Hospitality centers on treating others in a kind and generous way. Every culture is different in the rules of engagement, but the goal is to build goodwill in an authentic, friendly and cordial manner.
Traditions and values
Being hospitable is a social value in virtually every part of the globe. In Ancient Greece, the highest god, Zeus, was the protector of travelers and guests. It was considered a commandment to be respectful and accommodating. Strangers were often honored and provided with food and shelter. For a traveler, or someone who interacts with people from different countries, having knowledge of hospitality customs is invaluable. Doing research on local manners is also important to avoid culture shock and misunderstandings.
Elizabeth Mayor, an ambassador with the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, practices hospitality by welcoming newcomers from all over the world to Rochester. She says that “there are no strangers” but rather unique possibilities to experience other cultures. Sometimes, she acknowledges, language barriers can be challenging, but they can be overcome by being open-minded and understanding. Experiencing and adapting to varied societies is important, but this does not mean that the heritage, which makes everyone unique, needs to be forgotten. She offers the advice, “Respect everyone with kindness and welcome new opportunities.”
Many societies live by codes of etiquette based around their hospitality principles.
Manners are designed to build trust and camaraderie when sharing meals. Some rules are cultural customs, and others are rooted in religious beliefs. Several places consider it taboo to offer a handshake with the left hand since that is reserved for personal hygiene while the right hand is designated for nourishment. Passing the salt shaker the wrong way can be thought of as bad luck across some areas of South America.
Tea and coffee ceremonies are important rituals with elaborate etiquette rules in many societies. Bonding over ceremonial alcohol is popular in some countries like Ireland, Poland and Russia. It is also best to avoid leaving food on the plate in many countries. During a Turkish meal, it signals to the host that the fare was not liked, or a Cuban host might think that not enough food was provided. Also slurping or belching can be a sign of praise to the chef in South Korea.
Although not customary for Americans, in many parts of the world, it is respectful to take shoes off and put on slippers when entering a home. Timeliness also varies among cultures. Punctuality is critical in certain countries such as Germany, while being fashionably late is actually considered polite in France. Escorting lost travelers to their destinations and not just giving directions is engrained with the Greeks.
The Golden Rule
In some African societies, guests are greeted by the entire village with a great ceremony. In other locations, small gestures are the norm. Often it can be insulting to decline generosity in some places including Qatar. Learning manners and practicing protocol help minimize possible awkwardness, especially in Japan.
As a host, it is certainly important to be gracious, personable and genuine. For the guest, bringing a small token gift of flowers, chocolates or wine is a gesture of appreciation. The guest is also expected to not take advantage of or impose upon their host. Fundamentally, hospitality is about following the Golden Rule and respecting each other. As civilizations have advanced, hospitality has been elevated to even higher levels. For many, providing good hospitality is considered not an obligation but rather a source of great pride. ::