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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hospitality and Cultural Differences

I went to London for Christmas this year. I stayed in a place called Leyton (read, cité) with Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Italians. I was the only English speaker, and I adapted by speaking either French or Spanish and a smattering of English with the Italians. I was with my friend Tatiana, who is Spanish, and we stayed with, and follow me closely here, a friend of a friend of hers who was crashing at this sorry excuse of a house. We had bought tickets for London a month or two ago, only to find out that her friend Richi, would actually be going back to Madrid for the holidays. Fortunately, he cleared it with Alexis, his friend there and we moved in for five days.

So there are eight people who live here, with one bathroom and one kitchen. It's not so bad, if you enjoy living the hostel style life. What these people are doing here, is working to improve their English. They stick around a few months and then head back to their countries of residence.

So Tatiana and I stayed in Carlos' room, a Spanish guy who was back in, uhh, Madrid maybe? What I found interesting here--Ok, so we just took over the room. he didn't know we were there, and was kind of mad when he got back. I feel like if you did that to an American, well, you wouldn't. There's some sort of inherent respect for property, especially with a roomate. (Dont get me wrong, not everyone is like this, and this could be just the people were dealing with here, but I do feel like someone would have stepped up and said, uhh maybe you should ask him.)

What else I noticed--Everytime I asked out of politeness to taste, try, have a piece of something, I was told no, joking, obviously. Everytime. I don't know if that's American, or again just me, but you usually ask permission, right? I remember one time I went with Antoine to a restaurant and it was family style, so we shared a table with Italians. We started talking and they ordered this massive plate of cheese that they shared with us. I said, we should probably throw in some money. Antoine looked at me and said "Are you crazy? That's so rude! They offered it to us!" Ok, his continent, his rules.

But the whole time we were in that house, food, coffee, and drinks just appeared. Honestly, it made me uncomfortable. Here we are, guests, STRANGERS even, and goods are just being thrown in our direction.

It makes me wonder though, is it because I am that much of an individualistic capitalist, that I can't understand selfless propriety?

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