Now I am no etiquette expert, and my book certainly doesn’t attempt it either. However, there are certain things I feel I must tell expat parents about responding to dinner invitations, as the UK/US “rules” are, once again, different.
In the UK, if your kids aren’t mentioned specifically it means they aren’t invited. You can try “clarifying” but it won’t get you anywhere. In addition, phoning up at the last minute to say you have no babysitter, will be greeted with something like, “Oh well, another time then”. British hosts usually won’t move the entire dinner party to 5pm to accommodate you. If your children are invited, the host is the boss, so don’t be surprised if you hear your kids being admonished in the other room for “not asking politely”.
In the US an awful lot of socializing goes on with kids flying about in the background. It is not uncommon to have whole families arrive at 5pm on a Saturday or Sunday, and all home, tucked in bed (including parents) by about 9pm. As a host, if you really don’t want kids around, you must state that in your invitation, (and I leave that up to you). Even then, I guarantee you will have people phoning up at the last minute to ask if they can bring their offspring. You’re trapped in a way because the guests will assume your own kids will be around, so….if you really want a kid-free dinner, farm your kids out to their friends over-night, if not for a week (just kidding)!
Toni was born in the north east of England, attended Bristol University and worked in Central London before meeting her American husband and moving to the States in 1990. She now lives in Chicago with said husband, plus three children ranging from five to 15 years old. In her spare time she writes and blogs, and managed to get her first book published in 2006. "Rules, Britannia; An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom" (St. Martin's Press) is especially written for Americans moving to the UK.