No, I Don’t Want to Go to Your Big, Loud Birthday Dinner at a Restaurant

An introvert hosts a dinner party with friends

As an introvert, I’d rather host friends in my home, where I feel more comfortable and relaxed.

We were celebrating my friend’s birthday. A group of about 10 of us met at an Argentinian restaurant in Washington, D.C. We were seated at a long communal table, and I somehow ended up dead center. 

The restaurant was loud and everyone was talking over each other, ordering food and drinks left and right. I was surrounded by people I didn’t know well. Worse yet, my friend whose birthday we were celebrating was nowhere near me. As time went by, I didn’t enjoy the food, I couldn’t follow the conversation, and I felt stuck in the middle. I got really anxious and was on the verge of tears…

Did I mention I’m an introvert? 

For Introverts, Meals With Friends at Home Are About Comfort Levels 

I hated every minute of that dinner and promised myself I would never put myself in that position again. Instead, I am someone who likes to invite people over to my home for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Plus, I find cooking to be therapeutic

As an introvert, I feel comfortable at home, totally relaxed. It’s a familiar and intimate surrounding, and I get to connect to people on a more meaningful, deeper level (which we introverts love). But not everyone in my friend circle is like that. People love to meet up and try new places. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic helped me to better understand why I was actually never fond of restaurants. Before then, it was something you just did. It was one of those situations where my extroverted friends thrived and I, as an introvert, would try to endure it the best I could. It would take a lot of my energy without getting much back in return.

After taking a long break from going to restaurants, here are four reasons why they overwhelm me and why I prefer home gatherings. If you’re an introvert, maybe you’ll relate.

4 Reasons I Prefer Dinner With Friends at Home as an Introvert

1. Being home is within my comfort zone.

There is a clear reason why introverts seldom go out to meet friends at restaurants: It’s usually out of our comfort zone and it takes a lot out of us if we do agree to go out to eat.

And this especially applies if we’re going to a restaurant we’ve never been to. We’ll question everything, like how big the place is, who usually goes there, and what to expect in general. 

And then the overthinking starts: What should we wear? How do we get there? Where do we park? 

Plus, I also really have to watch how I eat — I don’t feel comfortable smacking my lips, eating with my hands, or licking my fingers (the pandemic has really affected that), all of which I do with gusto when I am at home. 

2. At home, I can have privacy and a more intimate setting.

Restaurants are usually places that people want to see and be seen. Introverts usually prefer quite the opposite. 

There is nothing personal about restaurants. We prefer small groups, deep conversations, and focusing on the person (or people) we’re talking to.

In restaurants, you have to communicate not only with the company you’re with, but others you don’t know. There is the waitstaff, every once in a while interrupting the conversation. They’re just doing their job, but it does break the conversation flow, especially if you’re discussing something serious. 

And you’re limited with time. You’re reminded of it every time a server comes to the table: “Can I get you any drinks?” “Ready to order?” “Ready for dessert?” I prefer the comfort of my home, where I can put all the dishes out at once. People can then choose when (and what) to eat in whatever order they’d like, all while the conversation is flowing uninterrupted.

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3. I get to make all the decisions, everything from the food to the ambience. 

I always study the menu before I go to restaurants. But, oftentimes when I get there, the menu has changed, or I suddenly see all these other dishes and have no idea what to order. Suffice it to say, all the changes start to overwhelm me.

And then there are the portion sizes. I prefer quality over quantity. If I’m not so hungry, I feel like just ordering an appetizer. But then you feel judged by the staff or teased by your friends that you’re on a diet or on a budget. Whether or not it’s true, it’s no one’s business. (Not to mention all the stress and chaos that ensues when everyone wants to split the bill equally even though some people ordered pricier dishes than others.)

When I have people over, however, it’s easier for me to plan what I will serve than to make a decision about what I’ll eat at a restaurant. I know what my guests like and I like making that extra effort to make and serve food that people can enjoy and share. They don’t have to worry about the cost or the portions — everyone can serve themselves as much as they’d like.

4. There’s no need for me to feel anxious (about it being too loud or crowded).

For me, restaurants are sensory overload. With so much going on, it makes it hard to focus. 

It’s usually too loud (with music blasting) and you can’t talk to people without yelling. And if the group is bigger than four people, you’re usually stuck talking to the person next to you. 

It’s crowded, people are too close to you, and not having enough space around can be stressful. 

And then, on top of it all, you’re thinking about how much you’re spending, who is paying, how you will split the bill, and how much to tip. Plus, did you even enjoy what you ordered? There goes your overthinking brain again…

Why Home Is the Perfect Place to Gather With Friends

So, for me, an ideal evening with friends is noshing on a variety of items at home. The last time I visited a friend, she pulled out some dolmas from a can (rice-stuffed grape leaves), hummus she got from the market, some cheese, and freshly cut tomatoes and cucumbers. And it was a perfect evening. We hung out barefoot, laughing and talking.

It doesn’t have to be home-cooked food — everyone can bring something. The emphasis is on minimizing the extra noise and sensations and, instead, focusing on having a casual and relaxed evening with friends. That’s all we introverts want.

While I have nothing against restaurants and occasional take-out, I much prefer the comfort of my (or someone else’s) home. Don’t you agree?

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Lily is an entrepreneur and a creative techie using cooking and baking as therapy. She created Dishmeetup, an online community of folks from all walks of life using cooking to nurture, heal, and feel better. Food is more than what we eat. Intentional cooking, being present in the kitchen, and making a dish for yourself can feel so therapeutic. Learn more at Dishmeetup.com.