We Try So Hard To Fit In

We were invited to a birthday party on Saturday.

This was a problem.

Actually, several problems. I’ll list them here.

  • What do you wear to a German/Italian birthday party?!
  • What do you bring?!
  • Who will be there that knows enough English to carry on a conversation??
  • When the host invited us, how drunk was he?
  • Do we buy him a small gift? A card? A cupcake? Five Euro in a plain white envelope?

I only have two pairs of shoes with me; rough-looking gray Converse, and a pair of expensive dress shoes for interviews. That means I either have to dress down, or dress up. Can I wear old jeans with nice black shoes and a t-shirt? Nobody knows. I finally settled on my dress shoes, a casual button-down, jeans, and a brown sport jacket. As usual, I tucked in my shirt. I’m trying to ride the line between dress-up and dress-down. It’s a hard line to walk, particularly when we’re living out of suitcases.

On our way, we picked up a 6-pack of Rothaus; if it ended up being weird, we could at least justify our behavior as foreigners that didn’t know better. We put it in a bag because old habits die hard, and we’re not entirely sure what the rules are about carrying beer in public, despite being told repeatedly that drinking on the street is okay. At the next stop, two people boarded the train with 6-packs in their hand. No bag.


We took the bag off discretely. Not so fast as to make it clear that we wanted to be like everyone else; just slow enough to say “Hey, I had a bunch of other stuff in this bag earlier, but now we’ve finished all our errands and can just carry the rest of this stuff. Oh, is this beer the only thing in here now? Okay, let’s just carry it. I’ll put the bag away. Thanks dear.”

The host greeted us at the door in sandals (with socks), jeans, and a t-shirt. The guests were wearing either t-shirts or button-downs, and nobody had their shirt tucked in. The jacket was overkill.


Think quick! As soon as I was handed a beer, I took off my coat as I walked to the coat stand. That sent the message “it’s too hot in here for a jacket, ha ha!”. Then I noticed that nobody was wearing shoes. We causally took off our shoes, as we talked about how great it was to move to Stuttgart, but that New York was really great too and so we’ve been walking around and it’s a really great city and wow, it’s just so great to start a new job YES! Scary to start a new job too! Okay, our shoes are off and my jacket is on the coat rack.

Now it’s time to get this shirt untucked.

Maybe I’ll distract everyone by dropping bruschetta olive toppings all over the floor.

I’m some kind of social butterfly.

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