'Dinner is Served.' 'Dinner is Served.' 'Dinner is Served'
OK I will admit. This Swedish rule took me ages to figure out. Mostly because I always managed to chicken out and get really nevous anytime I was put in this social situation. It wasn't until a friend explained to me that this seemed to be a new, evolving Swedish thing that I caught on.
You are at a dinner/lunch party. You are socializing over a drink while the hostess/host is getting the food set out on a buffet table. The guests are mingling and making small talk.
The hostess/host walks into the area where everyone is socialisng and announces “Dinner is served.”
All the guests pretend this never happened and pick up their small talk where they left off.
After many nervous glances the host/hostess will clear their throat and announce again 'Dinner is served.' After this announcement, several guests might glance and smile politely at the hostess before returning to their small talk. This might calm the host/hostess' nerves, since they now see that their guests have heard their announcement. But then, no one moves towards the food. Everyone stays put.
According to my Swedish source, several years ago, it used to be on the second announcement of 'Dinner is served' that people began to migrate. But now, to do so, will make you first and last in the buffet line.
Because it is only when the host/hostess comes out the third time and announces 'Dinner is served' that he/she gets a true reaction from the guests. 'Ooooh, I am hungry' 'That buffet table looks wonderful' a line begins to form. And people begin to load their plates.
I will admit that in my first years in Sweden I was often the first person at the buffet table because I took the first announcement to mean 'Dinner is served.' And also because the hostess/host usually begins to look very nervous and unsure. They try to make eye contact with the various guests – and nothing. At this point I would slowly walk towards buffet table and wait for others to follow. That did not happen. Even the kids at the party, who I would normally try to shoo in front of me, did not come near the buffet table.
When I host, neither me nor the Swede have any tolerance for this shenaningans. If no one goes to the buffet table, we will serve ourselves, sit down and wait for our guests to wrap up their small talk. Not great hosting, but hey 'Dinner is served.'
It is polite to wait for the third invite before eating at a party