Four of the most dangerous words in the English language are: ‘Please don’t bring anything’. To a Swede, this means: ‘Please don’t bring anything.’ Not so in the UK. This sentence usually follows an invitation to dinner at a British person’s house. If you enquire whether they mean it, they will insist they do, perhaps followed by a sentence like: ‘Just your lovely self.’

This is not the truth. Once you’ve become aware, you’re stuck with the knowledge that you do in fact have to bring something. Except your host won’t say what. A bottle of wine can be a safe, nice option. Unless, of course, your host doesn’t drink. What about a nice starter or dessert? No, no. People’s diets have never been more complex. Your dish risks sitting untouched and unloved on the table, like a cursed relic from the dark ages.

Flowers. Maybe, unless – like me – you once made the mortal mistake of buying flowers for a man. A man! Flowers!!! A house plant? Not unless you wish to burden your poor host with the task of keeping a succulent alive, when they already have such busy lives.

Back to the last-minute panic bottle of wine, handed over inside a wine bag, along with a suitably British apology about the weather, the traffic, or your general choices in life. Just whatever you do, do NOT write anything on the little card that comes with the wine bag. This must be left blank, so that your host can use your last-minute panic gift, as their last-minute panic gift when they next attend a dinner party and have been told just to bring their lovely selves.

Maria Smedstad bio Scan Magazine

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