Please Don’t Show Up At My Dinner Party In Your Pyjamas

The trouble with we Capetonians is that we’re so immensely pleased with ourselves for living in one of the world’s top tourist destinations (try and find a B&B or hotel with a room in December) that some of us seem to think we’re rather above manners and common courtesy. We can be flaky, we have a flat-topped mountain. We can be late – have you seen Clifton 4th? In fact, we’re so fabulous we can not show up at all, and guess what – you’ll invite us again. And if we do deign to honour your invitation, there’s every chance we’re going to show up in tracksuit pants and Uggs because, fuck it, we have the
winelands, and we’re too cool to care.

While I love this city and its inhabitants more than the sky, we are a bit like those upper class Brits who wander down to breakfast with filthy jodhpurs and mud in their hair. Lady Muffy Tittlegob doesn’t need to make an effort because she’s third cousin removed from Prince Charles, and anyway, she inherited Shropshire. Even though no-one in the world knows (or cares) where Camps Bay beach is, that irrelevant detail doesn’t temper our smugness one little bit. And, unfortunately, this sometimes translates to something not unlike arrogance. A few weeks ago I attended a dinner party at the home of a Swedish couple who have made Cape Town their home. Since I know hosting a dinner party in Scandinavia is quite a formal affair, and nothing like here (where if you arrive at the allotted time your host will be at the Spar buying rolls and you might or might not eat six hours later), I knew it was important to be punctual and to scrub up somewhat.

Sure enough, when our hostess made her entrance with salon hair, spiky heels and an LBD, I was immensely relieved to have donned a black pant and used my ghd. Not so much the other guests who clearly weren’t au fait with the ways of northern Europeans, and while our host was the epitome of charm and good manners, I cringed with embarrassment as guest after guest showed up looking like they’d fallen off the couch, grabbed their plakkies and got caught in a wind tunnel before arriving at the front door. And I love me a plakkie and a tracksuit pant when I’m at home or DVD Nouveau, but when somebody has spent an entire day (or more) shopping and cooking, cleaned up, lit candles and made everything beautiful for you, her guest, the least you can freaking do is give yourself a spritz of Burberry and put on a nice shoe.

Worse still – the invitation was for 6:30pm. By 8pm one of the couples still hadn’t shown up nor rung to say they were delayed, so we were shown our places and invited to start. At 8:30pm, while the main course was underway, the doorbell rang and these two graced us with their presence. Not an apology was uttered as the table had to be rearranged to accommodate them (she had changed the seating so that there were no gaps). Sis, guys. That is just not okay. It’s worse than bad-manners – it’s sheer disrespect. And I was mortified by the shocking behavior of my kind.

If my husband, a chiropractor, doesn’t SMS every single patient the day before to remind them of their appointment, they don’t show up. They’ll call three days later, offer a weak excuse or none at all, and reschedule. Or call five minutes before to say it’s actually not going to ‘work’ for them today. These gaps in his working day cost him big time, but he loves his patients and wouldn’t dream of charging them anyway – as he probably should. We’ve had one or two occasions where we’ve both been exhausted and not in the mood but fixed up the house, shopped and cooked for friends and acquaintances only to have them call, one by one, to cancel.

And the worst story of all is of a friend who was newly broken up and depressed over New Year’s Eve, so she decided to cheer herself up and remind herself that she still had people who loved her by hosting a dinner at her new house. She spent a fortune shopping, decked out the table and cooked all day for her ten guests. You know how this is going to end, right? Not one person showed up. Not one. Just. Beyond. Hideous.

So, here’s the thing (and believe me, I’m also guilty of being indecisive and non-commital, but I’m working on it): if you’re invited to something, don’t say ‘maybe’ and then wait to see if a better thing comes up. Say yes, and then if Jay-Z and Beyonce personally invite you to a shindig on their yacht, you will go to the Spur with your gran if you’ve already made that arrangement. Don’t accept someone’s invitation and then leave two hours later for another event. It’s such bad form. And if someone invites you to dinner at their home, for heaven’s sake, arrive on time and change out of your onesie. Put on a lip, bring flowers and show a bit of respect for the person who’s been missioning all day to feed your face. It’s really not asking a lot.


79 thoughts on “Please Don’t Show Up At My Dinner Party In Your Pyjamas

  1. HOT topic and so well written with that fantastic South African flair in your lingo. I laughed and died inside while reading this. BRAVO! I am so thankful for being raised in Johannesburg by my Italian-by-heritage mother. We believe in dressing for the occasion, arriving on time, being committed (first thing is always first) and always bringing something to thank the host- flowers, wine, chocolate, a beautiful card. It simply seems honourable to oneself and to one’s host. I do rather love shloefie Cape way for everyday wear but goodness yes, put on some lip x

  2. …..soooooo true. As an expat, it’s why I struggle to make new friends here. Capetonians are just flaky, I love ’em, but they’re flaky.

  3. I moved from Cape Town to Durban, flaky doesn’t even begin to describe it here. Also, if there is a cloud in the sky (day or night) you have no chance. Organising events here is like trying to herd cats.

  4. Thank you. I am not South African but i have (ex) friends and family who are. I am appalled by the lack of manners they display exactly as outlined here. They are always late (if they turn up at all). It’s not only the tardiness it’s the vibe they give off that they don’t have to ‘try’ socially. Well, I’m sorry but you do. You do have to contribite to the conversation, you do have to show an interest in the other guess. The arrogance for South Africans amazes me and it’s based on nothing!

    The last straw for me was my South African Sister in Law turning up 45minutes late for my daughters birthday party which resulted in myself, my daughter and twelve 5 year old children having to hang around the foyer of a kiddie splash pool waiting while she repeatedly said she was “5 minutes away”. That was the last time I invite her, or any South African for that matter to any form of social function.

    1. Gosh. Your ex family sound nightmarish. However. Substitute the word ”black” or – for example – ”Jewish” – for ”South African and the whole loathing-of-an-entire-population seems… not that cool. I wonder why you would extrapolate this level of dislike? Must have been a hell of a break-up!

  5. I am an ex pat South African – I say with no small amount of guilt and sadness – but hasten to add that I married someone who prefers to live in their home country and not mine! (Gasp! I know…go figure). I am loving this Blog. You just cut to the chase of it all and remind me so much of the peculiar idiosyncratic ideas that make us uniquely South African…one and all.

    1. Don’t feel guilty!! We’re all on different journeys. You’re choosing love. Come back lots of holiday. It’s a big world out there with lots of beautiful places and things to experience. Thanks so much for your kind words xxx

  6. P.P.S I do however, without fail, get complimented for my thoughtfulness as a guest (and here I thought it was my good ol South African upbringing and manners) as I never turn up without flowers, wine and gratitude for someone’s time and trouble.

  7. I was introduced to your blog by a friend and I am thoroughly enjoying reading it ……please don’t stop! I am wondering if this apparent arrogance etc is not a generational thing as we have not experienced any of it …..friends accept at the time of being invited, arrive within a reasonable 10-15 mins armed with chocolates, wine etc …….found this when living in uk, Australia and now back home in Cape Town and there is nothing special about us……maybe just being that much older !

  8. Leila, if you have nothing nice to say to SA’ns, say nothing. I would hate to live in wherever you are, being so perfect and all.

    I just threw a surprise party for my sister and most of the guests were late. How surprised can you be after that. I had to delay her arrival several times. As for the dress code, there was a time when we dressed up for the theatre, now patrons arrive in slip-slops. Why? This sloppiness? Yet, the clothing retailers do well, even if all the rubbish are from China.

    I always have flowers when invited and make a point of being on time. These ‘late’ people should just get over their self-importance. That’s what I say, but how to tell them. Thanks for the topic Susan.

  9. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and
    was curious what all is required to get setup?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% certain.
    Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers

  10. Your blog make me laugh so hard. This. I mean. It’s just too much. I am American and we are not known for our formality, but showing up on time and putting on a decent outfit with some lipstick isn’t too much to ask. It’s not like you have to dust off the ball gown and be in an uncomfortable dress all night. This non-punctual thing, I always thought it was a Latin culture trait. Party invite says starts at 6:00 PM but it’s really 8:00 PM wink wink nod nod and everyone sort of knows.

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