On not knowing how to party

On Friday I went to the summer party at the company some of my customers work for. It was quite a big do, and was supposed to be official for the first few hours and turn into a more casual party as the evening wore on. Even the invites said “open-ended”.

I was a little bit late (only 2 hours…) because I had a last minute project to finish so it could go in the kiln and be picked up on Monday, but I figured that 2 hours isn’t really late for an open-ended party that starts mid-afternoon.

When I got there, the hall was half full of people milling about, chattering and drinking. The bar was doing a great job of distributing apple juice and sparkling water. The barbecue was as good as over and the buffet table was ravaged.

At one end of the 8 square metres of plate-covered table lay half a baguette and a couple of tortilla chips. The rest of the buffet wasn’t, though you could tell it had been once. As I said, it was ravaged.

This is probably the point where I should have gone to find someone to thank for the invitation and made small talk. Instead, I cut off a chunk of baguette while there was still baguette to cut before I looked round the hall.

From an estimated 100+ guests, I knew precisely one person, by sight and from a few very brief conversations, and he didn’t really count because he’s so far up the food chain I could hardly march over and demand he introduce me to everyone else. Also he loked like he was already deeply involved in a discussion.

I looked round the stranger-filled room a second time, turned round and left, still eating my chunk of baguette.


It seems I don’t know how to party. (Especially when I don’t know anyone.)

That’s more embarrassing than I expected.

As much as I want to, I don’t know how it’s supposed to work. Do you go up to random strangers and start talking, or stand on the edge of a group and listen to what they’re saying, which might not be for public consumption..? Or just sit in a corner and wait until someone asks who you are and whether you’re supposed to be there in the first place..?

If there’d been a queue for the food (or indeed if there had even been food at all) I could’ve made some comment on something or other to whoever was standing next to me. If there had been a presentation or a speech I could maybe have referred to that, or caught someone’s eye when something was unintentionally funny.

As it was, I really have no idea how it works.


0 thoughts on “On not knowing how to party

  1. Maybe your only problem was that 2 hour thing because there would have been a food queue wouldn’t there, earlier on if the food was all consumed, and a speech to comment on? In saying that I should say that I don’t party so am not much use to you, but at any gathering if I don’t know anyone, I usually introduce myself to someone and ask about them i,e family, work, interests etc. There is often someone not engaged in talking with others if you look around, maybe even feeling like you do. Good luck next time! And try not to be late!

    1. Mmm… I think that would certainly have helped 🙂 although being late isn’t my only problem! I’m pretty awful at social gatherings at the best of times.. being on time would have helped, but probably only marginally… I run out of things to say very quickly

      1. Good luck there! I’m a bit of a”hermit” myself so can empathise but sometimes force myself to connect to people socially. I go to church each Sunday so that gives me an opportunity to practice talking to people but I am truly happiest when I am at home.

  2. I think you did your due diligence toward your customers by accepting the invitation and putting in an appearance. Was there something else you wanted to accomplish by attending? Did you WANT to meet new people? If so, then you would need some advice on making small talk. If not, leaving seems like it was the best use of your time.

    1. I’ve just had to approve this comment, which would usually be the signal to welcome you as a new commenter….and you are very welcome, I’m just amazed at the idea that you’ve never commented before – I would have sworn you had.
      I appreciate your completely different take on what happened 🙂 I love alternative viewpoints! I think you’re right, in this instance – I wasn’t particularly interested in being there. My aim, insofar as I had one, was to get to know my customers a little bit better and maybe figure out ways to make them happier with my/our service. I didn’t see them there, and I have no idea if the other guests need glassware. I didn’t want to do the salesman thing tho – it was supposed to be a party.
      On the other hand, it made me think about several other times I have failed to party. I think advice on small talking would be helpful, even though I don’t see much point in it, except as a stepping stone for ‘real’ conversations. I worried about being totally incapable of social contact for a while after heading home. Since then I have had enough opportunity to talk to people (people I know) to remember that I CAN talk if I’m interested.
      Meeting new people is one of those things on my list of ‘maybe-oneday-when-I’m-brave-and-have-lots-of-time’ projects…

  3. Problem #1: Never go to a customer’s party. Always go to a vendors party. Vendors will pay attention to you and treat you nicely.
    Problem #2: Never go to any business party expecting it to be a party. They are almost always “business events”.
    Problem #3: On the rare occasion where a business party turns into a major blowout, make sure that you don’t let loose until all the “high up types” have left the party.
    Problem #4: Due to the difficulty of finding a venue around Christmas time (which is the most likely time for a business event to turn into a real party), Christmas parties are often held during the week. Make sure before cutting loose that you can call in the next day.
    Suggestion #1: If you really want to party, crash a big company’s party where you have friends, then find the natural partiers in the crowd and join them. In high tech, this will usually be the operations folks. Man, those guys can drink. In manufacturing, it’ll be the factory floor staff. In academia, its usually the philosophers.
    Suggestion #2: Dress down. If you’re a girl, you’ll be rewarded with more drinks. If your a guy, you’ll at least be recognized by the partiers as one of them.
    Have fun, and use this wisdom responsibly 🙂

    1. Wow! That’s a lot of info – I’ll have to come back to reread this before future parties!
      Thank you 🙂

      Also, you’re new – welcome to my world 🙂

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