Here is the situation:

I have a meeting scheduled with a client/stakeholder/co-worker at 12pm, and I arrive at 11:50am and order myself a drink before they arrive. They end up arriving at a reasonably prompt time (12pm - 12:05pm) and I have already 80% finished my drink.

Is this considered rude?

  • 8
    was it a soda, tea or water? Or was it a cocktail. That matters too. Sep 18, 2017 at 3:57
  • 2
    Why would it matter what the drink was? Just curious; I can see food making a difference, but not the type of drink
    – Mawg
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:13
  • 20
    @Mawg If you're drinking alcohol at 11:50am and you're already 80% through on your first order, I'd think that would be pretty rude, lol. Sep 18, 2017 at 11:26
  • 2
    That depends on the country - very much so.
    – Mawg
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:49
  • 8
    Judging someone's professionalism by the kind of coffee they prefer seems more unprofessional to me than drinking a different style of coffee.
    – Samthere
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:33

6 Answers 6


[Experience: US consulting and academia]

In general I would say no, but it depends a little on the context.

Having a (mostly) empty drink in front of you can highlight the fact that you arrived first and indicate how early you arrived. If this is a situation where it would be embarrassing for you to have arrived significantly before the other person, don't do it (also, in such circumstances, don't arrive early).

If the meeting is specifically to get drinks, then it could be considered rude by some people. This is similar to how it's rude to begin eating before everyone is seated at a table. If it's a meeting that happens to be at a bar and there's no expectation of drinking as a group activity, I would think it wouldn't be considered rude.

I would avoid having more than one glass in front of you though. That can give off the impression that you've been waiting for a long time which can embarrass the person who has made you wait, even if they aren't officially "late".

  • 12
    Well, having almost finished a (soft-) drink doesn't imply that you cannot say "hope you don't mind me getting something to drink before you arrived, I was very thirsty". Same can be done for a coffee or whatever. Alcohol does not apply to my comment Sep 18, 2017 at 9:28
  • I wouldn't be embarrassed if I saw a few glasses on the table. I arrived on time. The other guy is an idiot for arriving early, or he had nothing better to do while waiting, or he's an alcoholic. Probably not a great impression, but to make me feel embarrassed? No.
    – rath
    Sep 18, 2017 at 10:09
  • 2
    Personally in such a situation I would mention something along the lines of "I just got here myself" to emphasise that I don't think the other party was late or somesuch. Perhaps something along these lines might add additional value to this excellent answer?
    – Cronax
    Sep 18, 2017 at 10:54
  • @Noldor130884 or "...I was early" (if British like me, follow up with muttering about the traffic/public transport)
    – Chris H
    Sep 18, 2017 at 16:06
  • 1
    @ChrisH I'm not upvoting your comment because you dare to mutter about public transport in Britain :D (I'm from Italy) Sep 19, 2017 at 5:14

Is this considered rude?

That is dependent on the individual, but in general it's not rude. But I normally apologise with some empty platitude such as

"Sorry, I arrived really early so I've already ordered myself something. What would you like?"

If they've arrived in a reasonable time, then excuse it as your fault for arriving early.

  • I don't see what is there to apologise for. A person starting a meeting with a "sorry" doesn't exactly radiate confidence.
    – Paul
    Sep 18, 2017 at 9:25
  • 32
    @Thatyoungman it's just meaningless pleasantry. Anyone reading more into it than that is overthinking.
    – Kilisi
    Sep 18, 2017 at 9:37
  • 5
    @Thatyoungman - Ah. You probably think that when you walk into a Brit, they apologise to you? You'd be wrong. "Sorry" doesn't generally mean "I am sorry, please accept my apologies". Kilisi has it right.
    – AndyT
    Sep 18, 2017 at 9:46
  • 7
    @Thatyoungman In this context I'd say 'sorry' doesn't really mean sorry, it's just a word to use to indicate that the other party need not feel like they did something wrong.
    – Cronax
    Sep 18, 2017 at 10:56

Here in Finland everybody drinks kahvi (Finnish for coffee) many times a day and it is considered normal. It is never considered rude to drink coffee before, during, or after a meeting.

Most programmers only survive with the power of kahvi, so if there were no coffee during a meeting there would be no work done!

Therefore don't worry, be happy, and enjoy many kahvi!

  • 1
    This was my first thought reading this question also :) I would never have thought drinking coffee would be considered rude, as in Finland and Sweden drinking coffee is basically the same as drinking water. Unless you stop the meeting to go grab a coffee, no one would care if you have finished one or three before them. Sep 18, 2017 at 16:09

Very rude, at least in our culture (Europe). If the meeting is at e.g. 6 pm there is no point in arriving early and enjoying the place without the other person nor in not waiting for the other person to arrive.

Do not do this, going thru the menu together, waiting in line etc etc is a good causal moment to spend together, no point in eliminating it to get you coffee 5 minutes early.

  • 6
    +1. Very true for some European cultures. If I had a meeting with someone, arrived on time and they were halfway through their drink, I can't say that I'd really be offended but I would ask myself what's wrong with this person. It's worth to note that in western-southern Europe, meals (and drinks) are a social ritual, the whole point is being together. For example, it is very rude to start eating before everyone has food in their plate. So it feels really weird to have someone order and start drinking without you.
    – Kerkyra
    Sep 18, 2017 at 11:33
  • 11
    Where in Europe is "your culture"? Because this will likely vary strongly by country. Case in point, I'm in Europe, and I wouldn't consider this "very rude".
    – marcelm
    Sep 18, 2017 at 13:40
  • 2
    I'm in Europe and this is definitely not rude. So, Caterpillar, it depends entirely on local customs and mores.
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 18, 2017 at 15:46
  • +1. I'm from Europe too (Hungary), and even if it's not necessarily considered to be rude, it's definitely not polite, and moreover you miss/decrease the opportunity to have some less professional start of the meeting and do something TOGETHER. Sep 19, 2017 at 5:30
  • My experience refers to Spain, France, Italy, Germany. In all of the above if the person I was waiting for would have found me already with a drink...well, bad start for the meeting. Maybe going north/east it is different or I just met picky people :-) Sep 19, 2017 at 6:47

If this is your client, and you invited them to a meeting at a place like Starbucks, yes. If this is a nice sit down place where the waitress brings you your drinks, and food with the bill at the end it is much less of a deal.

The standard expectation is that you will wait for them and cover tab. Also it conveys an image that you may have chosen to come there for the drinks rather than the meeting. Since this is your client your best impression is made by waiting for them to get anything. I would say the exception to this would be water. If you arrive and need a drink get a glass of water, then order your preferred drink when they arrive.

How bad of a faux pas it is depends on your current relationship with the client. If this is just a standard update meeting that happens every week or 2, then its not really a big deal. If your client is not happy and you are struggling to retain their business this could be one of those things that tips them over the edge. If this is a new client it is not something I would risk as different people have different ideas on what is proper and what is acceptable. You only have one chance to make a first impression, I would not want it to be that I value the drink more than my new client.

  • The place your meeting is a factor here. +1
    – Neo
    Sep 18, 2017 at 13:39

It depends on the setting of the meeting. Since you said ordered a drink, I assume it is a neutral setting like a restaurant or a cafe. If it were at your company or home, it would be rude if you did not offer them the same. Otherwise, I don't see it as rude. I am from the US for the record.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .