THE WARM AND WELCOMING GESTURE
Some people make you feel welcome, others not so. Some of us seem so independent that we couldn’t care less. What do you think? I am not ashamed to say that to me, it is really important to make others feel welcome. That is why I included a welcome mat in the “KIT FOR UPTIGHT WHITE PEOPLE”.
For me, to make someone feel unwelcome is rude, and cold. It demonstrates your lack of care or interest in having some sort of meaningful relationship with them, and in that, your disregard for what it essentially is to be a human. Many people I know from other cultures note that it is really anglo/australian thing to do. It rarely happens in other cultures.
The photo that I have included with this post is taken when I worked in Kuwait, and we were guests of some bedouns (stateless people with no citizenship papers) who lived on the outskirts of Kuwait. They were not rich, but they knew how to make us feel welcome. One of the customs of all Arabs, whether stateless or not, mega wealthy, or poor, is to make guests feel welcome by way of “hospitality”. I have noted that this custom extends right through to other southern Mediterranean cultures too. The Italians I have known call it “ospiti”. Literally meaning to you I give hospitality.
The Italians and Arabs, and northern Indian people I know complain about being force-fed. Mangia, or “eat” you are instructed. If you don’t, they ask “perche tu non mangia?” Or “why aren’t you eating Veronica?” As an Anglo, it seems rude at first to say no. So you leave feeling really overfed. It’s considered rude to refuse, but my friend Jasmine taught me the trick, in obliging the welcoming signals of your host. You have to say, yes, then take the food, and eat it slowly. Leaving half of the food uneaten on your plate is seen as being better than refusing in the first place! (I know that this might make you feel uncomfortable if you are “Anglo”, but you do get used to it, trust me)
So guests are made to feel welcome by always offering something to eat, or drink. Anything at all. Even my Indian mechanic in Kuwait gave me a can of cold coca cola. I like this.
I cannot tell you how many Anglo households I have been in whereby I have been outright ignored, as though I was not there. The classic example was my brother in law in the nineteen eighties, who would watch the cricket, and drink beer in front of us when we visited, totally ignoring us as if we were invisible! This is pretty normal for us Anglos I am ashamed to say.
Last time when I was in the Middle East I visited an ex student in Oman, and noted that the family house had a special room for receiving visitors. Her father (even though he was honestly not particularly interested in my visit) made the effort to come into the room and make 15 minutes of conversation with me. I was made to feel welcome.
Welcoming people makes for social cohesiveness.
Some people have welcoming faces. My neighbor Lucia, has a very open friendly face, and most people always find themselves talking to her. Sometimes I wonder whether it is the same for me, as so many people approach me in the street and ask me questions, probably because I have a welcoming face. Sometimes I wonder whether a face can be too welcoming, when my neighbor Betty tells me some shocking stories about her life and family, that she shouldn’t. (Too much information goes the adage).
WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM KIT, A KIT FOR UPTIGHT WHITE PEOPLE
If you are interested in finding out more, have a look at the book I wrote. This was my final masters project in cross disciplinary design at UNSW