“The people here are so friendly. They actually want to hear your response when they ask, ‘How are you doing?’”
Being from the south I thought I understood hospitality. Cross the Mason-Dixon line and embrace the Southern Hospitality. Everybody knows that, right? I thought Texas offered premier courtesy and accommodation to guests.
Then I visited Serbia.
Nowhere have I experienced hospitality on the same level as Serbia. Not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere. I was repeatedly taken back by the friendliness, giving, and kindness of nearly everyone I met during the month in Belgrade.
In the tiny village of Balta Berilovac I experienced unparalleled hospitality. The entire trip was a lesson in “How to be Selfless”, from the repeated offers to join for rakija, the enthusiasm to meet people from out of town, to the incredible kindness of our hosts. Everything was complimentary, given freely and abundantly.
After a six hour caving adventure we emerged, lost in the woods. “Where are we going?” The only answer was “West”. Eventually, around 2 o’clock, we stumbled on to a house and after continued shouting and repeated doorbell ringing an old man emerged.
If some strangers woke you up in the middle of the night, you would be pretty pissed, right?
Not this guy. Not only did he point us in the right direction, he invited us in to his house, gave us water, then poured as all rakija shots. Just like old friends.
The last couple of nights I stayed at my friend Marko’s . The entire residence consists of one-bedroom-that’s-a-also-a-living room, a kitchen with a day-bed-type-sofa that doubles as a seat for the kitchen table, and a bathroom. Pretty small. I stayed on one of the couch-turned-beds. So what, where’s the hospitality? Marko lives with his parents. Do the math and there are three sleeping surfaces. Think about it some more, which it took me awhile to figure out, and it becomes clear that while I slept on this queen sized bed, Marko’s parents split the single sized day bed in the kitchen. I’m not sure about this, but if it’s true, it means his parents willingly, without question, gave up a near queen sized bed to split a single sized couch. All for me to have a good stay. Incredible.
These are just a few examples of the generosity that I experienced, all from a country where the average monthly income is 300 Euros. That these people have so little yet willingly give as much as they can, blows my mind. And inspires me to take this lesson and apply it to my life.
By nature I’m a saver. I don’t like to spend money and I hate buying stuff. Being a saver is a good trait but sometimes my frugality borders on stingy, unwilling to give or spend, and it cuts in to my ability to give. (I get it from my dad)
It’s hard for me to spend money, even on other people. And even when I can over come this, I am then faced with the fact that my giving comes from the wrong motivation.
“If I give, what will I get back?”
In the back of my mind I am tracking the exchange, figuring out how the equation will balance, even though I want to not care about what I get in return.
I want to be more giving, to give freely without expecting compensation of some sort. I want to buy gifts (experiences) for people because the memories will be lasting and build a stronger long term bond. I want to buy people drinks without expecting to be refunded. I want to buy dinner just because. I don’t want to track this giving, to keep it balanced, to think about it so much.
Let the exploration start..
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Part of the reason that I share these thoughts is to voice my thoughts, put them in the spotlight, and then hear feedback about how you relate. The responses show that many readers can identify with my Thoughts, which makes me incredible thankful. If this is the case, if you can relate, please share your thoughts or ideas with me. I love to hear back about different people’s experiences, and that way we can both improve / build / grow, together.
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