A new study takes a look at where, when, how, and why people party.

By Hannah Walhout
December 16, 2016
© Getty Images/EyeEm

We are in the midst of holiday party season—a time to eat, drink and be merry. By this point, it may feel like every holiday party is the same. Everyone congregates in the kitchen, the same appetizers are served, the same songs are played and you get home at the same time. A recent study revealed that your sentiments are valid—holiday parties are utterly predictable.

Home audio company Sonos recently brought in experts Oliver Burkeman and Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen to study potluck and friendship rituals, and the role music plays in these gatherings. Burkeman, a journalist and author who studies new relationships and social milestones, and Müllensiefen, a music psychologist from Goldsmiths University, London, interviewed over 9,000 people, aged 18-40, in 8 countries.

Based on their findings, this is pretty much what will happen this season (at least if you live in the UK, US, France, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Australia, or the Netherlands):

1. You’re going to have a holiday party. 
According to Burkeman, the “friendship ceremony”—a ritual that confirms and celebrates close personal ties—is part of our nature. Often, these take the form of potlucks—modern-day holidays like Galentine’s Day, Friendsgiving, Friendsmas. These gatherings have been shown to nurture friendships, filling the need for “tactile friendship” and defining a form of modern friendship in an increasingly urbanized, digital world. 

2. You will invite around 13 people.
Their research shows that “invitees are finite, usually around 13—a number that is consistent across countries.” The US has a slightly higher average of 15.

3. There will be tunes, tinsel, booze and casseroles.
Eighty-five percent of attendees agree that music is a must. Eighty-one percent pay attention to the decorations, especially if they’re festive. Seventy-three percent would hesitate to go to a dry party. Sixty-three percent favor homemade food, in the spirit of a potluck. 

4. You’re going to be hanging out in your living room. 
Across the board, this is the preferred location for party central.

5. You won’t be spending much time in the kitchen…
Overcrowding in the kitchen does occur, but only around five to seven percent of the guests actually hang out in the kitchen. 

6. In New York or Los Angeles, people take it to the room. 
In these cities, around five to seven percent of your guests will spend time in the master bedroom. A less scandalous interpretation could be that the apartments are so tiny, guests have no other options. 

7. It might get loud.
But it’s possible that noise ordinances could dictate exactly when the party reaches max volume. Sydney parties boast the highest noise levels, which peak around 9 pm at 90db on average (for reference, sustained exposure at this level can lead to hearing loss). Strangely, Miami’s average peak volume—81db—occurs as early as 7pm. 

© Getty Images/SuperStock RM

8. Germans go the hardest.
Hamburg wins for latest average “wind down,” with parties losing steam around 1am. In Berlin, it’s 12am. Compare that to Copenhagen and Toronto, where people start filing out around 10pm. 

9. Nobody wants to be the DJ. 
Sound familiar? Only five percent of those polled identified as a “party DJ,” someone who actually likes making a playlist for a party. For the rest of us, it’s mostly a pain. What’s more, the study found that “67% think it should be easy for guests to pick a song, [and] 60% believe that it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to add to the playlist.” 

These revelations inspired Sonos to collaborate with Spotify on a new platform called Playlist Potluck, which allows guests to contribute songs to a communal party playlist (which, in addition to being more fun and democratic, takes a lot off your plate when you forget to plan the music until the 11th hour).

Perhaps this new tool will make your 13-person homemade boozy holiday potluck, with people in the living room until 11pm, a bit less stressful.