Circle Party Closed Loop Theory

“It’s not a circle party. I promise,” the host of the party that is apparently not a circle party tries to assure me.

Ever since I wrote about the phenomenon of Dutch Circle Parties everyone has become very nervous about inviting me to parties. It is as if they think of me as some sort of secret party critic who will sit in the corner (if I can find one) , quietly judging their party based on how Dutch it is. They will often take drastic steps in an attempt to stop their party becoming the typical kind of Dutch Circle Party that I write about. Unfortunately, in their desperation, they tend to take the name ‘Circle Party’ a little too literally.

“See. The chairs are not in a circle,” the host happily points out when I later arrive at the party. “We arranged them in a triangle instead.”

I silently nod and make a mental note to rate the party in my review book later.

This happens a lot. The problem is no one seems to realize that a circle party does not specifically require the chairs to be arranged in a circle. In fact, any attempt to arrange the seating in a different shape will still result in a circle party. Triangles, squares, rectangles, dodecahedrons, artistically abstract squiggly random shapes will all still end with the same outcome.

Allow me to explain it scientifically…

A circle party is actually any party where the chairs have been arranged in any shape or pattern that forms a closed loop. There are other scientific factors that must be present such as tea, cake and someone’s grandmother but the primary factor is a seating arrangement that creates a closed loop of social interaction. It does not actually have to be round. Dutch Circle party was just a catchier name then ‘Dutch Closed Loop Party’.

Dutch Circle Party Guide 1

“It’s not a circle. See. We left a gap,” the host will sometimes say.

This might seem like a good solution to the problem. However, even if there is a ‘break’ in the loop it merely creates a section where the party guests have to talk a little louder to hear each other over the space between seats. The ‘circle’ still exists even if you cannot see it. It is being created by your guests. They will most likely draw their seats closer together anyway, thus closing the physical loop as well.

Dutch Circle Party Guide 2

“We made two seating areas instead of one,” the host will try if they are getting desperate.

Good idea. Unfortunately all you have achieved is the creation of two circle parties in one, thus doubling the circle-ness of your circle party… In trying to stop the circle party from happening you have only made it stronger. Plus your Dutch guests will inevitably merge the two circles together, dragging the seating over from one to the other. It is their natural instinct.

“What are birthday parties like in England then?” The party host will often ask me in a slightly annoyed tone at the end of the mid-party scientific lecture as I put my flip board away.

The difference is usually that there are less seats than guests. Thus, guests are free to move around the party like particles colliding with each other, spilling their drinks. This is because they lack the constraints of a physical chair… This idea usually freaks the Dutch party host out because they cannot imagine a party without adequate seating… or with music loud enough to require occasionally shouting to be heard… or a party that starts after 7pm instead of finishing before it.

Find out more about Dutch Circle Parties by checking out these posts:
The Original Circle Party Guide
How To Identify a Circle Party
Circle Party Closed Loop Theory
…or get your very own Circle Party T-Shirt

21 responses to “Circle Party Closed Loop Theory”

  1. tracy says:

    hahaha brilliant i was thinking the same . love the diagrams just brilliant made me laugh , and its very true .. no im not dutch either .

  2. Rasa says:

    “… or a party that starts after 7pm instead of finishing before it” – I think this is one of the main feature of Dutch circle parties and, of course, somebody’s grandma. A Dutch party is not because you are in a circle it’s a way they arrange everything: people who hardly know each other because of 4 generations, food (?!) – coffee and pie, talks about the weather.
    What ever! They have it and you can’t help it.

  3. kimbeerlee says:

    Dude also be sure you serve cake first (if it’s a birthday). Cake is not dessert, it’s to be served as soon as you walk in the door and sit down. I caught holy hell over this once, because where I come from, cake is served last… but I was not-so-nicely explained that this is how to have a proper Dutch circle party:

    1. Open door, gift is given to the birthday person.

    2. Birthday person opens gift right then and there.

    3. Sit down in closed loop.

    4. Cake is served. With coffee.

    5. After cake then come the savory snacks (like cheese blocks with mustard) and hopefully alcoholic beverages. Let’s not forget grown adults drink juice (sans alcohol) or milk at a party… or the dreaded karnemelk.

    6. Last is the fuck-offee (the coffee served at the end to let you know you’re expected to leave now).

    I probably forgot a few things but I’m a little hung over so a bit slow on the uptake this morning.


  4. Nathalie in NL says:

    As a fellow British person I can maybe contribute some ideas that to me show a Proper Party. Or at least a house party:

    – No grandparents! No children, no parents, no family members (unless they are cool). By all means have your family over for a birthday visit but don’t call it a party.
    – It is evening. If it’s not evening, it’s not a party (unless you’re under the age of 12)
    – Alcohol/soft drinks, maybe some snacks if you’re posh. Though if it was a legit house party and not a gathering of friends, I wouldn’t expect food. Absolutely no cake.
    – People will be in different groups! Often standing, mingling, there should not be anything like enough chairs. People will probably be in different rooms.
    – There will probably be music somewhere. There will be no music in the kitchen, but always at least one boring person who starts telling everyone who enters about how the best place to be at a party is in the kitchen

    Have I forgotten anything?

  5. Yvette says:

    I’ve told my Dutch friends that at my next birthday party I am having us all play beer pong on my table instead of sitting around. Their minds are blown.

  6. VallyP says:

    I love this even more than the first one Stu! It’s brilliant! I have just read it aloud to Koos – in between my busts of laughter – excellent psychology, Mr Billinghurst!

  7. dragon lady says:

    When I was a little girl we had sort of circle parties. Every one sat on a chair around the edge of the room (it was a very small room.) There was a Grandmother and Grandfather, Aunts and Uncles etc and us children. I don’t remember any cake or coffee but we had a pianist,(my Aunt) and in between talking there was lots of singing and I believe some dancing.Happy days

  8. Jules says:

    Haha :) You haven’t made the right friends yet, I guess. I’m Dutch and I (and most of my friends) actually throw two birthday parties. Sometimes on the same day (night) but not necessarily so. One is the classic circle party with family, cake at the door and all the stuff you and kimberlee explain. The second one is a sing- and drinkfest. Often somewhere in town, but they can just as well be held at home (depending on the neighbours). This one usually involve alcohol and music and tends to last till daybreak.

  9. Andrew S.x.y.z. says:

    This is a great observation that I would have just neglected to notice and just accepted as a social thing. It brings to mind all of the awkward or overly formal social gatherings I been to like the time I went to a party with a group and we all danced in a circle while everyone else danced in pairs. I never been to a Dutch birthday party but a Dutch gathering close but not exactly like as you are describing, in a circle, haha. I just thought it was a better social way of getting everyone together instead of seperated. If I ever attend an event like that, I will laugh (hopefully not out loud), because this article will pop into my head.

    Btw Stu, if in the future I plan a party I am afraid it will have some sort of geometric structure to it, would you be available to be my non-circle-geometric party consultant?

    It also brings up so many other possibilities including one you learning to break dance and you do some moves in the middle of the circle =P

  10. So, let’s see if I got this: even IF the seating arrangement isn’t in a circle, the mannerisms of a typical Dutch circle party will remain (cake, tea, coffee and talking), thus making it a Dutch circle party, minus the circle.

    Also, the term “fuck-offee” is brilliant. XD

  11. janey says:

    I have visited the NL 4 times and met some of my sisters friends (she lives there) and never have I been to a circle party. The parties she has always include dinner, copious amounts of beer and wine, candles, and probably too much beer and wine.)

    But what can I say? We are Canadian ;)

    I admit though that one of her Dutch friends visits, is a teetotaler and always has coffee and whatever sweets she has in the house. While we sit in a circle!

  12. janey says:

    I forgot to add that she finds it strange that it is always her responsibility to invite others to celebrate her (and her families) birthday celebrations and provide the food and drink. And that she is congratulated! In Canada we usually pooh pooh the birthday and hope that others will find us worthy enough to celebrate/treat us! Whereby we moan about how old we have gotten.

    Cultural differences so interesting. Love the blog.

  13. Saskia says:

    Circle parties have become somewhat of a legend amongst my Australian friends here in Brisbane – especially since my husband started wearing his “Circle Party Survivor” T-Shirt.

  14. iancochrane says:

    Sounds decidedly like a `workshop’, but – there you go – I never guessed it was the Dutch that were responsible.
    Cheers, ic

  15. Donna says:

    My friend’s hen party became a circle party. I was mortified!

  16. Patty says:

    Haha! Totally loved the diagrams here. Awesome post!

  17. Perovskia says:

    lol @ “Fuck-offee”. Brilliant.

    I’m going to have to agree with janey on this one; also Canadian, we have, as she said, cultural differences on how birthdays are celebrated. I’m very interested to partake in this Dutch custom when I’m there in a month. Then I tell my boyfriend I’m going to “shake things up” and show them what a real party is…and he gets this very leery, nervous look in his eyes……

  18. Fabio says:

    The circle-ness of a party. Priceless :)

  19. Dorothy Caulfield says:

    Circle Party ….NO

  20. Dorothy Caulfield says:

    Circle Party …… Definitely NO

    Brit Style …. evolved from the cocktail party. No chairs whatsover ….. Circulate and you’ll be amazed who you meet and enjoy conversation with !!!!

  21. Thomas says:

    Ghehehe, Love your blog! But unfortunately it’s so true. And reading your “Circle Party Closed Loop Theory” is a bit to much toe-curling for me ;-)

    Maybe you can send me some new, refreshing, out-of-the-box-circle, 2013-2014 floorplans for my circle party’s. So i can invite forrenders again!

    Compliment for the blog, really funny shit

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