I recently had a long conversation in the home of a friend of mine. (And, spoiler alert, this is what led to my new “spin” on hospitality!)
Although she’s American, she has spent many years abroad (including Japan and Turkey). Consequently, she has adopted many of the traditions of hospitality that are so common and well-known in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures.
There was nothing formal about my visit. We were just having a casual chat. And yet, she went all out making me feel at home. She gave me a tour of the entire house, proudly showing off the unique dishes and pieces of furniture that accented it and sharing the stories that accompanied them. My favorite was the ornate grandfather clock that her father-in-law had hand-carved as a wedding gift for them 25 years ago.
After the tour ended, we moved into the kitchen. Although I had just had breakfast, she overwhelmed me with food. She started by making Turkish tea, since that takes a long time to brew when done properly. While we were waiting on the tea, she gave me lemon-infused water and fruit. Once the tea had finished brewing, she added dates, cherries, and a pancake-like Japanese dessert with red bean paste in the middle to the spread.
I went there expecting to stay about an hour. Her warmth and generosity kept me there close to 4 hours.
As I was leaving – it was well after noon and I needed to find some lunch – she actually apologized for being such a poor hostess!
Can you imagine?? From my perspective she had been one of the best hosts I’ve ever experienced, but she felt bad that it was lunchtime and she hadn’t prepared anything for us to eat in advance.
I thought about this as I returned home and wolfed down a sandwich.
I realized that, after having spent so many years abroad, my friend had adopted a lot of those foreign customs of hospitality. This was a great thing for her guests in the States now, as they always felt incredibly welcome and loved.
For me, though, it was also incredibly convicting
I’ve always enjoyed hosting parties and get-togethers. I’ve been a host on AirBnB for many years now, and as a “superhost” status, hospitality is really important to me. I like to think that I’m a pretty good hostess…
So what IS my new “spin” on hospitality?
That morning with my friend showed me just how much I still have to learn.
In America, hospitality is seen as a one-time thing. We mark a specific date down on our calendar, invite people over on that day, clean the house and make sure to have lots of yummy food, and then consider ourselves “done” for a while.
But I’ve come to believe that true hospitality is more of a lifestyle than an event. My friend, for example, always has her pantry stocked with food and snacks, “just in case.” She is constantly expanding her social circle and inviting people into her world. She even welcomes them to bring their friends with them, unannounced!
That’s how I know I’ve still got so much to learn. If someone brought extra guests to a dinner party that I was hosting I’d have a mini panic attack.
At the end of the day, how you choose to be hospitable depends on your end goal. And this is why there are “different types” of hospitality! Are you looking to impress your friends with your delicious food and impeccable home? Or are you looking to make them feel at home, to welcome them into both the beautiful and the chaotic parts of your life? Do you want to make yourself feel better or make your guests feel like family?