German House Party Etiquette
June 26, 2014 6:46 AM   Subscribe

We're Americans visiting Berlin. We have some German relatives who live here who we've met before and prior to this visit, when they knew we were coming, they invited us to a party that was already scheduled for during our visit. It's an annual family gathering held at the grandfather's house. Should we bring a gift? If so, what?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you get some nice liquor at the Duty Free on your way out? Maybe wine, or champagne. I've never found the Duty Free to be all that inexpensive, BUT you can't beat it for convenience.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:48 AM on June 26, 2014

Bringing wine is always a nice thought. Are you there already? Otherwise I would suggest to bring something uniquely American (wine, beer, food, etc). I didn't live in Germany but I lived in Austria for awhile and from what I remember, house parties were similar to how they are in the US.
posted by peach23 at 6:58 AM on June 26, 2014

I should clarify, we're in Germany now, so no duty-free and nothing from the States. The party is also tomorrow and we'll be on the road most of the day to get there but can stop at stores.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 6:59 AM on June 26, 2014

I lived in Germany a long time, and the custom I know is to bring a nice bouquet of flowers or a box of nice chocolates, which are not hard to find. You can give the flowers to your host or hostess when you arrive. You could also send flowers or a gift later with a thank you note.

When I used to turn up at a German party as an American with the Blumenstrauss (bouquet), my German friends were pretty stoked that I knew their customs!

I hope you have a great time!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 7:14 AM on June 26, 2014 [15 favorites]

I second the flowers and wine or chocolate. My mother always tries to make my brother take flowers and some self-made jam or liquor with him when he's invited somewhere (and he always refuses because he finds it embarrassing...)

It also depends on the party a bit. You don't need to bring anything to a student party, but chips and beer are always appreciated. I'm going to a dinner party this weekend and was asked to bring some more softdrinks and an appetizer (after I insisted to help, though.) Some people also bring desert.
For your relatives, I definitely think flowers and something sweet if you're not sure whether they drink alcohol. (Unless they're diabetic, of course, then skip anything edible and bring a nicer bouquet.)

EDIT: I'm German.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 7:54 AM on June 26, 2014

nthing basically just flowers. And if you want to knock their socks off and you're in Berlin at the moment, go here near Friedrichstrasse, and just tell the nice lady how much you want to spend.
posted by runincircles at 8:14 AM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Flowers are basically a requirement. If they come in paper or some other wrapping, remove the wrapping before approaching the door; or you can ask the flower shop to wrap them as a gift. Chocolates and wine are also appreciated (if it's a couple hosting the party, then it's nice to have two gifts, one for each). From what I understand, it is better to bring French wine than German wine (but if you bring beer, it had better be German beer). Chocolates are more of a foreigner custom, but it's not really a faux pas so much as just less common.

And make sure you arrive on time!
posted by melissasaurus at 8:17 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Rash at 9:09 AM on June 26, 2014

For a family gathering, flowers and maybe chocolate are more appropriate than wine or liquor.
posted by snownoid at 9:16 AM on June 26, 2014

Any bouquet you bring should have an odd number of flowers.
posted by Hypatia at 10:47 AM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wine yes, hard stuff: less so, or it should be smallish bottles of fine fruit spirits (like small-batch Kirschbrand, framboise, that kind of thing), or one of the better liqueurs. But most of the times people would have their favorites in their cabinet anyway.

Buy them a bottle of 14€+ wine, or flowers, or a 10--12-piece bag of confiserie chocolate truffles. People sometimes also turn up with looseleaf quality tea. If they have a garden, two small pots of lavender or similar.
posted by Namlit at 11:30 AM on June 26, 2014

...Unless you've got charming 'murices things: Maple syrup or real roasted peanuts (as opposed to those puny little bags of salt with peanut aroma), that kind of stuff...
posted by Namlit at 11:32 AM on June 26, 2014

i meant 'murican but my macbook disagreed
posted by Namlit at 12:28 PM on June 26, 2014

Thanks for the suggestions. We ended up stopping at a local grocery store (no time to go to a florist) and got two bunches of roses. They weren't the most gorgeous flowers I've ever purchased but I took them out of their grocery store packaging and arranged them a little more nicely. The hostess immediately carried them off and i noticed them later on display in the restroom (!).

Seems like it was indeed the thing to do/ I watched numerous other family members arrive with flowers (some in pots) along with what looked like gift baskets. I think we did okay and I'm glad we managed something even remotely appropriate!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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