Are you learning to extend cross-cultural hospitality? Are you feeling a bit nervous about having guests of other religions or backgrounds in your home? You’re in the right place — we can relate! We’ve been hosting guests of other cultures for quite a few years, but we still get a bit nervous about it sometimes, too! Here are seven dos and don’ts we’ve learned, that help us when we’re hosting guests from cultures different than our own. We hope these ideas give you, the new cross-cultural host, some direction!
1. Do start with something simple.
Too often, we don’t even get started with cross-cultural hospitality because we think it has to be complicated. Start with something simple — invite someone over for tea and a snack on a weekend or holiday afternoon, or just invite a neighbor to go on a walk with you in the neighborhood.
2. Do ask the person if they have any allergies or food restrictions before they come over for something to eat.
As a general rule, Muslims cannot have alcohol or pork, and Hindus won’t eat beef, but many be completely vegetarian or also not drink alcohol. People vary a lot in their practices, so while you can do some Googling, it’s always good to inquire about food/drink restrictions before your guest comes.
3. Do ask lots of questions when your guest is visiting.
Most people like to talk about themselves. Do a bit of research about the person’s culture or background before he or she visits. It might help to write down a few questions that might be interesting to ask him or her. If you’ve been to your guest’s country or known someone else from that part of the world, you can build some natural conversational bridges.
4. Don’t bring up sensitive subjects immediately or assume which views the person has without asking.
Sometimes a person might be coming from a country which has experienced political tension with your country. Or, your guest might be less conservative than others from his or her homeland. For example, you don’t want to make a Muslim woman who does not cover her head feel like she’s a bad Muslim by asking too many questions about head covering on her first visit!
5. Don’t be discouraged if you just don’t click with a particular guest.
That’s normal even with people of your own culture, and if you keep inviting guests, you’ll find that some have lots in common with you, and some do not. We had a Middle Eastern guest over for cake one Sunday afternoon, and my husband pleasantly asked him if he and his new wife were planning to have children. He replied, “No! I hate children.” My husband didn’t really know what to say to that. He kept the conversation going, but we did not have that guest back again because it was a bit hard to keep a conversation going with him.
6. Do be prepared to be invited to your guest’s home.
If you host someone from a traditional culture, often they will return the favor. People from traditional cultures tend to be much more hospitable than Westerners, although an exception to this might be when your guest is a student or is single and feels he or she doesn’t have a proper home in which to host you.
7. Do pray for your guest.
As God before, during and after your visit, that your guest would feel loved in your home. God loves your guest far more than you ever could, and wants to express His love through you.
For more ideas for how to start a conversation with your cross-cultural friend or neighbour, check out this article: Making Conversation with Cross-Cultural Friends.