Is the way you say goodbye genetic?

We have this thing called The Minnesota Goodbye — if you lived here, you’d know what I’m talking about. You’re at a potluck where you brought your hot dish or jello salad, and you want to go home, but first you have to find the host and compliment them and have a conversation about the weather and comment on their wallpaper and maybe promise to have lunch sometime which means you’ve got to compare each others’ calendars, and there’s a line of people trying to do the same. It’s agony. My wife, descended from Minnesotans, has this trait. It’s a moral obligation. You cannot leave without chit-chatting first.

Meanwhile, I must have some Irish in me, probably from my father’s side of the family, which means I favor The Irish Exit, so I feel a moral obligation to get out of everyone’s way and stop intruding on my host. If I could, I’d like to snap my fingers and instantly make a twinkling vanishment to reappear at home — not because I dislike the party or the people at it, but just because we’ve all got better things to do than linger.

Now I want to know how native Swedes and Norwegians handle this problem.


  1. cartomancer says

    I avoid the whole sordid affair by never getting invited to parties in the first place!

  2. says

    It boils down to this: People really don’t care if you leave. You aren’t Prince William making a grand exit out of cotillion. You are nobody. Nothing, in the cosmic sense. In the grand scheme of world politics and astrophysics and Golden Girl reruns you are strikingly insignificant. When you leave, the party will continue. The sun will rise and the Uber drivers will be parked outside tomorrow night and the same frat bros will puke on the sidewalk in front of them.

    I feel like this all the time. If I can’t push away this sort of feeling, I can’t accept invitations.

  3. johnlee says

    This is definitely a cultural thing. I’m from England, but I live in Spain (Catalonia to be precise, where all the action is happening), and I get exasperated by what happens here. You say you’re leaving, get your stuff and get ready to go, say goodbye, and then you stop, and continue chatting for the next half an hour.
    Drives me crazy.

  4. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    Yeah, my wife’s from Spain. Sometimes I joke with her that we should start saying goodbye as soon as we arrive if we don’t want to stay more than two hours.

  5. says

    When I was younger, my mom would announce that we were leaving, and then we’d pack up all our board games and sit around for over an hour while she spent more time talking. She grew up in the Philippines, could that be related?

  6. Ketil Tveiten says

    Norwegian here, living in Sweden: pretty much inbetween those extremes. A very little bit chit-chat is expected, the sort of this-was-nice-let’s-do-it-again-sometime-soon-good-night-bye, nothing more, but “gotta go cya bye” will be considered a bit abrupt and strange.

  7. blf says

    Heh. I never knew what I very much tend to do — even before I lived in Ireland for some yonks — had a name.

  8. shadow says

    Spouse is from Japan (Tokyo, to be precise) and I never get it. Over there, if you’re on time for the train, you’re late. Here, spouse (who can’t drive a stick-shift (arguably, can’t drive an automatic either) will wait long enough we have to hurry to get to whatever meeting we’re going to (baseball game/movie/dinner — doesn’t matter).

    We have a friend recovering from a stroke who only speaks Japanese that we brought some food over to. We had an appointment scheduled (didn’t make it) a couple hours later so I’d made sure to remind spouse to keep the visit short. 2+ hours later, spouse came back to the car after “visiting”. Me, I would have handed the food over, made any comments needed about preparation. Said goodbye, and left. 10 to 15 minutes tops.

  9. dobby says

    In Ohio everyone would crowd around the car that was about to leave, and talk for at least 15 minutes. And since we were just saying goodby nobody put on a winter coat or hat. Brrr.

    Me, I get out of there as fast as I can.

  10. michaelvieths says

    Native Minnesotan here. To me, it always seems to be that you have to say ‘Well, I’d better let you go…’ or something similar 3 times before you can actually go. It’s happened almost every time I’ve had a phone conversation with my mom or grandma.

  11. The Mellow Monkey says

    The Irish Exit

    People really don’t care if you leave.

    Pshh! Easy for them to say. Allow me to introduce you to the Jewish Goodbye.

    Step One: The Jewish Goodbye begins quietly with one Jew moving towards another with an expression of regret, followed by whispers in hushed tones: “I’m so sorry, but we must get going”.
    Step Two: This, the presentation of the Jewish Goodbye, is received with equal expressions of sadness and the common reply of, “What? No, we haven’t had dessert yet.”
    Step Three: The third step of the ritualistic dance involves a combination of hugs, kisses, and strangely enough the beginning of the next phase.
    Step Four: Here, the presenter and the recipient begin a conversation about something “important” that requires no less than 7-12 minutes to discuss. At this point our [Non-Jewish Observer] shifts uncomfortably while putting on his jacket.
    Step Five: In some instances, this step will introduce a third or fourth party to what has now become a full-blown conversation. At this point, the patient NJO resigns himself to the obvious, removes his jacket, pours another drink, and heads back to the sofa.
    Step Six: The Jewish Goodbye conversation continues while moving towards dessert, because one little piece of cake can’t ruin a whole week of dieting, right?
    Step Seven: After what may be 40-50 minutes past the original proffering of a goodbye, the Jew now feels guilty about consuming additional calories, all of which have instantly resulted in bloating. This generates the final conversation about stomach ailments and other recently diagnosed conditions which may or may not be contagious, operable, terminal, transient, and include an extensive list of symptoms which can be recited like a Dennis Lee poem.
    Step Eight: At this point, the Jew has found her purse, which was not where she left it. She puts on her jacket and begins the frantic search for the NJO.
    Step Nine: Upon finding him, she looks at him and sternly says, “Oh, finally, I found you. Come on, we need to leave now!”
    Step Ten: The ever-so patient NJO sighs with total resignation. He says very briefly to anyone in the room “bye” and heads straight out the door.

  12. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I hear you PZ. It would take the Redhead forever to say good-bye, even when leaving early. My parting words were always much shorter than her’s…

  13. Thomas Scott says

    “Now I want to know how native Swedes and Norwegians handle this problem.”

    Usually, with an “Afspek”, or after party.

  14. TheGyre says

    Academic parties. Ugh! My wife’s the academic, I’m a tag along. I literally would rather do almost anything else. Rake the leaves? Happy to! Go into the crawlspace and tape up separating duct work? Sounds like fun! Take the half feral, adopted rescue cat to the vet? Where are the fireplace gloves? Visit my Trumpist extended family over x-mas? Yeehaw! But attend an academic party? I go into anaphylactic shock at the mere thought — my heart races, blood pressure drops, I get light-headed and nearly faint. I don’t want to put all academics in the same basket (I’m sure PZ is a rollicking dude and total fun to be around), but, speaking only of the lot at my wife’s college, I can’t imagine a more insufferable, arrogant, petty, smug, back-stabbing, thin-skinned, opinionated, and sadistic class of people. I don’t even bother with good-byes. As soon as my wife says the magic words “maybe it’s time to go” I’m out the door and waiting by the car.

  15. DonDueed says

    I’m sure the evolutionary psychologists would have a perfectly reasonable explanation for these differences.

  16. robro says

    Sounds like an aspect of Southern Hospitality. I’m lucky myself. My friends tell me when it’s time for me to leave. I even started a song with the hook “You better leave. You have to go.”

  17. blf says

    Mellow Monkey@13, Ha! With some insignificant alterations, that so describes what happened — or at least what I now recall happened (the drink was strong and I wasn’t driving…) — when I was the “NJO” at an event in Brooklyn some yonks ago. Nice event, and I appreciated being invited along, but boy oh boy was the leaving a drawn-out process.

  18. Holms says

    Pretty sure this is not even remotely particular to Minnesota… my very Australian mum, and virtually all of the parents of my friends, have the same curse.

  19. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I don’t know if it’s genetic, but this seems like another manifestation of a phenomenon with which I maintain a horrified fascination, that there are entire groups of otherwise entirely functional people who haven’t to this day discovered that wasting other people’s time is immoral, or even that it’s rude. o.o

  20. Doubting Thomas says

    Around here it’s called “Ghosting”. You wait till no one is looking and you simply vanish.

  21. Pilum says

    Norwegian here.

    Seek out the host, say you’re leaving, do a quick “nice seeing you, we gotta do this again” routine (which takes 2-3 minutes) and then leave.

  22. Pilum says

    Oh and if someone else is leaving you can “piggyback” on their exit, thus saving a lot of time. People leaving in more or less impromptu groups is not uncommon, especially late in the evening.

  23. davem says

    You think Minnesotans might take time over goodbyes? Then don’t ever visit Mali. Their greetings will still be being exchanged when it’s time go go home. You must ask, not just after your host’s health, but also that of his 3rd cousin’s wife’s father’s goats – and everyone in between . I kid not.

  24. Brigham Narins says

    I didn’t know other groups suffered with the Jewish goodbye. I’m Jewish and I always thought the old (Jewish) saying was true: Gentiles leave and never say goodbye, Jews say goodbye and never leave.

  25. Matrim says

    I don’t think it’s particularly unique to Minnesota or regions largely populated by those of Scandinavian descent, I’ve seen all over the place. That’s why my preferred method of leaving is just to vanish and then say goodbye via text.

  26. Johnny Vector says

    Now hang on just a minute. I once ran into Patrick Murphy after a concert (by a band that was not Gaelic Storm; he was just in the audience). “Oh look, maybe we can say hi and get a photo with him,” says I to my wife. Well, we said hi, we did, and then had a nice chat about how nice the people in Green Bay are, or why isn’t Carbon Leaf more popular, or something. He turned to his wife and took his coat to go, then thought of something else to say, gave his coat back to his wife and went on for another 5 minutes. This repeated itself until we had spent the better part of an hour chatting in the lobby of the venue. According to his wife, this is completely normal.

    So, not sure I’m buying your idea of an Irish exit.