Friday, May 17, 2013

Taking Hospitality With a Grain of Salt

“Blessed is the man who can laugh at himself, for he will never cease to be amused.” This proverb is one of my favorites. It reminds me not to take myself so seriously.

Being able to laugh at myself certainly helped me during a recent catastrophe. My husband and I had guests, and when I stood up to re-fill the tea glasses, the slip I was wearing under my skirt mysteriously slid down in perfect ring around my feet!  I won't go into that story now, but I'm pretty sure it broke the norms of hospitality in any country, not just here in Turkey. (I still can’t believe it really happened.)

On a more serious note, one thing I appreciate about living here is the chance it gives me to learn more about hospitality. Turks are some of the most generous and gracious hosts I've ever seen. Hospitality is a virtue and an art, whether it's a casual visit over Turkish coffee and a piece of chocolate or a dinner with 10 different dishes. I've learned a lot about how to receive guests in my home, but honestly I sometimes feel pressured to somehow live up to Turkish standards, and If I compare myself to them, I'll always fall short!

Here are some helpful lessons I’ve learned:

Relax and be yourself

I'll never be the Perfect Turkish Hostess (P.T.H.), and that is okay!  Instead I try to relax in and be who I am. The P.T.H. is elegantly dressed and serves delectable treats while she chats effortlessly with guests. She probably only exists in my head. I'm much better at being myself than at striving to put on a show of elaborate hospitality that just leaves me feeling stressed.

Keep it simple

Sometimes it feels like I’m forever in the kitchen preparing food for meetings or for guests.  This is a warning that I’m striving too hard to be a P.T.H., and I’d better simplify things instead. I've seen Turks get out a simple assortment of nuts, fruits and bought cookies for visitors. That’s a lot easier than baking a cake.

Focus on your Guests

I can't prepare a 10 course meal and be happy and relaxed when my guests arrive. What I can do is a salad, main dish, rice and maybe a vegetable or soup. If I keep things simple, I'm more relaxed and able to actually enjoy time with friends.  

Find a Middle Ground

I want to be cross-culturally relevant, so that Turks can relate to me. I try to do some things their way. I can kiss my guests, offer slippers, pass around lemon cologne (if I remember) and make Turkish coffee. But on the inside, I’m still American, and I need to be myself as well. For example, a few weeks ago, I had to gently explain to a guest that I needed to leave, something that a P.T.H. would try to avoid. I find that most of my Turkish friends are extremely understanding and kind when I do things differently.

Laugh at yourself when things don't go as planned

During the Classic Turkish Moment I wrote about last week, when I found myself serving a dinner I’d made for 4 to 9 people instead, I laughed.  What else could I do? Keeping my sense of humor helps me to continue enjoying cross-cultural life and time with my friends.

After all, isn't enjoyment what gracious hospitality is all about?

I am posting this from my archives, so that I can focus on two different talks I need to prepare this week.


Nancy said...

I had never seen this before. I'm so glad you "resurrected" it from your archives. I do have a much more joyful life when I can laugh at myself than when I let myself get uptight and perfectionist. Thanks for the reminder.

Creatively Content said...

Have really enjoyed coming and visiting again and catching up on your posts. LOVE the quote!!!! Thank you Olive for sharing your life. :) Enjoy your day.

us5 said...

you remind me that there's a true difference between entertaining and showing hospitality. i'm pretty sure that even a PTH would be blessed to her toes by your warm caring for her!

OliveTree said...

Thanks for your comments, friends. After a wonderful, crazy week, it's good to check my blog and see that you've been here! :-)

Choate Family said...

Great advice! Thanks for your transparency and your wisdom :-)

Kris Thede said...

Thank you for the advice. I now have 6 days left to prepare for our adoption home visit! Need to focus on her and the learning more than the house and everything going perfect. [because you and I know it will not]