Act of Hospitality

“I would teach him something so when he encountered with people from my community, he or she would never get shocked or surprised by my people.”

 

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions
  • How do people greet others in the speaker’s culture?
  • What is the example he gives of experiencing culture shock?
  • What is the host’s responsibility?
Interpretation Questions
  • What does he mean by “If you are in Rome, you have to eat like Romans.”?
  • Why would someone feel inconvenient?
  • Is changing his culture for others inconvenient?
Implication Questions
  • What are other areas of life that people of other cultures may try to change in order to be more like the majority culture?
  • Do we expect people with different cultures to change for us?
  • Do we try to learn about others’ cultures?

Transcript for Act of Hospitality

“Yeah one thing I would like to share is that greetings thing we have inside our area. [laughs] So, in the urban culture, greetings is [sic] different from other cultures, and men kiss each other on the cheeks, which is kind of weird to Americans. Every time I see someone from my country, I want to greet him. I make sure no one is looking so I look around, [laughs] make sure that the atmosphere is safe. I just don’t want to leave [a] negative impression of doing this in front of them.

“I’m not sure if he’s okay with that or not, ‘cause some people, they take that as a sexual act, which it’s not. It’s normal to us—it doesn’t have to be normal to Americans. I just don’t want anyone to feel [pause] inconvenient. I understand your culture, your community. I like to keep this between me and my Arab friends. But if you want to know about it, I will tell you about it.

“So yeah, when I first came here—I have changed a lot of my habits and a lot my thoughts ‘cause I understand this is [a] different culture. People here, they do not have to know about my culture and follow that. If I want to live in [a] particular culture, I have to follow this culture. Like the famous saying, ‘If you are in Rome, you have to eat like Romans.’

“If someone comes to visit me, I would teach him about our culture, about our accent, about our habits, about our food. I would teach him something so, when he encounter with people from my community [sic], he will never get shocked by my people.

“This is something I really wanted from Americans to teach me [sic] when I was in Utah, so I kept receiving this culture shock after culture shock. The first time I had Mormon friends at my house, I served them tea, and I found that tea is religiously forbidden. So they get mad, their faces changed, they just stayed for a couple of minutes and then left. They consider it as, uh, something offensive. It is what we serve to guests, tea and coffee. It’s an act of hospitality. This is where the culture differences appear: it’s the host’s responsibility to teach the traveler about the host’s culture so that he would not be isolated.”

  • Yusuf Rabbani

    I understand that one should not abandon ones culture, but I am not sure it is necessary to greet a foreigner the way one would greet them when back home. Part of living in the United States is assimilating to the culture, which the speaker began to do. The point is that the person one converses with has to be comfortable with the way we are greeting them, and speaking to them. We foreigners must then try to understand the native-born.