Hey Stranger! Come for dinner?

Would you pay to eat a meal in a foreign stranger's home?

by: Sam Wilson-Späth | 20 Oct 2017
 

I was at a birthday party recently where a friend, who has lived in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, neatly summed up the different meanings of a dinner invite in each city.

‘In Johannesburg, when you invite someone for dinner, it means you actually want them to come to your house for dinner on a certain day,’ he explained. ‘In Cape Town “You must come to dinner!” means “You seem like a really nice person. If one day, we get it together, we should see each other again.”’

I am from Cape Town, so I completely understand the distinction between these two dinner invites. It also means that I am a little thrown when strangers invite me for dinner and ACTUALLY mean ‘come to dinner’.

So imagine my apprehension when, on a press visit to Copenhagen recently, the itinerary said that we were going to have ‘Dinner with Danes.’

‘That’s to be expected,’ I said, nodding. ‘Pretty much everyone here is Danish. Are we meeting at a hip new restaurant?’

‘No no, our chaperone explained. ‘We’re going to eat with Danish people in their own home.’

If any nation was going to come up with an idea like this, it was the Danish – the same people who invented the term hygge: a word so convivial, comfortable and cosy that there isn’t really an English equivalent. And while the rest of the anxious and over-worked world is jumping on the hygge wagon, (‘Yes! We need more homely, toasty comfort!’)… the remarkably happy Danes have the idea waxed.

In fact, Anett Wæber created the concept of Meet the Danes in 2001: where hosts sign up on the website, and guests then pick a host, make arrangements and then typically have a 3 course dinner (wine and beer included) at their house. The guest pays beforehand… around R900 per adult, reasonable for Europeans, but pretty steep for South Africans!

It’s like Airbnb for dinner. (Is this where the Airbnb guys got their idea?)

I was apprehensive, because the whole idea felt very.. intimate. I mean, buy a girl a drink at a bar first.

Our host for the evening turned out to be Anett herself, and her husband Thomas Kofod-Jensen… at their summer house in the small seaside town of Tisvilde. They made roast chicken, roast potatoes, a wonderful melon salad, a secret salad dressing (I am so getting that recipe) – and I had the most fantastic time.

My experience of Danish people during the week I spent in Copenhagen was that they are a straight-talking, optimistic bunch of people on the whole, fond of a joke and even more so, of a real connection.

Anett and Thomas personlified these traits. Interested and interesting, warm and thoughtful… these two are Human Hygge all wrapped up with good wine and a fireplace.

You must come to dinner if you are ever in Cape Town!’ I said to Anett. 

‘I will definitely do that’, she replied, looking me in the eye with a smile. (I had shared with her the working definition of a Cape Town invite.)

And you know what? I think she really will.

For South African ‘Eat with Us’ experiences, check out Nikki Werner and Brandon de Kock’s airbnb Cape Town options: The Ultimate Braai and Super Tasters.


Sam was hosted in Denmark by http://www.visitcopenhagen.com

 

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