Call before dropping by, is this a regional thing?
January 15, 2013 9:27 AM   Subscribe

My fiance and I have different opinions about visiting and whether or not we should call first. I'm not saying either of us are right or wrong, but I'm wondering if it's a regional thing.

I'm originally from California, and while for the most part we're pretty casual about things, I would never EVER drop by anyone's house unannounced. Heck, I call to let people know I'm on my way even when they're expecting me. Now, it's been so long since I've lived in California that I can't recall if that's a regional thing or a generational thing. My fiance, who's only two years younger than me blithely goes to his friends' homes without phoning them and they have no problems with this at all. Most of them are of the same age, and all from this area (Albuquerque, NM). But I've lived in all four corners of the US, and in most parts, with few exceptions, people will call first, or maybe that's just the friends I've had. I dunno.

I found this question from 2005, but that was mostly people's personal preferences and didn't really give dynamics like region or age. That's what I'm most interested in. Because I'm curious that way. Both my fiance and I are Caucasian, American born and bred, so I'm pretty sure that culture doesn't play a part in it, unless it's regional...
posted by patheral to Human Relations (74 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Weird. I wouldn't want someone to just drop by. I could be in the middle of something.
posted by discopolo at 9:34 AM on January 15, 2013 [13 favorites]

I'm from the South and people in the Northern Florida area where my grandparents live think nothing of all of just stopping by to visit. I've yet to meet anyone my age or younger who thinks it's a good idea to just pop by unannounced. (Oh wait, I do have a friend here in Quebec who does this every now and again; she's 23.)

So I don't know. It seems to skip around in age brackets in my experience.
posted by Kitteh at 9:34 AM on January 15, 2013

I'd say it really depends on the relationship with the people you're visiting. My son and his friends seems to have no problem with everyone just dropping-in and hanging with no warning. However, they are all in their early 20's, and either single or, if a couple, childless. None of them have definite careers going, or healthy incomes, so their little band tends to be self-entertaining, too.

Generally, though, I think calling-ahead before dropping-in is more the norm. It's certainly the courteous thing to do.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:35 AM on January 15, 2013

No, it's not regional. My mother's family are drop-byers and my father's family are callers. All are white US Americans from New England.

Maybe it's religion? My mother's side is mostly Catholic. They all have big families. People drop in at whenever they feel like it and everybody is fine with it. My father's side is mostly Protestant. They all call first and don't stay as long.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 9:37 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have lived in the East, the Midwest, California, and the PNW.

In all of those regions, people would have been expected to call or announce in some fashion with one exception.
Every group of friends I've ever been a part of has had the 'hangout house', where dropping by unexpectedly was not only accepted, but welcomed.

These houses were almost always lower-class or blue-collar households that were noticeably less formal.
So, maybe the distinction is class-based, not region-based?
posted by madajb at 9:37 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always call before dropping by (and will usually call when I'm on my way/nearby). However, my best friend, does not feel this need. Both of us are in our late 20s. She lives in a lower-income area than I do, so it definitely might be class-related.

(She will call when she's headed my way because she knows that it irritates the fuck out of me when people don't call.)
posted by sperose at 9:38 AM on January 15, 2013

I grew up and live in Texas and just stopping by without warning is pretty common for me and my friends. UNTIL we all started having kids.

But during my early 20's when a bunch of my friends lived within walking distance? We popped in all the time.
posted by Saminal at 9:39 AM on January 15, 2013

In my group of friends, it's more based on jobs and spaces-- friends with more free-lance jobs and bigger spaces are much more open to dropping in. But yeah, I hate it.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:39 AM on January 15, 2013

From NYC. Definitely call ahead.
In college, I would just drop by people's rooms, for sure, but not now that we all have our own places/are working/etc.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:40 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is neither a regional thing nor an age thing. It is a polite thing. One should call before dropping in unless you are actual neighbors who are in and out of each other's houses all the time.

The only other time I think it is appropriate is when you are in college and want to stop by a dorm room or maybe an off grounds apartment.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:41 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

My family is from the Midwest (Indiana) originally, but I grew up in the deep south (Georgia).

My parents (and I) were absolutely horrified when people would just stop by unannounced, but folks did it all the time.

Now I'm back in the Midwest (Chicago) and everyone gives ample warning before coming over. (Though that just may be a factor of apartment living spread out over a city where it's not some simple thing to just drop by.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:42 AM on January 15, 2013

CA here most of the time. I don't generally answer my doorbell, because anyone who knows me would call first before coming over.

I spend my summers in MI and nobody calls first there. They just come over, open your door, and yell "hello!" inside to see if you're home. Creeps me out, but they all do it.
posted by cecic at 9:42 AM on January 15, 2013

Hmm... I am Canadian, and I would never drop by without calling/texting first.
posted by barnoley at 9:43 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should also note that my little brother (who has spent his entire life in the south and is much more southified than the rest of the family) is OK with people just dropping by. He'd prefer a heads up, but it really doesn't seem to faze him.
posted by phunniemee at 9:43 AM on January 15, 2013

In NYC and drop-bys are considered pretty rude in my peer group, unless there's basically no distance. The only time I ever dropped by is when I lived, literally, next door to someone, because there was no imposition of my company (i.e. if they were busy, I walked the five feet back into my apartment.)

If one of my friends showed up at my door, unannounced, I would assume that something is very wrong, because my friends are not generally rude and do not show up unannounced and expect me to entertain them.
posted by griphus at 9:44 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just dropping by is rude because it presumes 1. I'm at home; and 2. I'm not doing anything important.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:45 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

My mother's big Italian family in Connecticut would just drop by to one another's houses. It was no thing.

I like it. I wish more of my friends would do it.
posted by gauche at 9:45 AM on January 15, 2013 [10 favorites]

I live in Atlanta, but I'm from California. It wouldn't enter my head to just 'drop-by' on someone. Sure, I've had people call me from the car on their way over, but I still get enough time to corral the cat-fur tumbleweeds and brush the crumbs off of my chin.

I'm 50. FWIW
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:46 AM on January 15, 2013

It's certainly not a Catholic thing to drop by without calling first, if my Catholic relatives are any indication!

When I was in college and grad school people used to drop by without calling all the time, but since then I'd be surprised if it had happened a dozen times over twenty years.

People sometimes stopped by my office when they were in the neighborhood to say hi or to see if I wanted to grab lunch, but not my house.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:47 AM on January 15, 2013

Oh, and I disagree that it's rude so long as everybody understands that it's also not rude if the "host" has to leave or otherwise can't entertain company.
posted by gauche at 9:47 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived in the South until I was 26. It was common for friends to just drop by all the time, and I had the house where people were constantly coming over at all hours of the day--there would often be five different people there at any one point. But, ever since cell phones have been so ubiquitous, people just stopping by has drastically dropped. I think before it would be that people would be in the neighborhood, couldn't call, so would just drop by. Now people shoot a text first, where before that wouldn't have been an option.

Now that I live in NYC, it's pretty inconceivable. I don't even answer the door unless I'm already expecting someone.
posted by greta simone at 9:47 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think texting and cellphones change the equation significantly. My friends don't even ring my buzzer, they just text "here" when they're downstairs. And that's for previously scheduled gatherings. They also text if they're in the neighborhood and want to stop by or meet me for coffee or something.
posted by valeries at 9:55 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thirtysomething from the South here. I grew up considering it rude to invite yourself over to another person's house, regardless of whether you called first or just dropped by. Exceptions could be made if you're stopping by briefly to drop off/pick up/return something and don't expect to stay.

I've relaxed a little since then, but I still can't imagine dropping by unannounced to hang out unless both parties live on the same block or in the same building. (Also, I assume anyone who rings my bell is a solicitor.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:59 AM on January 15, 2013

I spend my summers in MI and nobody calls first there. They just come over, open your door, and yell "hello!" inside to see if you're home. Creeps me out, but they all do it.
Born and raised in Michigan. We didn't get tons of visitors when I was a kid, but come to think of it a lot of 'em did just drop by. Of course, this was in the pre-cell phone days, so if they "were in the neighborhood" it was easier to come to the house rather than look for a payphone.

Still live in MI and Mr. Adams and I always call before visiting, and often while en route just to give a more definite arrival time. We prefer that visitors do the same when planning to stop by Chez Adams.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2013

I've lived in Texas, the Deep South, and DC. It's fine when you are young and an undergrad, after that, heck no! Call/text.
posted by Neekee at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2013

I live in Eastern Canada. Dropping by without calling ahead is pretty unheard of in my circle. And thank god. We live in the sticks and take the fact that we're isolated and have privacy pretty seriously. Frequent bounts of pantlessness, compromising positions at odd times of day,... yeah. Best to call ahead in the McSockerson household...

I also have a friend who is very open about the fact that when she gets home from work she ditches her clothing. Her husband apparently stays dressed, but she would just rather not. We have be warned to always call ahead unless we wish to see her nekked.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our large Mexican/Salvadorian family living in Indiana always call or text before coming over. Now in Mexico company just came over, no need to call. I feel like its a distance thing. The closer you are the less likely you are to call but if the visitors are traveling a bit of distance then better to call and make sure the trip is worth it.
posted by xicana63 at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2013

I think part of it has to do with the relationships between the people in question. I have people I would love to see if they dropped by, and people where it would seem awfully strange and unwelcome. In my twenties, we had friends with kids the same age as ours and really cherished the communal quality of dropping in at any time.

I think another factor is our relationships now that we have the ability to text or call on the fly. I can't quite explain it, but I have this sense that all this available contact at any moment has made our society LESS social in some regards. Before the internet and ubiquitous cell phones, one used to be able to be fairly certain there would be social isolation after, say, 10pm at night -- but now you can get on Facebook and have long conversations with people into the morning. I would not have called my BFF's house phone at midnight lest I interrupt her family, but today I'll think nothing of texting her. Answering the front door was a given, but now you hear of more and more people who just don't ever do it . . .
posted by MeiraV at 10:03 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I spend my summers in MI and nobody calls first there. They just come over, open your door, and yell "hello!" inside to see if you're home. Creeps me out, but they all do it."

Not true... At least not where I live in Michigan.

I don't think this is regional, I think it is tradition handed down...

Bottom line is, explain what you're comfortable with and expect anyone that respects you to follow your wishes on this. Not an unreasonable expectation in relationships where people actually care about each other.
posted by HuronBob at 10:06 AM on January 15, 2013

More to do with the relationship and living conditions then the region.

I would have no trouble with friends stopping by, but my wife does so it doesn't happen. I am sensitive to those who hate unannounced guests and so, frankly, there are only one or two people I would feel ok with doing this to. (usually someone in a married couple dislikes it so I never would even consider it with married friends)
posted by edgeways at 10:06 AM on January 15, 2013

i don't think this is regional. everywhere i've lived (midwest, east coast) i have known a few people who always call first (even if you know they're headed over soon) and a few who never call and just drop in. in my view it's better to call. you never know what someone might be in the middle of!
posted by zdravo at 10:09 AM on January 15, 2013

I'm a generic Minnesotan Norwegian Lutheran who has lived in the Twin Cities and in a town of 2,000 and a few places in between. I can't imagine anyone stopping by without calling or having a pre-planned visit. Unless...

1. You are under the age of 18 and stopping by to see if your friend of the same age can come out and play

2. You were in the neighborhood and had a flat tire or something and need help

3. You are looking for your lost dog

4. You are stopping by to deliver information (we're having a party/selling Girl Scout cookies/a water main broke next street over did you hear??) that can be accomplished from the front stoop. Doing so in bad weather (requiring the homeowner to invite you in) is poor form.

There are a few people in my life that can stop by whenever, no need to call. My boyfriend has a key to my house. It would be no big thing if my sister stopped by unannounced. I'd raise my eyebrows if friends stopped by without calling, but I'd be happy to see them. And, being a true Minnesotan, I wouldn't say anything to their faces if it put me out to have them stop by unannounced...I'd just seethe about it and only give them a 20-minute Minnesota Farewell instead of the full 30-minute one.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:09 AM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Grew up in KY. My immediate family all gives warning and regular updates on the road (if it's a long drive). My extended family in IN gives last-minute warning "we'll be there in 15 minutes!" We had to train my in-laws from Russia to give any warning at all and when they do it's still very ambiguous as to whether what they're telling us is accurate.
posted by agress at 10:09 AM on January 15, 2013

I think this is more of an age thing and a city vs. suburb thing than a regional thing.

I used to drop by my grandma's all the time. She was, obviously, reared in a time before cell phones (she herself did not have one). So, 50 years ago, if you happened to be in the neighborhood and wanted to see if someone was around - what were you going to do, run around looking for a payphone? No, you ring the bell. Now, people have cell phones, so it's very easy to call first - which is what I would do with friends.

Similarly, my grandma lived in the suburbs. I live in a city. If you live in a house in the suburbs, when someone rings the bell, you can look out the window and see if the person looks sketchy or annoying before opening the door. In an apartment building, if someone rings the buzzer, you can talk to them but you can't look at them - how do you know you're not letting in a robber or an annoying salesperson? I never answer my buzzer unless I'm expecting someone. I figure if they want to drop by, they'll call first.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:09 AM on January 15, 2013

I used to drop by friends' houses unannounced when I was a kid in the suburbs - late teens at the latest. No one really had a full-time job and the assumption was that if they weren't home or couldn't hang out, that was fine, I'd just be on my way.

I grew up and now I live in a city (Boston). As an adult, it's not unthinkable that someone might drop by if they're in the area - and while I'd be happy to see them, it would also be a bit rude. I wouldn't mind but I know others would.

Basically, this is a combination of regional practices, and also your relationship with the other person. If, as adults, you're very close and this is something you've both clearly established as cool, then it's fine. Otherwise it's kind of a crappy thing to do.

It's worth mentioning that a lot of people aren't really equipped to tell someone when they're being rude so it's possible that folks get into this habit, even when it's perceived as rude, because no one tells them to stop. Just a thought.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:13 AM on January 15, 2013

I grew up in the South, now live in NYC. I think when I was a kid, pre-cell phone, there might have been occasions where we dropped by, or were dropped in on. As and adult, I would never drop in... and I HATE for people to stop by unannounced (or even with very short notice).
posted by kimdog at 10:14 AM on January 15, 2013

My friends (none of whom live in walking distance) are expected to call. My neighbors can (and do) drop by whenever they like.
posted by workerant at 10:15 AM on January 15, 2013

I think it's finer-grained than just region, but it definitely causes conflicts! In-laws of a relative of mine not not only thought it was OK to drop by unannounced but LET THEMSELVES IN with their emergency. This caused shock and fury on everyone else's part, but bafflement on their part at the reaction -- they were family, so duh, everyone's house = everyone's house. Ooookay!

Text, email, or call before you come over and wait for a response in my world. Rare exceptions are fine, but in that case you have to be prepared for a brushoff. Sorry.
posted by wintersweet at 10:17 AM on January 15, 2013

(Okay, sure, when I was a small child through junior high, I'd walk over to my friends' houses to see if they could play without calling first, but that's different...right?)
posted by wintersweet at 10:18 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up in rural Alaska in a large Baptist family, now live in the state's big city of Anchorage. In my early 30s. I feel perfectly comfortable dropping in on family and having them drop in on me without a call. My brother's homes I knock as I'm opening the door just to announce my arrival, and it's weird if they knock on mine and expect me to answer. My husband (grew up in Philadelphia) is horrified at all of this and I find it strange that we knock and wait outside his brother's door.

For friends I call ahead and prefer they do the same. We don't have the same level of intimate relationship that I have with my brothers.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2013

Growing up, there were a few houses that were communal. The common elements were a stay-at-home mom, who always cooked for an army. Multiple kids who were close-ish in age, and got along. It wouldn't be uncommon to stop by and just get some motherly advice, and head out before your friend got home from soccer practice.

With that set of friends, we've never gotten out of the habit. It's harder to plan since we've scattered. But if I stop by when they're in the shower, I don't feel uncomfortable letting myself in and checking the fridge. Likewise, when I know they're coming over, I don't feel like I'm expected to play host.

I'm acutely aware that most people don't operate on these terms. But for me, it's a sign of endearment.
posted by politikitty at 10:32 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

for me, and in my group of family and friends, it's a post-cell-phone thing. Before, we would just drop by. Now we text or call first.
I've stopped answering the door if not warned, but that is entirely for very specific reasons, if that makes sense.
posted by mumimor at 10:40 AM on January 15, 2013

The closer I am to someone, the less notice I typically give them (there's a few exceptions, but generally). So a friend I've known for years I'll call five or ten minutes in advance. Someone a bit more distant, hours or even days. But yeah, I typically call. What if they're busy, or out, or their house is too messy for them to want guests, or their cousin who I dislike is over? That said, I wouldn't get mad if they showed up without calling- I think it's kind of nice to have people drop byy out of the blue. But if they show up without calling and I'm in my jammies, I'm not getting dressed for them.
posted by windykites at 10:41 AM on January 15, 2013

I forgot to say: the habit of just dropping in on everyone meant everyone was always prepared for guests. There were always snacks and drinks ready. One never walked around in pajamas and ones apartment/house was always clean. I don't miss that. (European here)
posted by mumimor at 10:44 AM on January 15, 2013

Also, sorry, I'm Canadian from southern ontario. And we definitely did more dropping by when we were younger. I dunno if that's an age thing or a cell phone thing, though. I'm in my midtolate twenties.
posted by windykites at 10:49 AM on January 15, 2013

Originally from Florida, now from California, and I and all of my late 20-something cohort call/text first. I think giving someone at least 30 minutes of warning and waiting for a response is the minimum for courtesy on unexpected visits; we all have lives and might be busy.
posted by tautological at 10:51 AM on January 15, 2013

Yikes, I would never think of dropping by someone's house without warning, and I'd never want someone to do that to me. In fact, I don't typically even call someone without texting first, because to me, a phone call is also intrusive. (Seattle, mid-40s)
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:54 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Even my boyfriend and I, who keep separate residences, never drop by unannounced. I think in two years I've done it once to him, and he's never done it to me. (Native Texans, 30s)
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:06 AM on January 15, 2013

My british family (in the UK) does it constantly (in the UK). I would hate it (in Canada).
posted by blue_beetle at 11:07 AM on January 15, 2013

I think this is more of an age thing and a city vs. suburb thing than a regional thing.

Agreed. Fine when you're kids, or if you live in the country. You might enjoy a book called Raney by Clyde Edgerton, about a newlywed couple in the South. They also have differing opinions; this is one of their areas of disagreement.
posted by Rash at 11:13 AM on January 15, 2013

Canadian, and I've only ever had one friend who made a habit of dropping by my home unannounced, but that was when we were teenagers and had a lot of free time. I don't know if culture played a part (anecdotally, he was from a pretty wealthy uppercrust family). As an adult, I wouldn't try dropping by friends' homes even if I knew my friends wouldn't mind, because it would be a waste of my own time. Everyone is so busy that unless I showed up at 7 in the morning or 10 at night, or some other super rude hour, the chances of actually catching my friends at home would not be worth the effort.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:19 AM on January 15, 2013

I come from a family that will drop by and have friends that would drop by, none of which bothers me in the least. The one difference I can see in the last five years is that people who drive will text, often from their cars that have just pulled up.

I think it is understood among the drop inners that they do not expect to be welcomed necessarily, no hurt feelings, no questions asked. Growing up it was what relatives did on Sunday afternoons, often on the way from the cemetary where they had dropped in on dead people. The condition of graves and floral arrengements was a topic of conversation.

I drop in on family only, and now that it's easy with a text announcement.

Urban, catholic, middle-aged.
posted by readery at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2013

I'm from NYC, and I would never drop by without calling first. The exception was when I was in college, when I would just go over to peoples' dorm rooms all the time.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:37 AM on January 15, 2013

Canada (small city), and would never drop in on anyone without asking (barring exceptional circumstances). My closest friends do it to me occasionally and that's surprisingly ok with me but I'd be hugely annoyed if less-close friends did it (they never do, thankfully).
posted by randomnity at 11:40 AM on January 15, 2013

I don't go to my mom's without calling first. I hate when people come over without calling first. Give me five minutes to pick up the laundry I'm folding in the living room or so I can change out of pajamas. I think I'd rather not see my friends if I have to see them unannounced. My grandmother thought it was horribly rude to even answer the door barefoot and some of that rubbed off. I am also unable to say it's not a good time, go away, so I end up having to hang out with people while trying to sneak away to clean the bathroom and put away the dishes quickly. (I do say, "Oh...well... I have a lot to do, so..." but that doesn't seem to work.) Perhaps if I weren't a slob, I'd be less horrified by surprise visitors. But I am a slob. I've tried saying, at an unrelated time, "OMG Friend A, can you believe Friend B came over without calling and I couldn't get rid of her! I want to kill her!" Friend A will still come over unannounced. As will Friend B. I realize that I have issues. Silent fuming is good for you, right?

New Orleans, Catholic, 40.
posted by artychoke at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2013

New York, New York. You never ever just drop by.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2013

Okay, when I was a kid (as teens, pre cell phones) I'd knock on the door and ask if my friends could "come out" (hang out with me), but I wouldn't invite myself in! That's just rude. I think that's different because I was perfectly prepared for a "no" in that circumstance.

But even before cell phones, I'd call my friends and see if they were available for anything more than hanging out for a while. For example, if I wanted to go to the movies or swimming, go to the arcade... whatever, I'd call first and make plans. Then I'd call before coming over to say I was coming over to pick them up for said plans, just as a heads up so they can get ready. That habit followed up to adulthood. Whenever I made plans with friends and family to do anything, I'd always call to say "I'm on my way! I'll be there in X minutes." I dunno, it just seems the polite thing to do.

When my fiance and I make plans with his friends or family to do things and he just heads on over without calling it makes me cringe to just knock on the door because we didn't call to let them know we're on our way over. I usually make him ring the doorbell because he didn't call. I know that they don't mind, but I do. At least his friends have gotten into the habit of texting me first before stopping by during the day because they've gotten hip to the fact that it tweaks me a little.

Both my fiance and I are Agnostic. I was raised Atheist, and my fiance was raised Baptist (I think...), so I dunno if religion plays a part in it.

Oh, anecdote: About a week after we moved into this house, one of the neighbors knocked on our door about 9:00am on a Saturday with a gift of a bag of peaches in his hand. I wake up early on weekends, but my fiance does not. I answered the door and spoke briefly and politely to him on the doorstep, but wouldn't let him in because my fiance was still asleep, which I told him. I think he thought I was incredibly rude to keep him on the stoop because I haven't seen or heard from him again. Of course he couldn't announce himself because he doesn't know us, but I thought his was a little rude to think he could just come in... That's one of the reasons why I thought this might be a regional thing.
posted by patheral at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2013

I'm not sure if its a regional thing but I am 29 and grew up in New England and never drop by unannounced to my friends places and most of my family's places. Likewise, my friends and family always call ahead. The only exception is my grandparents because they LOVE visitors especially their grand kids. I let them know that I am coming now just to make sure they are home since I live 45 minutes away but I grew up next door to them and always had an open door policy - just open the door and say hi. I'd say it depends on your relationship more than region.
posted by polkadot at 12:02 PM on January 15, 2013

Oh, I forgot to address the class thing. My fiance is from an upper middle class family and I'm from a lower middle class family, so that kinda disproves the class theory. We're both from the suburbs.
posted by patheral at 12:06 PM on January 15, 2013

I think it is understood among the drop inners that they do not expect to be welcomed necessarily, no hurt feelings, no questions asked.

readery's comment makes me think part of the divide (between those who feel fine with dropping in/being dropped in on, and those who like to give and receive notice) is related to Ask vs. Guess culture differences, which may or may not be strongly influenced by where you live or grew up.

If someone calls you ahead of time to say they'd like to visit, but you don't want visitors, it's easier to negotiate this over the phone (and make up a face-saving excuse if necessary) than if they show up at your front door. If someone shows up at the door, you either have to invite them in, or tell them it's not a good time for the visit. This would be excruciating for someone from a Guess culture; regardless of the intent of the dropper-inner, they would resent feeling put in the position of having to reject the dropper-inner or inviting them in even if they don't want to.

Similarly, I think someone from a Guess culture would not feel comfortable dropping in on someone unless they already knew 100% it was OK (e.g. close relatives, very close friends with whom you'd already established this as perfectly welcome behaviour at all times). The Guesser would worry that by dropping in unannounced, they'd be putting the person at home in an awkward position if they weren't up for guests at the moment.

Someone from an Ask culture would not feel in the least offended to be told politely, "Now's not a good time for a visit so I'm not going to invite you in." They might figure that if the person at home didn't want visitors, he/she would just say so and work out a better time for a visit. And if someone from an Ask culture received an unexpected visitor at an inconvenient time, they would just tell the person it wasn't a good time and maybe negotiate a more convenient time for a visit.

(My family and I are Guessers, so I am generalizing from my experiences and speculating about the Ask perspective.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I grew up in the south, lived in the northeast for many years, and would not deliberately stop by someone's home unannounced.

Maybe for a neighbor, it would be OK? Like "heeey, saw your car in the driveway and wanted to invite you to my barbecue next weekend..." type stuff?

I've been known to seek out close neighbors by physically knocking on their door. But probably not for long hangouts, more just to ask a quick question, borrow a tool, etc.

I'm early 30's, if it matters.
posted by Sara C. at 12:13 PM on January 15, 2013

Just thought of something -- earlier this year, I got my dinner party dates switched around and accidentally dropped by unannounced. It felt really awkward, but kind of fun? But the fact that it's something I still remember a year later, and am still not 100% sure it was OK to do, is probably significant.
posted by Sara C. at 12:26 PM on January 15, 2013

When my fiance and I make plans with his friends or family to do things and he just heads on over without calling it makes me cringe to just knock on the door because we didn't call to let them know we're on our way over.

Wait, what? Now this seems weird to me. If you've already made plans, people are expecting you. Why call? Especially if it's not just a one on one hangout -- I mean, presumably if they're having a party they're getting ready for the party and maybe don't have time to reassure each guest that the party is still on and it's OK to come over now.
posted by Sara C. at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just as you said earlier Sara C. If you'd called to say you were on your way over, your hosts could have told you you'd gotten the dates mixed up. Plus, I can ask if my hosts need me to pick up anything while I'm on my way. Or, they may have forgotten we'd made plans and may have made other plans. Or, they may have lost track of time and aren't ready yet. It just lets them know we're on the way - a heads up. I dunno, it's just the way my family and I have always been. It seems polite is all.
posted by patheral at 1:00 PM on January 15, 2013

...your hosts could have told you you'd gotten the dates mixed up. Plus, I can ask if my hosts need me to pick up anything while I'm on my way. Or, they may have forgotten we'd made plans and may have made other plans. Or, they may have lost track of time and aren't ready yet.

If they've been doing this their entire lives (as your fiance's behavior suggests) you can go ahead and assume they've got this "having visitors arrive" thing down. You can expect reasonable adults to give you a heads up if there's any issues and if something falls through the cracks like in Sara C.'s situation, you can deal with it then and there. Worrying about these things you mention gets you exactly one thing, and that is a brain full of worries.
posted by griphus at 1:14 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

My family is full of drop-in types and part of the reason I live 8 hours away is because it's impossible to drop-in on me. I'm very much a call or text first person. Even when I lived in the same apartment complex with friends, I'd text an invite or text to see if they wanted to hang out.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:25 PM on January 15, 2013

To be absolutely clear, as a person who feels comfortable dropping in and being dropped in on, there's never an expectation of hosting. Or really of being there.

If my friend stopped by, and I was folding laundry, I wouldn't stop. I might even throw the non-undies their way. Likewise, I wouldn't put on real pants, or worry about the other Emily Post guidelines that apply to guests. You're family, and witnessing the disaster my apartment can be behind closed doors is part of that.

If we want to do a specific *thing*, we'd make plans. But sometimes you just don't want to go home to an empty apartment. Or you're in the neighborhood and it's silly not to stop by. Thinking closely, we're kinda a ragtag group of introverts with depressive tendencies, so that low stakes open door policy always kept us in check, reinforcing that drop-in behavior.

I think that cell phones have changed part of the equation. But I think focus on security and privacy also determines that. Growing up, doors were always open and unlocked. And people didn't feel a strong need to be private. Manners is about Showing Respect, not Appearing Perfect. So if you aren't a private person, Cleaning the House is more about showing your guests you want them to be comfortable. For a private person, it's also about their desire to maintain the image that they're always tidy folks. If a person shows up unannounced, you're relieved of your duty to make them comfortable. But if you don't want them shadowing your private life, you would still want the house clean and be available to entertain them.

I think gender plays a part here too. Women have been socialized to a greater degree that the home reflects on them. This means we're more likely to be embarrassed about certain things, and be aware that a potential host would be embarrassed in a similar situation.
posted by politikitty at 1:25 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

If my friend stopped by, and I was folding laundry, I wouldn't stop. I might even throw the non-undies their way. Likewise, I wouldn't put on real pants, or worry about the other Emily Post guidelines that apply to guests. You're family, and witnessing the disaster my apartment can be behind closed doors is part of that.

Yeah, this is kind of the deal with dropping in: the host doesn't have to stop what they are doing. I'd happily make a cup of tea for a drop-in guest, but I wouldn't stop doing chores or whatever I had going on. I wouldn't feel like I had to entertain them.

It's interestingly different than visiting for a prearranged time or event, and I think it takes a particular person-to-person relationship for it to work. I guess I just sort of wish that the folks whom I wouldn't mind dropping by whenever felt more comfortable dropping by whenever.
posted by gauche at 1:31 PM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wonder how much of this is generational. When my daughter moved back in briefly as an adult, some of our biggest conflicts involved company. She and her friends used to happily drop in any time of day or night with no warning, while I make advance plans and think it's polite to text people updates on my ETA.

I think I like the idea of having a drop-in household, but the reality of it stresses me out.
posted by Space Kitty at 3:40 PM on January 15, 2013

I personally think its mostly family custom/habit. I've lived all around the country and have friends who are fans of the pop in and friends who hate it (I'm definitely the latter) in every location. In support of this, I'll cite a classic bit of Seinfeld. Some of Jerry's friends love the pop in and some hate it, despite all coming from similar urban NYC backgrounds.
posted by MsMolly at 5:42 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My big Italian family just showed up all the time when I was growing up (Connecticut, 70s - 80s). The drop-inners would sometimes bring food to share, but also accepted that the people they were dropping in on might not be home. As a child I found this very exciting, because it was going to be a boring evening of watching Happy Days with my parents but now we have Company.

I don't remember this going on with my school friends, many of whom were also Italian-American but most of whom were more generations along in the US & generally more assimilated.

Interestingly, my big Italian family remaining in Italy seems to have a generational split on this - the older folks still just show up but the younger ones will make plans with one another beforehand.
My fiance is from an upper middle class family and I'm from a lower middle class family, so that kinda disproves the class theory.
Actually, I can still see this as a class issue, in that sometimes people who are lower/working class feel like they have to be more scrupulous about things in order not to feel they're being looked down upon. For example, my working-class dad was very concerned that his children speak impeccable English because he had been teased as a child for using Italian in school.
posted by camyram at 7:46 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mid 20's, currently in Philly, living in a neighborhood thick with other mid 20-somethings, within a mile radius of several friends. Even in this set-up, I never just stop by people's houses without asking. Odds are decent they'd be out somewhere, and even if they weren't who knows what I'd be interrupting.

Now, it has happened a few times on warmer days here that I'll be passing by a friends house while running errands or coming home from school, run into friends sitting on their porch, and been invited up to join them and have a beer or something from there. This culture of lots of people hanging out on porches is one of the great joys of my neighborhood. One of the things that makes these impromptu hangouts awesome, though, is that they're rare and unpredictable. Walking down the same street repeatedly hoping to catch friends outside would be weird in my book; running into them unexpectedly when I'm there for other reasons is a pleasant surprise.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:08 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty blasé about my housekeeping and with my failing health most of my friends know my house won't be completely clean. But I'd at least like company to give me five minutes to put any dirty dishes in the sink and put some pants on.

I suppose my need to call before I go anywhere over stems from my need to have people call me before they come over. My fiance says that it's just always been open door between his friends and family. I've also noticed that they don't tell each other when they're leaving during a large get together. They just leave! I've always let the host or hostess know I'm leaving, just so they know they're short a guest (or three, depending). Again, I'm not saying who's right and who's wrong, but it's just different. I guess it must be connected.
posted by patheral at 8:47 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in the Southwest and have friends of both types. My parents' neighborhood, however (rural- suburb) is almost entirely drop-in-ers. Now that most of us kids are grown and live further apart, we generally have to call for plans, simply due to logistics; but if we do happen to be in the old neighborhood, we are all completely comfortable popping by a couple of our friends' houses to see if anyone is around. This happens especially around times like holidays or somebody's wedding when people we haven't seen in a while are more likely to be visiting. So on Thanksgiving, I may go down to my parents' house to hang out with my brothers, and then when the tension starts to build with my parents I will head down the street to my best friend's family home, and hang out a bit with her mom and sister, but I never bother to call first. I wouldn't do this to most people though.
posted by celtalitha at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2013

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