So after so many dinner parties, phone calls to hang out and generally being in other people’s company in Scotland and in Japan I’ve come to realise that there are different unspoken purposes for these invites to the inner sanctum of one’s home. Today I want to just collect my thoughts here, whether or not they’re entirely correct, these are just my feelings on some gathers from different people from countries I’ve encountered.

But to do so, I have to look at myself. Notably I don’t often have visitors, at least not in Japan any how. My living space is too humble no matter how I decorate it with flags and postcards and memories, I can’t have more than 3-4 people at any one time without a shortage of air in this box. 

That’s not to say I really ever enjoyed having folks over any how. It’s not that I’m not gregarious – in Scotland I’d have people around all the time, but the problem was it always made me tetchy. I like things to be clean and to have their place and when you have a bunch of people over, no matter how rowdy they are or are not, there was always something about the aftermath that made me high-strung, to the point that  I was even called house-proud once! And I guess I am to an extent. “Clean environment, clean mind,” was a quote I heard somewhere once and struck a chord with.

Any how, after noticing my own invite habits I turned my attention to the motivations of others and why they choose to have strange eyes inspect their home and grubby paws leave a mess of it afterwards.

The Japanese Dinner Party: I’ve been invited to a rare few Japanese homes for dinner and each and every time it involves dinner with the husband and family whilst the wife slaves away ensuring that everything is spick and span and that everyone’s needs are met. I can empathise here because I was often busy doing that when people went to my old flat back in Scotland. It’s a shame though, because every time it’ s the poor lady doing all the work and often they’re the one I’m friends with and want to talk to in the first place.

But why do they do invite foreigners from other countries into their homes? I don’t know their customs, I make faux pas every time I go and I’ve got more facial hair than the extended family members present combined.

I’d wager a guess that it’s cat-like curiousity on their part. I also think that it shows a deepening of friendship. The two family’s I met lead to a closer friendship with the original invitee later on and that’s a really nice aspect of Japanese dinner meets. However, I can’t help but think it wouldn’t be necessary if they weren’t so bloody up tight in the first place!

Captain’s side note: I almost wrote a really inflammatory, bigotted poem comparing Japanese people to cats when I was at the height of my culture shock about 6 months in my stay here and not the nice behaviours of cats you can anthromorphise and relate to. It was pretty vitriolic. Needless to say, it didn’t get a final write up.

The North-American Dinner Party/Couple of Beers/Erstwhile Get-Together: As with Scots, The kind of party here generally depends on the class and demograph of the hosts – be it middle-class dinner partying or game fuelled batchelor meets. The reasons for the get-together are as varied as the people, which is refreshing when you’ve been out here a while or stuck with one clique for too long.

However, by comparison to the Scots meet and greets I’m used to, I can’t help but feel there’s often a sense of status or power displayed by the hosts at most of these meets – well… 66% of the time any how.

In Scotland, I’ve never been demanded to bring specific gifts to a party  – people are generally just happy you came! And I’ve never heard the phrase, “It’s time for you to leave now,” unless we’ve said it in gest. For example I’d often say to folks at my place back in Glasgow,  “Right, everyone – you stink, get out!” which’d be responded with “Yeah, your maw” and maybe 30-60 minutes more of dossing around until everyone did eventually leave.

The time to leave was often obvious to both parties or until it just gets too late.  I don’t get that impression with North-American parties; the host is in control and they’ll talk about whatever topic until it pleases them to end it despite how other guests might be day-dreaming or playing with their fingers. I’ve been in a couple of situations where wife and husband were having heated discussions and the rest of the guests couldn’t get away. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen in Britain but it seems rarer for sure.

Again, it really just depends who the company is.

The Scottish DIY Party: Bring your own drinks and your own food. The host’ll provide some but no enough for all you fat bastards! There’ll be music and the playlist’ll get changed by many different people throughout the night. There’ll be games and movies but mostly there’ll be chat over the top of it all as everyone just does their own thing – maybe asking the host if it’s ok to rifle through their CD collection, computer or play their guitar.

Am I glamourising my own habits and country? Yes, of course.

But I can imagine people coming into a typical Scots party setting of mates and feeling a bit on the outs at the level of how much people just do their own thing. They might be worried about changing the CD player or the helping themselves to food and drink and feel a little rude doing all these things that tend to be the acceptable norm in these get togethers to keep the cold out.

An English Meet and Greet: Never been to one besides a party up in Scotland that was held by my English flatmate. I’d imagine they’re similar.

However, now that I have friends from all over the country after coming to Japan, when I go back I look forward to seeing how they do things and what the subtle differences between London and Newcastle are.


These are just my experiences. What are yours?