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Accepting hospitality

by Anne-Marie Dingemans on October 12, 2011

A big difference between cultures which is quickly noticed is how a culture views hospitality. Especially many Asian cultures are known to place a lot of value on being good hosts. Making a guest feel comfortable, going out of your way to give your guests a great time comes absolutely natural to many people from these cultures. This includes giving the guest the best bedroom, prepare the food the way he/she likes it and asking many times if the guest is comfortable and if there is anything else that can be done for them.

I have noticed that people from countries that do not share that custom, are from cultures that are more task- (as opposed to relationship-) oriented and are generally more pragmatic, sometimes feel very uncomfortable when receiving that treatment.

Would that be because as rational thinkers they believe they don’t deserve such attention paid to them? Why would someone give up their own bedroom to accommodate guests for a few nights? ‘Let me sleep on the couch, that’s fine for me’ would the reaction of the pragmatic person be. And the truth is that it is fine to sleep on a couch for a few nights. But so it is for the hosts as well?

Perhaps the pragmatic Westerners assess that their happiness can be achieved with much less effort on the side of the hosts – and therefore being extremely hospitable is inefficient? Perhaps rational thinkers weigh the ROI (return on investment) of everything, and find it too costly to receive the royal treatment. Because it can make them feel that they are deeply indebted to their hosts for all the attentions they have received, and maybe they are not willing to live with that debt or having to repay it one day.

I’m not sure…. What are your thoughts about this topic?

 

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‘Culture’ can be described as a ‘set of rules for good behavior for a group of people’. You could call them the rules for the ‘game’ that group is playing. There is no guarantee that everybody will follow these rules all the time, but it is, implicitly or explicitly, agreed upon what that group considers appropriate or correct behavior.

Cultural differences exist because every group has its own distinct rules for good behavior. Although most people want to do the right thing, what ‘the right thing’ exactly IS differs per culture (cultural group).

For example: In India men hold hands. It’s a sign of their friendship or family bond. It’s a nice thing to do; a rule for correct behavior. In most Western countries men never hold hands, unless in a romantic context.

So if you’re from a Western country and you see two men walking down the street holding hands, how would you interpret this? Most likely you’d assume they are a couple. However, if the two men are Indian, the correct assumption would be that they are friends or family members.

The same principle applies to a lot of different behaviors and actions; if you see people from a different culture than your own, you cannot apply your rules to their game!

 

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