Why do house parties always end up with people crammed into the kitchen?

Went over to a friend’s house on Sunday for beer and grillables.

About halfway through the evening, I noticed that I was alone with the person I was talking to in the spacious living room, but there were eight or ten people packed into the smallish kitchen.

I made a joke: “Hey, let’s gather everybody else up and see how many bodies we can get in there.”

Other person: “Ah, parties always end up in the kitchen.”

And I thought: Okay, yes, but… why?

I suspect there’s some really interesting social dynamic going on there, and a potentially fun thesis paper for some enterprising young anthropologist, but I’m also assuming that nobody’s actually done this research yet; hence, this IMHO thread soliciting wild-ass speculation. :slight_smile:

The person I was talking to theorized that the kitchen represents a dynamic location, in that one can leave if one needs to. If you’re in the living room, you don’t really have someplace else to go; you can get stuck without a solution if you find yourself uncomfortable with the company. If you’re in the kitchen, though, you’re basically there having come from somewhere else to get something, and you can easily leave if you need to.

Not a bad notion, but it feels sort of inadequate to me. Any other ideas?

My theory: a house party usually involves alcohol, and the alcohol is usually located in the kitchen. It’s easy to get drinks and dispose of empties. Also, I personally find that standing is a much easier way to socialize than sitting, and most of the people in a kitchen will be forced to stand. It’s easier to move around to different groups of people than when sitting, like on a couch.

Personally, I find it much easier to be social when people, including myself, are milling around as opposed to sitting in one place.

As somebody who tends to be an instigator of kitchen-migration, I’ve often pondered on this before. Several thoughts:

  • Being crammed in to a smaller space makes conversation more fluid and involves more people. If you’re sat on a sofa in a crowded room, you tend to only be able to easily chat with the person next to you.

  • Everybody being stood up also makes for fluidity, and is also (literally) a leveller - again, the sofa vs. standee problem is alleviated.

  • Drink. Isn’t that one obvious? :wink:

Cold beer. Food. Kitchen.

Do the math.

Actually, this is something a lot of people have noticed and a reason a lot of the newer homes are being built with gigantic kitchens attached to the family room.

If you’re in mixed company, it’s where the spatulas are kept.

Heh, on the Italian/German side of my family we all gather in the kitchen because that’s where the food is! … and on the Norwiegan/French Canadian side of my family we all gather in the kitchen because that’s where all the food is.

Most of the parties I go to are dinner type affairs (some potlucks, some not) and thus the kitchen is always a place of activity. Those cooking need to be there, those not cooking either want to help out or be close by when the next dish appears so they can try it, and everybody else is there… because that’s where everybody else is!

The only parties that I’ve seen manage to keep people out of the kitchen are those that put the bar and the food table as far from the kitchen as possible.

Sig line, anybody?

We can always count on you for a flip answer.

My favorite theory is that it hearkens back to our caveman days: we like to congregate in the part of the cave where the fire is. In a pinch, an oven will do.


The kitchen is the true centre of a home. It’s where people most often congregate. You’ve got food, you’ve got drink, and you almost always have good lighting and lots of places to sit. In most homes the kitchen is the most accessible room in the house. It’s the perfect place to congregate.

The problem with that explanation is that even when the kitchen is too small and inaccessable, this doesn’t stop the effect the OP describes.


Only a few people are in the kitchen initially, but their conversation is better, because it’s quieter in there and there are fewer distractions than in the main party. Others drift in, notice that the level of discourse is more fun than the one they left (e.g., you can gossip about everyone else) and decide to stay. Eventually almost everyone does this.

That and the food/booze part.

I have also noticed that people will gather in areas where they obstruct the flow of traffic like doorways and narrow hallways and staircases, besides our apparent tendancy to create our own fire hazard, I don’t have a good theory.

Hey, yeah! This is so true. Every decent party/get-together/family gathering I’ve ever had ends up with everybody (well, mostly the women, in many cases) cramming into the kitchen. That’s where all the fun is. And the food, booze and ice as well.

In fact, now that I think about it, that’s where all the picture taking happens, as well. Only my New Year’s parties of the past had just as many folks in the living room or den as the kitchen…but that’s because there were lots more people at those. You can only cram so many people around a table.

I can truthfully say I actually like it when it happens, because it just seems cozier and more familiar that way. While we did have some people out on porches or decks, the “lives of the parties” were always in the kitchen.

(sigh) I want to throw a get-together now. My birthday’s coming up, so that sounds like a good excuse to me!

Actually, it can and does. I once had an apartment with a very small kitchen in a corner of the floor plan. It was never a point of congregation. It just wasn’t comfortable.

Well, if you’ve got the TV or radio going elsewhere, the kitchen can be a quieter place to talk. Plus you get first dibs on the hot stuff coming out the oven, or pretend to help the hostess cook while you search for the Scotch.

There’s even a song based on the phenomenon, sung by Jona Lewie.

My parties in The Sims: House Party always wind up in the bathroom. I mean, damn, they can really cram 'em all in there. Inevitably, someone falls asleep in the doorway and then they’re stuck in there all night.

I gravitate towards the kitchen for a couple of reasons mentioned - booze, and the often quieter environment (I’m a verbose mumbler…) - but also I think out of something like shyness. There’s a large number of people in the main party room, so if you aren’t into public speaking, it’s handy; and the booze there in turn allows re-entry to the public-bawling arena.

Food and booze.

We’ve had some success by putting food in other places in the house and the beer in a cooler in the garage. However, then the children arrived and bowls of m&ms and potato chips on coffee tables became bad ideas. But when we took the food out of the kitchen, the people left too - or at least some of them.

Figuring it was a relationship between size of the room and anticipated fun, I went to a party once where we decided if the kitchen was more fun than the rest of the house - all getting into the shower would be really fun.