In France, when you're invited to someone's home for a meal or even for drinks, it's customary to bring a little something for your host. It's an unspoken rule and doesn't have to be a big deal, a bottle of wine, sweets or flowers. The idea is to avoid showing up with your hands in your pockets. Recently, I hosted a dinner party for ten people and my guests showed up with a beautiful contemporary composition of flowers and wine. I didn't ask for any of this of course, but I was pretty sure they would show up with something. Another thing about dinner parties over here is that they last for hours and my guests didn't leave until well past 1am. The evening started around 7pm with l'apéro (casual drinks and starters, usually in the living room or outside - I love this part), then we moved to the dinner table around 9pm for the main course, dessert, and finish up with coffee (espresso) and a digestif around midnight. By the time people were ready to leave it was almost 2am. I try to keep this in mind when I'm invited to a friends house for dinner. If it's someone I know pretty well, I'll offer to bring the desert and it's always accepted and expected. However, I rarely stay that late, and have use my kids as an excuse to get home by midnight if I can. (; Now when I invite close friends over, things can be a little more relaxed but I always get the question, "What do you want me to bring?" to which I reply, "How about dessert?"
So I was wondering if any of this sounded familiar to you where you're from. Do dinner parties last long or do people leave at a reasonable hour? How are you received as a guest and how do you receive as a host? Do you feel obligated to bring something when invited to dinner or are things more relaxed where you're from.
Just curious. (: