Hospitality and Politeness between Cultures and Countries
I love watching people and observing their customs.
It is said that in certain cultures a traveller would be offered hospitality if they were passing through the area and that hospitality would include the loan of his host's wife for the night! Of course, we all know the one about burping or farting being regarded as good manners, showing you have enjoyed your meal, although I have met very many people of very many cultures and have never actually encountered this tradition.
My feeling is that the rise of news reporting has killed the tradition of hospitality. In times gone by people were often pleased to see a traveller, because he or she brought news of the outside world that was otherwise hard to come by. It was well worth plying a traveller with food and drink and a bed for the night. You would be amply rewarded for he paid for his board with stories. Contrast this with today's world. Nothing is easier to come by than news. There is news everywhere: on the television, radio and Internet. In newspapers and on billboards, and a good deal of it is no more reliable than the average traveler's tale. But with this glut of rolling news has followed a diminution in the status of the wanderer. Not only a foreigners often unwelcome, they may meet a positively hostile reception. They have nothing now to offer but money and, as in the case of package holidays and westernized hotel chains, the money does not always flow to the local people of the area one is visiting. Too often it goes straight back where it started...to the coffers of multi-national Companies.
This is not to say that hospitality is is dead, far from it. We now have the phenomenon of corporate hospitality, for instance. A lot of people do very well out of that. And I am often surprised at the genuine good heartedness that really does exist. Sometimes people behave so well towards me that I feel like a churlish Westerner with enormous feet, which get everywhere, including in my mouth! On the island of Cyprus I experienced some rather dubious hospitality. I was given a list of cheap accommodation on Limassol and tried to get into the cheapest address. I failed to secure my accommodation the first time I tried, the landlady deemed, I think, that I would be unsuitable for her purposes. On my way back through Limassol, in all innocence, I tried again, and this time I did manage to get a small room for some nights. It became clear that I could not remain there, but it was only after I moved out and had it explained to me by my next landlord, that I realized that I had moved into what might loosely be termed a "knocking shop". So, something of a lucky escape there!
In most cultures, you will be welcomed if you come bearing gifts and people usually appreciate a tip for their services. Do not attempt to tip anybody if you go to Japan however, as it is frowned upon there. Be careful about making anything that can be considered an arm gesture or hand gesture. People have been deported back to their home country for inadvertently making offensive gestures. Enjoy your trip!
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