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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    I'm devising a scenario for a upcoming campaign that may (depending on how the party decides to pursue its objectives) involve social conflict centered around the notion of hospitality. The scenario puts the PCs in a small village whose leader is inclined to hostility. If the players manage to make themselves guests, however, they would be immune to harm, at least unless they break that hospitality. With regard to that point, I'm trying to come up with a list of things that would be considered grounds for violation of hospitality. Some are obvious, like harming a member of the host's household or drawing weapons. As I set myself to devising what this culture might consider proper behavior from a guest, I'm wondering what sort of variety there actually is in what is expected of the conduct of a guest in different cultures around the world. My own experience is mostly limited to American customs (and likely a specific sub-variety of those as dictated by region and socioeconomic sector): don't ask for more than is offered*, bring some sort of offering appropriate to the occasion (which the host will usually claim is unnecessary), defer to the host's guidance on activities, don't insult or critique the host, etc. How much of this is subject to cross-cultural variation? Does anyone have examples of how good conduct of a guest differs from milieu to milieu?


    *I have friends I've known well for years who will sit thirsty for hours rather than ask for a glass of water if I do not offer one.

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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Salt is an expensive and vital commodity. Accepting a gift of salt obligates the receiver to offer three days of hospitality. If the host offers salt, the guest who accepts it is obligated to bring no dishonor to his host, and to act as the host's employee for three days. Even a single grain of salt is enough to qualify. Buying the offered salt even for token amounts, (a fable has a host accept a stone from a traveler,) is enough to avoid the obligation, while tricking someone into accepting salt voids any obligation.

    Fey are said to be unable to touch salt, and eating it causes them great pain. Elves only feel uncomfortable after eating salted foods, while half-elves have no issues.

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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Sacred Hospitality does vary significantly between cultures in the real world.

    Salt was mentioned above, but some other classics are Beer, Bread (or a full meal), Water, Sleeping arrangements

    Beer: Those with whom we choose to drink, are those with whom we trust to have our backs at moments of consequence. This is sometimes stated outright, sometimes is just a strong observe leaning. Worth noting, bar fights tend to be between two groups rather than two individuals, as drinking buddies back their friends up.

    Bread: We have a sacred obligation to protect/be faithful to those with whom we break bread, sometimes taken literally, in other cultures extended to sharing any meal with someone. Around the world, breaking bread or sharing a meal has been used to signify truces and alliances for thousands of years.

    Water: Water is the substance of life, you cannot offer life and take it simultaneously. Observed in many places, but especially in cultures that developed in arid regions. Offering someone water is taken as offering your protection. When Saladin offered Guy water, it was taken as a promise that Guy would not be harmed while in captivity. When Ranald took the cup from Guy and drank, Saladin took Ranald's head, as Saladin had not offered the water to Ranald.

    Sleeping Arrangements: Sleeping beneath the same roof as another person is the ultimate declaration of trust, in means we know they will not harm us, even if we are helpless before them. In many cultures, sleeping under the same roof is also an official declaration of a truce between two parties (how long this lasts varies). This concept has even extended into international, specifically maritime laws, ships of enemy nations that dock in the same neutral ports, must depart separated by a minimum number of days, and may not attack each other in that span of time.


    In games I run I like to divy these, and more, up by culture.

    I give the Dwarves an alcohol bond. Sharing drinks with someone officially makes them your comrade for X amount of time, they are obligated to defend you if you are attacked and vice versa, and neither of you may fight each other.

    Humans I'll usually give the bread truce, and have different human nations have different variations on it.

    Salt, because of its anti-fey properties, I make a cultural trait of whichever culture in the world is most hostile to the fey

    Elves I like to give the water one, even though they aren't usually a desert culture, it just seems to fit them

    Orcs I usually give the sleeping under the same roof one. The comrades you share a tent with are the ones you can most trust (often the only ones you can trust) in Orcish society
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Crossing the threshold of a home makes one subject to the head of household as a child to a parent. One is obligated to obedience of the house rules. A host is obligated to accept responsibility for the conduct of guests for the duration of their stay. A host must feed and care for guests as if they were his children.

    A guest who imposes on a host by demanding more than is offered, expressing ingratitude, or by refusing to leave when asked can be publicly flogged.

    Anyone who enters a dwelling uninvited is also subject to public humiliation, up to and including flogging.

    Anyone who enters a dwelling with intent to commit a crime can, in addition to whatever penalty the crime incurrs, be branded on the back of the hand with the chevron that indicates the person is exempt from the benefits of hospitality.

    A host who fails to honor the obligations of hospitality will be cursed with financial hardship until a cleric of the god of hospitality is guested and approves of the host's hospitality.

    Because of the burden of hospitality, wayfarers and other uninvited guests will be offered places to sleep in barns or carrgage houses rather than in the host's home. Even the castles and mansions of nobles will have a separate dwelling for the owner within the larger construction.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Well a specific real world version from my own country was that the guest had to turn over all weapons save their dirk, a dagger used as a multi purpose tool and weapon of last resort, as a show of peaceful intention. The host would keep the weapons until the guest was leaving, at which point they were returned. The guest and host were not supposed to hurt each other, though a bout of fisticuffs or similar wouldn't necessarily break the rules of hospitality as long as no weapons are used but that depends on the nature of the scuffle.

    If the hosts land came under attack, by rival clans, thieves or what have you the guests were expected to take up arms alongside their host, either being given back their own weapons or being provided with some of the hosts weapons. Upon the end of the fight they would return their weapons to the host's care.

    Guests and hosts weren't supposed to be rude to one another, but presumably in practice this would have varied from case to case.

    I think that generally any traveller who knocked on your door could request hospitality, and it was considered very rude to refuse unless they refused to turn over their weapons.

    Beyond that it was customary to give gifts of food and drink, both to and from the guest and host if possible, and the host would be expected to provide some indoor space for the guests to sleep. I don't think there was a specific food based custom like breaking bread or giving salt.

    I can't recall if guests were obliged to help their host with household matters during their stay, but for smaller houses it would make sense that a wanderer would be expected to help out with the crops or livestock while they were around.


    Obviously, people being people, sometimes it didn't work out the way it was supposed to and people would use hospitality as a way to get close enough to murder people, sometimes entire households, but doing such a thing and being found out would permanently taint your reputation.
    Sanity is nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Deepbluediver's Avatar

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    This sort of thing came up in a novel I read as part of the central conflict- The Legacy of Gird by Elizabeth Moon.

    In it you have 2 cultures: an agrarian farming society and a magic-using ruler/noble class, so far so standard.
    The agrarian farmers have a tradition of exchange, where whenever 2 parties meet and/or ask for a favor, a trade, whatever, both individuals or groups are supposed to offer something to the other. It can be a token- for example both parties bringing a loaf of bread to a shared meal. If one party can't bring something to the exchange, they are seen as weak, poor, and/or pitiable. Even something as simple as borrowing an ember from a neighbor to relight your hearth-fire is supposed to be met with an offer (if not equivalent, then at least something that shows you are trying).
    The magic-using nobles come from another land, with a different tradition, where due to their magic the stronger party could compel a weaker one to give up anything they wanted, so when two groups meet the weaker one makes an offering of deference to the other. And this is described as good because by accepting the offering the stronger party agrees not to attack the weaker one, and outright violence is avoided.

    I'm sure you can see where this is going.
    So anyway, the story is set several generations (or several centuries, I don't recall exactly) after the initial meeting, and the details have grown fuzzy but neither group is happy with the arrangement. The farmers are upset that the magic-users essentially presented themselves as poor and in need of help (especially since they were fleeing from a war or disaster or something) and then turned around and started lording over them as soon as they got their feet planted, while the magic-users are upset that the farmers are rebelling and breaking their promise to be good servants.

    The magic-users are definitely the antagonists of the story, but the reasons for the conflict are presented as being complex and multi-faceted, so it's got a level of detail that's more than just "nobles bad, commoners good" that you see repeated so often.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2021-01-23 at 10:41 AM.
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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    This sort of thing came up in a novel I read as part of the central conflict- The Legacy of Gird by Elizabeth Moon.

    In it you have 2 cultures: an agrarian farming society and a magic-using ruler/noble class, so far so standard.

    The agrarian farmers have a tradition of exchange, where whenever 2 parties meet and/or ask for a favor, a trade, whatever, both individuals or groups are supposed to offer something to the other. It can be a token- for example both parties bringing a loaf of bread to a shared meal. If one party can't bring something to the exchange, they are seen as weak, poor, and/or pitiable. Even something as simple as borrowing an ember from a neighbor to relight your hearth-fire is supposed to be met with an offer (if not equivalent, then at least something that shows you are trying).

    The magic-using nobles come from another land, with a different tradition, where due to their magic the stronger party could compel a weaker one to give up anything they wanted, so when two groups meet the weaker one makes an offering of deference to the other. And this is described as good because by accepting the offering the stronger party agrees not to attack the weaker one, and outright violence is avoided.

    I'm sure you can see where this is going.

    So anyway, the story is set several generations (or several centuries, I don't recall exactly) after the initial meeting, and the details have grown fuzzy but neither group is happy with the arrangement. The farmers are upset that the magic-users essentially presented themselves as poor and in need of help (especially since they were fleeing from a war or disaster or something) and then turned around and started lording over them as soon as they got their feet planted, while the magic-users are upset that the farmers are rebelling and breaking their promise to be good servants.

    The magic-users are definitely the antagonists of the story, but the reasons for the conflict are presented as being complex and multi-faceted, so it's got a level of detail that's more than just "nobles bad, commoners good" that you see repeated so often.
    I remember that, it's a good example.

    That little difference helped fuel so much conflict.
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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim Portent View Post
    If the hosts land came under attack, by rival clans, thieves or what have you the guests were expected to take up arms alongside their host, either being given back their own weapons or being provided with some of the hosts weapons. Upon the end of the fight they would return their weapons to the host's care.
    Story potential there if the guests' family, friends, lord, or others they're also pledged to, are the ones attacking.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Story potential there if the guests' family, friends, lord, or others they're also pledged to, are the ones attacking.
    Certainly, but I think the usual response would be that attacking someone who's providing guest rights to your friends, family, liege or vassals is in itself an act of base treachery on the part of the assailants. To some extent that level of dickishness on their part could outweigh the pre-existing obligations of the guest, and the guests failing to protect their hosts would be an admission of complicity in the attack even if they don't actually attack anyone. 'Can you betray a man who is himself a traitor?' kind of thing.

    Obviously in real life guests would probably side with their kin when such circumstances arose, though people in history siding with their hosts in similar circumstances isn't unheard of.

    EDIT: Though the core conflict there would be great for a folklore style tragedy. Unbreakable rites of hospitality on one side, unbreakable vow of loyalty on the other, the two come into conflict that was ultimately avoidable, Cu Chulainn style tragedy ensues.
    Last edited by Grim Portent; 2021-01-27 at 05:46 PM.
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    Max_Killjoy's Avatar

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim Portent View Post
    Certainly, but I think the usual response would be that attacking someone who's providing guest rights to your friends, family, liege or vassals is in itself an act of base treachery on the part of the assailants. To some extent that level of dickishness on their part could outweigh the pre-existing obligations of the guest, and the guests failing to protect their hosts would be an admission of complicity in the attack even if they don't actually attack anyone. 'Can you betray a man who is himself a traitor?' kind of thing.

    Obviously in real life guests would probably side with their kin when such circumstances arose, though people in history siding with their hosts in similar circumstances isn't unheard of.

    EDIT: Though the core conflict there would be great for a folklore style tragedy. Unbreakable rites of hospitality on one side, unbreakable vow of loyalty on the other, the two come into conflict that was ultimately avoidable, Cu Chulainn style tragedy ensues.
    I was thinking that the attackers don't know that their comrades are there until after they begin the attack, somehow.

    Or something with the guests trying to stop the attack without betraying either side.

    If it's a certain sort of story, geasa are involved. One guest, or different guests, are cursed to die if they betray a host, and cursed to die if they betray their liege or sworn brother or someone who is with the attackers.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2021-01-27 at 07:14 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Laserlight's Avatar

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    If the host offers you food, then you are a guest and safe, unless of course you break a taboo. If you waste food, or step on the threshold, or violate some other taboo, then you're no longer protected. This is an example from history, although I'll leave the tribe anonymous. Let's just say that if you weren't one of those people, the chances were high that you'd accidentally violate a taboo.
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    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    In the midwest, the guest to a house should bring a desert or a bottle of wine or something like that to show your gratitude. The host will normally offer some refreshment before sharing a meal. So far, so normal. Now, we have this weird tradition of taking the guest into every room of our home and showing them the house. The host will explain what the room is and point something out about the room. The guest will make a polite comment about the room or its decoration and then it's off to the next room. Why do your guests need a detailed tour of your home? Who knows? But it's what we do. I did not know this was weird until I started traveling.

    If this ritual was skipped or refused then it wouldn't rise to the level of a fight or even an argument but it would be kinda rude. Things like that are how hospitality works in the real world. You don't make a faux pas and break guest-right. It's a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings that build up. It might be better to think of one or two quirky rituals to go through with your party and have the tensions between the two groups build. That also keeps from feeling railroaded by a conflict that came out of nowhere.

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    In the midwest, the guest to a house should bring a desert or a bottle of wine or something like that to show your gratitude. The host will normally offer some refreshment before sharing a meal. So far, so normal. Now, we have this weird tradition of taking the guest into every room of our home and showing them the house. The host will explain what the room is and point something out about the room. The guest will make a polite comment about the room or its decoration and then it's off to the next room. Why do your guests need a detailed tour of your home? Who knows? But it's what we do. I did not know this was weird until I started traveling.

    If this ritual was skipped or refused then it wouldn't rise to the level of a fight or even an argument but it would be kinda rude. Things like that are how hospitality works in the real world. You don't make a faux pas and break guest-right. It's a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings that build up. It might be better to think of one or two quirky rituals to go through with your party and have the tensions between the two groups build. That also keeps from feeling railroaded by a conflict that came out of nowhere.
    I think this is a thing that might be dying out -- I know what you're talking about, but it's never been a thing I've personally experienced.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Make sure to fair to the PCs, that they should have some way of knowing the cultural taboos/traditions, or at least that there are strange traditions they might be unaware of.

    ---

    That said, this does sound rather interesting. You could probably look up lists of taboos and hospitality of various real-world groups. I like the "breaking of bread" one or offering of salt.
    I've always heard that hospitality should be extended to someone for 3 days, but a guest staying longer than that has no protections.

    In the web serial Pact, there's some neat rules of hospitality. Following or breaking them impacts your karma, which has real (if sometimes subtle) ramifications for magic-users. So magic-users are very inclined to offer hospitality to someone, which basically means if someone comes (in peace) to you, you offer them some respite (ideally for free). Be it food, water, or even protection--though protection isn't necessarily obligated--you should offer something. (I forget if it's bad karma to not offer hospitality, or just a missed opportunity to get good karma.)
    Also, rejecting hospitality is poor conduct. I think there's one scene where someone comes intending to kill a character, but that character offers them food and water. Rather than get the bad karma by rejecting the hospitality, he accepts, creating a temporary truce, and just intends to try again later.

    I've also heard of villages offering a visiting leader bread and salt. The leader would accept it, and toss a little salt over his shoulder. Not sure of the significance of that, but it was a sign of accepting the gift and (I guess) promising peace and, in a sense, the leader's blessing during the leader's stay.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    ClericGuy

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I think this is a thing that might be dying out -- I know what you're talking about, but it's never been a thing I've personally experienced.
    I live in a small town (800 people) and the big city (1800 people) is a half hour away. It's entirely possible that nobody does this anymore and we just didn't get the memo yet. The '90s got here 20 years late. Lol

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    lacco36's Avatar

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeenLeen View Post
    I've also heard of villages offering a visiting leader bread and salt. The leader would accept it, and toss a little salt over his shoulder. Not sure of the significance of that, but it was a sign of accepting the gift and (I guess) promising peace and, in a sense, the leader's blessing during the leader's stay.
    From what I remember... let's say few hundred years ago (the tradition is still a bit alive in some cases): Offering bread & salt was one of local customs related to hospitality. It's basically a "welcome!" sign, telling you that you were received as a guest.

    Tossing salt over one's shoulder (left) was said to protect one from evil (witches, ghosts, demons), at least that was a relatively common superstition around here. You could also spit over your left shoulder to protect yourself.

    Also: salt circles. They were a thing, which protected you from witches (e.g. if you wanted to show your courage, you could have made a salt circle and sat on a three-legged stool made out of single piece of wood on a crossroads on 13th of December; the result was becoming a homing beacon for all the local witches).
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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How does hospitality differ cross-culturally?

    I've also heard of wearing shoes or not wearing shoes as respectful. And in different cultures, different ways.
    Do Wear Shoes Inside: it's rude to show your bare feet to strangers. It's treating someone else's house like your own.
    Do NOT Wear Shoes Inside: shoes have the dirt and grime from outdoors, and you don't carry that into someone's house.

    There can also be cultural rudeness in how well or poorly you dress. Like the idiom "Sunday best", you might wear fancy clothes for dining with someone you respect or a religious ceremony--or it be rude to dress down. On the other hand, you could seem "uppity" and rude if you dress too fancy while visiting someone. Dress could have some intricacies based on relative social class, and whether you are showing proper deference or acting superior.
    (Probably not a great thing for adventurers, as I reckon it'd be understood travelers can't always dress accordingly.)

    Quote Originally Posted by lacco36 View Post
    From what I remember... let's say few hundred years ago (the tradition is still a bit alive in some cases): Offering bread & salt was one of local customs related to hospitality. It's basically a "welcome!" sign, telling you that you were received as a guest.

    Tossing salt over one's shoulder (left) was said to protect one from evil (witches, ghosts, demons), at least that was a relatively common superstition around here. You could also spit over your left shoulder to protect yourself.
    Yeah, that sounds like what I'm talking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    It might be better to think of one or two quirky rituals to go through with your party and have the tensions between the two groups build. That also keeps from feeling railroaded by a conflict that came out of nowhere.
    Definitely agree with this route. I feel like this would be really hard to integrate well into a game, unless y'all are a bunch of sociology majors who enjoy this stuff
    A couple of examples to make them aware something more serious might be coming is a good idea.
    Last edited by JeenLeen; 2021-02-09 at 09:40 AM.

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