Etiquette and Protocols to visiting someone
Sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? Well, with a little thought and planning it can be even more meaningful. I have compiled a few suggestions you may wish to use next time you are entering someone’s house. There are eight listed below and it is by no means an exhaustive list. So, here are my suggested tips:
1. Do your homework.
- What cultures or practices does the household acknowledge? Many Asian households leave their shoes at the door.
- Do you have slip-on or zip-up footwear so this is easy and natural to do?
- Are your socks intact or do they need darning?
2. Follow the lead of the person who invited you, if they arrive with you.
3. When entering, pause. A short pause is a mark of respect, that you honour the house and are willing to wait for a further invitation to come in or meet people.
4. Listen. Enter with a smile by all means, but in silence. If you can, bless the house silently on entering. Picture a vivid flash of light, or a candlelit star on a Christmas tree, or something cheerful and warming. Keep the picture especially brief if your host has energetic gifts, as a protracted blessing might unsettle them. If appropriate, offer a brief symbolic gesture of respect. In Asia it is common to press both hands together in a prayer-like gesture (which honours the spirit of your hosts). If this is not appropriate, consider briefly covering and uncovering your heart and heart chakra with your dominant hand.
5. Assess the moment. If it seems probable that a greeting ritual will begin, smile and politely wait until someone guides you in the ritual. Too many culturally sensitive moments are destroyed by over-eagerness. As the saying goes, you only get one chance at a first impression. Don’t fight the culture. In many eastern cultures, the women eat separately and second to the men. In Hebrew traditions the family may not serve milk if eating veal.
If something concerns you and your host asks, don’t voice a complaint, ask a question. “Why is there a dish of stuffed quail?” Listen to the answer and any cultural information. If your host insists you explain why you asked, be polite, honest and diplomatic. “As a child I had a pet cockatiel who died. I feel I am almost eating him.” This needs to be the truth! No host would then force you to trample such a memory for the sake of a dish of food. Though Indiana Jones assures me lamb eyes are delicious.
6. Be very careful with any gifts you bring. Again, do your homework. Many healers value wine with a meal, but some do not. Religions, including the Muslim and some Christian traditions, treat the presence of alcohol like a very sour fart – best left outside.
7. Meal blessings. Pause and follow your host’s lead. If none are offered, you may do so silently if you wish. If there is a pause and your host looks to you, you are free to offer a blessing. With one exception. Some traditions wait for the guest to start eating before the host and his family eats. Others do the reverse. Be sure you know which and don’t sit chatting away while the family is starving because you’re not eating. After a meal there may be specific requirements too. In Turkey it is not uncommon to burp after eating, signifying a satisfying meal.
8. Be relaxed and be yourself and, if anything, listen a little more than usual. People who listen are usually rated as friendly, engaging and more intelligent than they may actually be. The most empowering question you can ask (often) in any first meeting is, “tell me about that”.