The average party host: Shallow, vain and a bit slovenly

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The Independent Online

We are dinner party show-offs who value appearance more than quality, buy expensive brands to impress, pass off pre-prepared meals as our own and frequently do not bother to clean until we have visitors.

This, it is revealed today, is the narcissistic, shallow and slovenly world of Britain's dinner party hosts.

According to research by the independent market analyst Datamonitor, Britain is leading a European boom in home entertaining. The British are even more sociable than the French, hosting 313 million social gatherings a year, compared with220 million in France. Within five years, Britons are projected to overtake the ever-sociable Italians.

But – if the research is to be believed – we are not working to the strictest culinary standards. The report said: "For many consumers, showing off is a primary motivation for hosting gatherings. Many also stated that appearance was more important than quality and that they are seeking a 'wow factor' from their guests.

"Consumers are increasingly willing to accept help from convenience solutions ... although they are keen for convenience products which can be passed off as home-cooked."

Gatherings have become more frequent and less formal, and manufacturers have enabled us to 'cook by numbers'," the report said.

One of the analysts, Neil Broome, said: "One of the driving factors behind entertaining is conspicuous showing off. People don't want to say 'I bought this at Sainsbury's and pulled it out of a packet'."

The same attitude applied to homes, with an increasing emphasis going on décor but only a sporadic nod to cleanliness. A high number of people admitted to saving "home hygiene jobs" until they were expecting guests. Mr Broome said: "People tended not to break out the Jif until they were preparing for a party."

The French continue to spend more than the British on each social gathering, at £48 compared with £41. But we have started putting our money into obviously expensive items – particularly wine and beer.

Mr Broome said: "The Brits are much more savvy when it comes to wine but their knowledge is still fairly limited and it is still very much bought on price. Because there is so much branding it is easier to know an expensive bottle gives off conspicuous signals."

Some, however, did not bother to buy the premium brand twice, Mr Broome said. "There was even one woman in a focus group who admitted filling up an Absolut bottle with supermarket own-brand vodka, insisting that by the end of the night no one is going to notice."

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