Where once, popping round for pot of tea was the norm, nowadays few of us view it as such. Social etiquette has reversed and now, a surprise visit between friends and family is regarded as being both rude, and an inconvenient nuisance. Have we marred social civility by disregarding this quaint tradition? And what are the new etiquette rules on visiting family and friends?

By Andrew Cook

‘Popping round’ as a child was one thing. Hopping on a bike and heading over to a friend’s house to ask if they’re available to play was both spontaneous and liberating. Dinner was almost always provided, and the favour returned at a later date. Rules were unwritten, yet understood – Don’t stay too late, and don’t damage the furniture.

Yet as adults we now find ourselves viewing people who drop in unannounced as a burden, an annoyance, and in extreme cases (like your our in-laws), a nauseating nuisance. In fact, 80% of people consider unarranged drop-ins to be rude.

So what has changed in the last few decades?

Visiting neighboursFrom the Days of Yore, to Today

Firstly, society has changed a great deal. A marginal number of households still maintain the ‘one breadwinner, one housewife’ paradigm. In the days of yesteryear, while one partner was working every day, the other would be at home, keeping the place idyllic and spotless for unannounced guests. Freshly baked bread and scones would be ready for an emergency, and of course all the chores would be completed by the time the breadwinner came home.

That age of expectation has rightfully been consigned to history thanks to the unceasing march for women’s rights, yet the economy has also had role to play. Once upon a time, an entire family could be supported on one individual’s income, yet now with increasing wage disparity, both individuals are required to work the majority of the time. In addition to household chores, shopping, and other mundane tasks, we have much less free time to socialise than once we had.

In today’s world we also have more work-from-home employees. Whether freelancing in their chosen field, or working remotely from home (an ever-increasing possibility since Covid-19 struck), we can never truly know if someone is occupied or not. Working on the clock, or facing a deadline, people working remotely may seem like they’re at home relaxing, but the reality is most assuredly different. Consider the fact that these work-from-home individuals may be too polite to refuse company, and thereby damage relations with family and friends, people who arrive unannounced can become an onus.

Me Time!

Stress from work, from bills, from being an introvert in an ever more connected society, it’s more apparent than ever that each person requires some ‘me time’. Time to do nothing, to recharge, to play our favourite video game or read a recommended book. Studies show that setting aside some personal time every day is essential to increasing productivity, happiness, gratitude, and empathy. All of these things are essential to face life, work, and guests, both invited and uninvited. As a necessity for every day life, individuals should not sacrifice their ‘me time’ to play host to an interloper, no matter the good intentions behind the visit.

”Dropping in is a pleasant surprise!”

While by itself, the desire to see friends and family may seem like a wonderful gesture, the fact that individuals do not care to announce their intentions shows a distinct lack of empathy. Dropping in without forewarning lends itself to seeming brash, selfish, and uncaring of the needs of others. Our lives are filled with plans and motions, we cannot guarantee someone’s availability or desire to socialise, without asking them first.

Unwelcome visitor”They should be pleased I dropped in!”

No. While personal friendships can vary, and perhaps an unspoken agreement exists -‘Hey, you’re always welcome, drop in any time!’ – a call or text will forever be polite etiquette. They may be in a relationship dispute, going through emotional trauma such as watching a Game of Thrones episode, or worse.

This lack of consideration from people clouds their thought processes. Unannounced guests tend to miss one simple consideration – ‘if my friend is free, and wants to socialise, why didn’t they drop in at my house first?’. While assumptions may be as old as mankind, but best to avoid them.

But family is different?

There is a reason we have doormats with the phrase ‘friends welcome, family by appointment only’. While family may believe they have added privilege endowed to them by blood or marriage, quite the opposite is true. None of us had the choice of our family, they come with the package. Being forced to deal at a drunken, racist Uncle at Christmas is more than enough for the year, therefore the same rules should apply to the whole family – APPOINTMENT ONLY!

Are we diminished by losing this tradition?

Absolutely not. We still talk, we make plans, and we socialise. The only difference between now and decades ago is our ability to communicate. In an era of instant communication, where we can call with a click of a button, there is no excuse for not organising ahead and asking permission. The days of awkward surprises should remain in that bygone era, when communication was far more minimal.

So whether our friends are as social as Marie Antoinette, or as antisocial as the Grinch, calling ahead and seeking permission is the bare minimum we can do.

Unless of course it is my house. all you need is a bottle of wine, then you are more than welcome.

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