians, either - quite the opposite.

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Posted

post-85138-13574103254696.jpg

Hauptsache, nimm Blumen mit!

At least on the first visit. But don't take red roses to anyone but your sweetheart.

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Posted

Could of been they were so excited or nervous about your visit they forgot to offer them to you by simply saying to you "help yourself to the snacks" or "I hope you like the snacks". Or is it possible they may have thought it was assumed the snacks were for everyone present and they didn't have to offer them?

I wouldn't go as far as calling them "bad host" since they did at least invite you into the privacy of their home and shared their time with you and I would be grateful for that, even if they forgot some of the formalities of having guest.

Without thinking anything negative, I would just cherish the opportunity to connect with them on a friendly visit to their home and the generosity of the invitation they extended to you than on the snacks.

Meeting and interacting with people who want to get to know you better is sometimes hard to find, snacks are so much easier to come by.

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Posted

Well, judging by my German family, in-laws, friends and such, I think a bowl of snacks is almost always plopped on the coffee table when guests come (if it is significantly before or after cake and coffee time). Usually it's chips, bits of chocolate, peanuts, those awful flips, etc. With everyone I know it seems so automatic to do when guests are going to be there that I think it is just assumed that the snacks are there for everyone to have. I don't think anyone usually says anything either when they put them there - often they are even there before arrival. I think the idea is that the snacks are there for the taking if they are out in the open like that. Some hosts are more observant than others - if I had been the host I'd probably have noticed you weren't touching them and at least said something like "help yourself" but maybe they were just so excited to have you guys over they forgot.

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Posted

They were there for three hours! Three hours! Any caring host would say in that time " would you like a drink? ", " please help yourselves ", " would you like to eat something ?"..whatever.

In fact, even the least hospitable person in the world would say that.

Sorry, I don´t buy this, though it is true some people are more observant than others re guests.

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Posted

Frankly I think the hosts were idiots. They knew you were foreigners. Even if its obvious for Germans to dig in because the snacks were there, a tiny amount of thinking could have led them to the conclusion that not only might it be rude in other cultures to take food uninvited, its even rude to ask if you can enjoy the snacks.

And it would be so easy to say, oh these are my grandmother's recipe, I'd love to know what you think of them, if they felt it was stupid to be too obvious about something automatic in your culture.

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Posted

Are you on first name basis?

As far as I have experienced it (and what I do, too): If you are on first name basis it is expected that you help yourself to food that's placed on the table. In a German environment it is not rude not to offer. Germans often just push the plate a little in your direction, without saying anything. It's up to you if you want to eat something or not. If you are on a diet or if you don't like what they offer nobody takes offence if you don't eat or if you take just one. At least if it's just snacks.

It would be rude, though, if you are mere acquaintances and say "Sie" instead of "Du". Guests who are not friends, guests who are called "Herr XY" or "Frau XY" are offered food. Being invited to their home and not explicitly being invited to take the food is actually a sign that they wanted you to feel at home. A formal host-guest-routine would take it back to a stiffer level.

Madaxmurderer: I guess they just didn't realize that the OP didn't feel invited by a plate standing in the middle of the table. Cultural differences.

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Posted

I´m with MadAxe on this. There ARE cultural differences in this world - there really are - and I´ve been to the wierdest places, including Germany! :) ( as has Mad) BUT in every place there has been a gesture with MOST people - whether spoken or pointed out with body language: dig in or would you like? Or " may we ?"...something..

I think the hosts were just not aware of anything..they have something to learn.

Just a thought: whatever your mindset...you go anywhere for 3 hours ( eg shopping )..are you not a bit hungry or thirsty? If you´re shopping or on a train or whatever: you sort it out yourself. If someone invites you to their place: is it up to the guest to know the rules?

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Posted

I bet if rodisi invites the same hosts to his family house and puts out snacks (and don't offer them to his guest) the guest will jump right in or ask if they can partake.

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Posted

Okay, so assuming that one or other of the Rodisis has contact to the other party on a regular basis, well, why not simply bring it up in conversation?

"Er, I think we might have a cultural difference here - we weren´t too sure about the snacks..."

At the end of the day both parties will be laughing!

(goes off to get something to munch on...)

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Posted

Okay, so assuming that one or other of the Rodisis has contact to the other party on a regular basis, well, why not simply bring it up in conversation?

"Er, I think we might have a cultural difference here - we weren´t too sure about the snacks..."

At the end of the day both parties will be laughing!

(goes off to get something to munch on...)

That will probably scare those people away when they're trying to make friends. :lol:

The next invitation I would just bring my own snacks and drinks to share with the host and her husband.

Then once it's determined the friendship is sustainable if you really want to know ask later.

If you ask now, they may think it's pettiness or be too embarrassed to pursue the relationship any further.

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Posted

Since rodisi thinks they are very nice people and wants to meet with them again, explaining the "rules" without assuming they were rude or ignorant on purpose might be all he wants to know. Not everybody has travelled the world and is aware what a lot of things are done differently outside Germany. I'm with robinson. In case of doubt I'd just ask and talk about insecurities. I bet they have some of their own.

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Posted

Maybe you should've grabbed a handful of those snacks and stuck them in your pocket when you left.

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Posted

That will probably scare those people away when they're trying to make friends.

Not in my experience!

Maybe there are also differences between regions of Germany, but here in Bavaria, they like to call a spade a spade, and if there has been something "awkward" it´s good to bring it out into the open and find out why...

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