Last week, a viral Reddit post about household customs sparked a new dinner-table debate: If there is an unexpected guest in your home who is still there at mealtime, but not expecting to stay the night, do you invite them to join you for the meal? The post gained some attention over one poster’s experience indicating that many Swedish households would allow guests to stay in their homes during mealtime, but would not offer to feed them a meal.
That behavior does not appear to extend to most households in the U.S. A new YouGov poll shows that 72% of Americans say they would offer for an unexpected guest to join them for a meal. The invitation is more likely to be extended in the Midwest (79%), the West (74%), and the South (72%) than it is in the Northeast (63%). Northeasterners are more likely than people in other parts of the country to adopt the so-called Swedish approach of allowing guests to stay in their homes while they eat, without offering to feed them.
Generally, older adults are more likely than younger adults to offer a meal. About nine in 10 adults over 65 say they would welcome their guest to the dinner table, compared to 56% of 18-to 29-year-olds. Women (78%) are also more likely than men (66%) to say they would offer food.
YouGov also asked what people’s expectations would be if they were the unexpected guest who was present during another household’s mealtime. People living in the West (64%) are more likely than people in the Northeast (54%), Midwest (52%), and South (52%) are to say they would want to receive an invitation to stay for a meal.
In addition to Northeasterners being the most likely to allow people to stay in their homes without the offer of food, people from the Northeast are also more likely (19%) than are people from any other region (8% to 10%) to want this applied to themselves. People living in the Midwest (27%) and South (24%) were much more likely than people in other regions to respond “not sure” to how they would want to be treated themselves.
— Matthew Smith, Taylor Orth, and Carl Bialik contributed to this article
This poll was conducted on May 31 - June 3, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll