ome cultures are especially great at hospitality. In the west, we tend to not place as great an emphasis on it. If we’re going to be caring for friends across cultures we need to know and practice at least the most important basics.
Hospitality in many cultures means that when someone comes to your home you should always serve something. Your home doesn’t need to be perfect, your outfit is not crucial, but water, juice, or a little snack says, “I’m so glad you’re here!”
It is also very important in most cultures that when you visit their home, you do your best to receive what they offer you. Usually you should drink or eat most of it, but not until it is completely gone. Leave a little.
If you are offered something that is against your conscience or health principles, simply request, “Thank you so much for your kindness. I don’t eat/drink….Would you mind if I had some water instead?”
In many Western contexts you do not show up at someone’s house without calling and making an appointment. In many other cultures it is completely normal, expected, and delightful to have friends and neighbors show up any time unannounced. Try to not let your sense of privacy and limited time shut the door on the feelings of your international friends.
In many cultures it is quite normal to take a small gift when you visit someone’s house. It might be a small basket of fruit, some vegetables from the garden, or a box of cookies. It should be inexpensive so they don’t feel indebted to return the favor in a big way. A small gift of almost anything can communicate, “I care.”
However, in some cultures certain flowers or certain colors have very negative meanings, perhaps associated with death. As you get to know your international friends, ask them what things have bad connotations.
Feet are considered very dirty and offensive in some countries. They don’t point their feet at someone, step over anyone, or even talk about…..uh, excuse me, feet! It’s also good to know that gestures have different meanings in different cultures.
Don’t be too afraid of making cultural blunders. Most internationals recognize that you don’t know their culture. If you are friendly and caring they will easily forgive and overlook your mistakes. Still it is important to try to learn so you don’t unnecessarily offend. If someone wiped their nose on your curtains, it would be disgusting to you even if you knew it was their culture!
So be a learner, be friendly, be hospitable…just be loving!