Sunday, March 23, 2014

How Much to Serve?

Sharing meals (food) is an important part of diplomacy, relationship building.  I wrote in earlier posts about  Former Secretary of State Clinton talking about meals as an element of diplomacy and about  a book written about Winston Churchill’s use of meals as a way of gathering and sharing information. 

We think of meals as time to get to know people.  From a protocol and a practical perspective we think of meals in terms of check lists.  Colors, centerpieces, what to serve.  Planning the menu. No beef if your guests are from India.  No pork for almost any group.  We want to be aware of, respectful of food in terms of religious beliefs.
But a recent article “Lessons in Culture from Twenty-Four Japanese Hula Dancers  reminded me that the amount of food we serve can also be culturally sensitive.  In many countries, cultures, we show our respect, interest in friendship and connection by serving generous amounts of food.   We may have to leave some food in our dish to indicate that host was go generous that we couldn’t possible consume all that they offered.  The abundance of what’s offered is given to make the guest feel special and welcome.

A lovely thought unless the abundance makes the uncomfortable.  The story of the hula dancers" reaction to the generosity of the author points out the Enough can sometimes be Too Much. 

It’s hard to think that what one culture thinks as generosity can be seen as wasteful excess to another.  If our goal is to build connections, have our colleagues and guests feel honored and respected, its one more thing we must consider.  How much is too much?

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