For other uses, see Hospitality (disambiguation).
This article is about the social concept and practice of hospitality. For the commercial activity of travel services, see Hospitality management studies and Hospitality industry.
Hospitality refers to the relationship between a guest and a host, wherein the host receives the guest with goodwill, including the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.
Hospitality ethics is a discipline that studies this usage of hospitality.
Derives from the Latin hospes, meaning "host", "guest", or "stranger". Hospes is formed from hostis, which means "stranger" or "enemy" (the latter being where terms like "hostile" derive). By metonymy the Latin word 'Hospital' means a guest-chamber, guest's lodging, an inn. Hospes is thus the root for the English words host (where the p was dropped for convenience of pronunciation), hospitality, hospice, hostel and hotel.
In ancient cultures hospitality involved welcoming the stranger and offering him food, shelter, and safety.
In Ancient Greece, hospitality was a right, with the host being expected to make sure the needs of his guests were met. The ancient Greek term xenia, or theoxenia when a god was involved, expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation. In Greek society a person's ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing. The Stoics regarded hospitality as a duty inspired by Zeus himself.
India and Nepal
In India and Nepal hospitality is based on the principle Atithi Devo Bhava, meaning "the guest is God". This principle is shown in a number of stories where a guest is revealed to be a god who rewards the provider of hospitality. From this stems the Indian or Nepal practice of graciousness towards guests at home and in all social situations. The Tirukkuṛaḷ, an ancient Indian work on ethics and morality, explains the ethics of hospitality through its verses 81 through 90, dedicating a separate chapter on it (Chapter 9).
Judaism praises hospitality to strangers and guests based largely on the examples of Abraham and Lot in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 18:1–8 and 19:1–8). In Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, or "welcoming guests". Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment for their guests, and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey.
In Christianity, hospitality is a virtue which is a reminder of sympathy for strangers and a rule to welcome visitors. This is a virtue found in the Old Testament, with, for example, the custom of the foot washing of visitors or the kiss of peace. It was taught by Jesus in the New Testament. Indeed, Jesus said that those who had welcomed a stranger had welcomed him. Some Western countries have developed a host culture for immigrants, based on the bible.
One of the main principles of Pashtunwali is Melmastia. This is the display of hospitality and profound respect to all visitors (regardless of race, religion, national affiliation or economic status) without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.
Celtic societies also valued the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person's request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter for his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.
In the West today hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment. However, it still involves showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. Cultures and subcultures vary in the extent to which one is expected to show hospitality to strangers, as opposed to personal friends or members of one's ingroup.
Anthropology of hospitality
Jacques Derrida offers a model to understand hospitality that divides unconditional hospitality from conditional hospitality. Over the centuries, philosophers have devoted considerable attention to the problem of hospitality. However, hospitality offers a paradoxical situation (like language) since inclusion of those who are welcomed in the sacred law of hospitality implies others will be rejected. Julia Kristeva (1991) alerts readers to the dangers of “perverse hospitality”, which consists of taking advantage of the vulnerability of aliens to dispossess them. Hospitality serves to reduce the tension in the process of host-guest encounters, producing a liminal zone that combines curiosity about others and fear of strangers. In general terms, the meaning of hospitality centres on the belief that strangers should be assisted and protected while traveling. However, not all voices are in agreement with this concept. Professor Anthony Pagden describes how the concept of hospitality was historically manipulated to legitimate the conquest of Americas by imposing the right of free transit, which was conducive to the formation of the modern nation-state. This suggests that hospitality is a political institution which can be ideologically deformed to oppress others.
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- ^TirukkuṛaḷArchived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine. verses 71-80
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- Danny Meyer (2006) Setting the Table : The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
- Christine Jaszay (2006). Ethical Decision-Making in the Hospitality Industry
- Karen Lieberman & Bruce Nissen (2006). Ethics in the Hospitality And Tourism Industry
- Rosaleen Duffy and Mick Smith. The Ethics of Tourism Development
- Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison. In Search of Hospitality
- Hospitality: A Social Lens by Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison
- The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg
- Customer Service and the Luxury Guest by Paul Ruffino
- Fustel de Coulanges. The Ancient City: Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome
- Bolchazy. Hospitality in Antiquity: Livy's Concept of Its Humanizing Force
- Jacques Derrida (2000). Of Hospitality. Trans. Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
- James A. W. Heffernan (2014). Hospitality and Treachery in Western Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Steve Reece (1993). The Stranger's Welcome: Oral Theory and the Aesthetics of the Homeric Hospitality Scene. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
- Mireille Rosello (2001). Postcolonial Hospitality. The Immigrant as Guest. Stanford University Press.
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- Immanuel Velikovsky (1982). Mankind in Amnesia. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.
- Christian Hänggi (2009). Hospitality in the Age of Media Representation. New York/Dresden: Atropos Press.
- Thomas Claviez, ed. (2013). The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible. Bronx: Fordham University Press.
The trestle (also tressle, tressel and threstle) in heraldry is also used to mean hospitality, as historically the trestle was a tripod used both as a stool and a table support at banquets.
When I asked my Spanish friend if it is better to have $100 in the wallet or 100 friends in life, he without a second of hesitation chose $100. In post-Soviet countries this dilemma is not a dilemma at all. There is an old saying in Russian: “Instead of having 100 rubles, better have 100 friends.”
This apparent difference of opinion about the importance of friendship does not really mean that people of one region are more financially prudent while their peers in Russia have exclusively pure hearts and thoughts. But different mentalities can create apparent barriers between cultures and countries. While you may think ‘culture’ has little to do with decades of political conflict between Russia and the US, the media plays a key role in forming and shaping opinions and deepening already existing cultural misunderstandings.
So, is the importance of friendship really a point of difference, or something on which all cultures agree?
The importance of friendship in post-Soviet countries
People in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, a collective of post-Soviet countries) are known as extremely hospitable and overall very amicable, openhearted human beings. Furthermore, the term “friendship” is given lots of significance when raising children. One is supposed to be a loyal and faithful friend.
Classic Belarusian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, Ukrainian and Tajik literature shows how important the friendship relationship is in these countries. Famous literary characters such as Bazarov and Kirsanov (Turgenev, Fathers and Sons), Bezuhov and Bolkonsky (Tolstoy, War and Peace), Abai and Mikhailov (Auezov, Abai’s Way) help to form people’s basic values and beliefs. Other characters that ruin friendship by lying or giving up are shown as bad examples, so that no one would prefer to be like those characters in real life.
Of course this does not really mean that friendship in post-Soviet countries is perfect for everyone. They are just normal people and consequently subject to the universal pros and cons of human essence, with both attractive and repulsive elements. So relationships can never be ideal.
Different types of friendship
At the same time, classic American literature also abounds with stories about friendship. Readers can feel what friendship means while reading, for example, Hemingway’s memories of Paris in A Moveable Feast: “When you cannot make friends any more in your head is the worst.”
One of my American friends who has worked in post-Soviet countries for a while tried to explain the difference between two types of friendship. “You know, I have a friend in the US. We used to play golf every other weekend. We are friends. Golf friends. And here is the line. Everything else is outside this relationship.”
My tour guide in Spain made a similar point about different types of friendship. “I have been living in Spain for 11 years and, of course, I have friends. We usually have a nice time together. We can share thoughts, debate and give each other presents. But there is a barrier that starts at any problematic point. We are friends, but every single person is responsible for his or her life and there is no way to share this responsibility. Your problems are just yours. You have to find a solution yourself.”
These different types of friendship are also expressed in various definitions. The Russian Ozhegov Dictionary explains the term “friendship” as “a close relationship, based on mutual trust, affection and unity of interests.” The Oxford English Dictionary, however, suggests there may be two different levels of friend – of which the more common may be closer to mere acquaintance: “A person with whom one has developed a close and informal relationship of mutual trust and intimacy; (more generally) a close acquaintance.”
The importance of friendship worldwide
Western and Russian cultures have similar proverbs when it comes to the importance of distinguishing true friends from false ones. The Western saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed” echoes the Russian proverb “a friend is known in a trouble” and the words of Kazakh philosopher, poet and writer Abai: “You can distinguish a good friend from a fake one. Fake friends are like a shadow. On a sunny day you cannot get rid of them. When it is cloudy you cannot find them, no matter how much effort you make.”
There is also a darker side to highly valued friendship – when it comes to the issue of nepotism and unfair preference. It seems probable that the roots of the issues related to corruption in post-Soviet countries can be partially found here, in the way people think and act in terms of friendship. When it comes to job vacancies and staff hiring, friendships or valuable connections arise. Here comes another proverb: “not because of job obligation, just because of the friendship.” Modern people from the CIS region say: “Of course it is better to have 100 friends; with such an amount of ‘your’ people you can make much more than 100 rubles.”
I have friends with diverse origins. And friendship makes me feel happy regardless of whether I met a friend in Chicago, Yekaterinburg or Lisbon. Plus, as scientists from North Carolina have found, a strong friendship has a positive effect on health and overall physical state. So good friendships make people both healthier and happier.
As for the different types of friendship, if you are studying, working or just traveling in a country with another culture, be prepared to experience new approaches to friendship and just enjoy it! And as a tip for anyone making new friendships in the post-Soviet region, try calling your new friends “brat”. That means “brother” and is a very common informal expression of friendship.
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