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I want to share how we experienced parties in our community, for example a birthday, a housewarming, or simply a neighborhood party. When you get the invitation, or no later than a day before the party, you ask what you can bring. It’s usually an appetizer (which often is some kind of finger food), or a dessert. Often, your host would say, nothing, and then it’s a good idea to bring a bottle of wine. Flowers – what would be the common thing in Germany – is pretty unusual, at least where we live, and might even make an eyebrow rise. Usually the invitation not only specifies a beginning, but also an end – which we found strange at first, but after hosting many parties ourselves, we learned to enjoy the benefit of that custom. Being German, we tried to be pretty much on time, and….usually were the first ones to show up at the party. It seems strange, but it is almost customary to appear between 15 and 30 minutes after the “official” begin, and we’ve seen it happen many times that people come around an hour into the party. The guest’s dishes are typically placed on a kitchen counter, which is one reason why kitchen islands are so popular in American homes. And then everybody is milling around, joining groups of 2, 3 or 4 people with their small talk. Most Americans are very good at small talking – much better than I am, for instance. Oftentimes, that makes it easier for newcomers because they are being asked where they are from, which is an invitation to talk a bit about themselves. And then, right at the pre-determined end of the party, people leave with their empty or half-empty plates.

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