The fuck off orange. Or, when dinner guests won’t go home.

Last Saturday over lunch a friend who used to run one of Hong Kong’s biggest hotels told us about a tradition he observed in some parts of China whereby, at the end of a formal dinner, wedges of fresh orange are served up to the guests. While a piece of this sweet, juicy fruit is probably a very nice way to cleanse the palette after a heavy meal, here the serving of orange has a different meaning – it’s a message to guests that the evening is over, and that they are to gather their things more or less immediately and get the hell out. Because while it’s been a lovely evening, your host is tired from spending an entire day cooking duck while you lay on the beach, and while she would love the pleasure of your company at some later date, right now she has no desire to see any more of your face.

It’s so entrenched and accepted there that nobody would dare shirk convention and request one last glass of Drambuie. Dinner guests get straight up from the table, put on their coats and, like well-mannered little lemmings, scurry away en masse. Now, as someone who likes to host dinner parties and now and again spends entire days cooking, if not duck, then something equally time-consuming, I think the orange tradition is excellent and that the Chinese are onto something very clever. In our culture we have no way to tell the guy who started out being fun but now is wanting to open yet another bottle of red that we’re tired of the sound of his voice and that he must call for a taxi already.

So – in order not to be rude – more wine gets opened which means that the host has to exit the room every few minutes to slap herself awake, and then wash dishes till 2am while second-wind guest snores away in his bed. And there’s something a bit unfair about that. You’ll always have that one person who doesn’t seem to notice that you’re yawning so widely you could swallow the chandelier, and it kind of puts you off next time you feel like having a shindig. So, let’s make like the Asians and start our own orange tradition. When I bring those wedges out – even if you’re just warming to the topic of Uruguay’s economic crisis – you need to make like a tree. Because, while I love you enough to invite you around, your time here has come to an end.

20 thoughts on “The fuck off orange. Or, when dinner guests won’t go home.

  1. I look forward to receiving an orange wedge from you, Susan, and I might just borrow the idea ;). Of course, it helps that in China they like to eat at 6pm, pronto. You can orange-wedge them, and be in your curlers and fluffy slippers by 9pm.

  2. Love it!! have to say – that I have never had a problem saying “right guys, lovely evening – I am now tired I think it’s time for you to leave… hope you don’t mind!”

  3. then don’t open more wine. or offer coffee. or be like my mate alan and say, “well, it really has been lovely seeing you but I suppose you better all be off now,” followed by laughter and if the instruction doesn’t have immediate effect; “no, really, you better be off.”

  4. love your blog! even showed my husband (who is so not a blog reader!) At the end of an evening he just says “Im going to bed” and leaves me with the guests (although after that they usually get the message!) We will be implementing the fuck off orange. Thanks!

  5. Classic! Thanks Suz – Thoroughly enjoyed! Hhmmm so when Van Hunks serves tequilas with Orange pieces they may be asking peeps to leave? ;-))!
    Jacqs x

  6. I am currently living in China and never heard of this orange offering (perhaps I am such good company??? Err perhaps not haha). The orange is, in China, a symbol for a prayer or wish for good fortune. Perhaps a wish for the evening to come to an abrupt end…but will investigate further with my Chinese colleagues. Love the blog!!! :)

    1. Would love to hear the fruits of your investigation! We were having lunch on Saturday with a friend who used to run the biggest hotel in Hong Kong. He was telling us about it. Had never heard of it either. Thanks so much for the comment! :-)

  7. Well further to my extensive research (asking 2 people…so loads) it’s said that in Shanghai and main-land China, it’s not a tradition. What IS common-place in most restaurants is that fruit is always brought as a dessert no matter what…and could therefore support the notion of saying your time here is now limited…now pay your bill and bugger off!! Oranges are also more prevalent in China over Chinese New Year eaten mostly on the second day of the new year. Anyway…enough about oranges…now have a craving for one (or a naartjie…which I cannot get :( )

  8. Interesting – thanks for enquiring! I’ll ask him next time I see him which region exactly he was referring to. Hope you manage to find your orange :-)

  9. Recently we were offered orange wedges at an Indian restaurant – we were the last diners to leave! Perhaps it is a subtle way of saying time to go!

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