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Middle East unites online to condemn Swedes for not feeding their guests

After it emerged online that in Sweden hosts often expect their guests to go without food, many in the Middle East compared this 'absurdity' to their own hospitality
Feeding your guests is a cornerstone of Middle Eastern culture, so many social media users were perplexed to find out that not everyone shares the same enthusiasm (AFP)

When someone visits your home, do you feed them, or do you keep them in another room while you and your family enjoy a nice dinner?  

The internet has been keenly debating Swedish hospitality culture after stories about Swedes not feeding guests - children included - emerged on various social media platforms.

It all started on a Reddit forum, where a user asked: "What's the weirdest thing you had to do at someone else's house because of their culture/religion?" One reply featured a story about going to a Swedish friend's house and the friend telling him to "wait in his room" while his family ate dinner.

The discussion quickly spread to Twitter under the hashtag #Swedengate, with thousands of people sharing their own experience of not receiving food while visiting Swedish houses. 

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One user claimed that after spending the night at his Swedish friend's home, he was surprised to discover the family, including his friend, enjoying breakfast without him. 

Interacting with the hashtag, numerous social media users debated hospitality norms in different cultures, with many from Middle Eastern backgrounds claiming that such Swedish scenarios were "unthinkable and shocking" in their homes.  

While some Swedes defended the tradition, saying it stemmed from historical issues of poverty and class, others claimed poverty was not an excuse, with one Moroccan user stating that her parents would "at least give the guests tea, biscuits or in the Moroccan way olive oil, homemade bread, and olives on the side". 

Others referenced an advertisement by the Saudi General Authority for Statistics requesting that individuals cease bringing census collectors to their homes for coffee and meals, highlighting the difference between the two cultures' traditions of hospitality. 

"If I physically knocked on a random home door [in the Middle East] and requested for food, they would give me more than I can think," one startled social media user proclaimed

"Even if you only had enough food for one person and you are a family of four and a guest comes by you offer that guest the food and tell them you already ate and you go to sleep hungry. There is no question. There is no debate. That’s it," another added

Some of those not from Middle Eastern backgrounds shared their own stories of being warmly received by Arab and Middle Eastern friends, noting that when it comes to food, "they wouldn't take no as answer".

The discourse on Sweden's guest-welcoming culture swiftly morphed into a broader discussion about hospitality traditions in cultures across the globe, with users from South Asia, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere remarking on the similarities between their cultures' approaches to appreciating guests and ensuring they never leave the house hungry.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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