Posted by: jkirkby8712 | April 7, 2011

Wednesday, 6th April 2011 – cross cultural reflections

I read an interesting perspective tonight of one minor little example of cultural differences, and rather seemingly of relative insignificance, the circumstances of it’s existence can represent a major adjustment or acceptance of the way of doing things.

The item I’m speaking of, appeared in the latest edition of our the newsletter of our little Indigenous Hospitality House  [IHH] in North Carlton. I have referred to this establishment previously, but for the benefit of newer readers, it is a small establishment [ a converted former private residence]  close to the CBD operated by a group of permanent on-site residents, which offers a peaceful and homely atmosphere for Indigenous people who arte forced to be in Melbourne for short periods, while they support a family member who is a patient at one of Melbourne’s hospitals. It is a project that is overseen by Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and supported by the Church of All Nations, as well as Christians of various denominations, other groups, individuals and volunteers. It was established in 2001, and I played a very minor role in assisting with the clean up of the property at it’s time of establishment, and later in encouraging the involvement of our local church in Sunbury, in funding support. Since it’s establishment, the IHH has received over 1200 guests from across Australia.

The article I found of interest was written by one of the current ‘permanent’ support residents, Miriam, and was titles ‘Hospitality: a cross –cultural reflection’.

“Having grown up in Arab cultures, my concept of hospitality is very Arab. This has led to some great discussions with my new housemates about concepts of hospitality in Arab and Australian cultures, and the differences and similarities between them. In Arabic culture a new guest is treated like a king: distant, revered, and the centre of attention. All the best is offered to them, and they are not permitted to do anything for themselves – they are literally waited on, all as a way of conveying honor and respect. When guests become a bit more familiar, they become less of a centre of attention but are still not encouraged to do much for

themselves. When I arrived at IHH I came with that concept of hospitality and was surprised when I encountered a different model. I discovered that Australian hospitality consists of making the guest feel like one of the family – so they are not treated as special or distant, but rather allowed to fit right in and do everything for themselves so they don’t feel like a burden. When I asked an Arab I know who has lived in Australia for many years about his experiences, he explained he had encountered the same differences – specifically, he

commented on how bewildered he was by BYO bbq’s – ‘Why would you bother to invite me, then ask me to bring my own drink? Why wouldn’t I just buy the drink and have it at home?!’

I am realizing that though the focus is different the expressions of hospitality both come from the same place – a desire to make the guest feel loved and respected.

IHH is a good place to figure out how best to do that in the context of many different Indigenous cultures. “…the expressions of hospitality both come from the same place—a desire to make the guest feel loved and respecte”

Meanwhile, I was a little disappointed, when I called around at the family home tonight, that no-one from the family had attempted to contact Susie today. I sent her a message this evening, not really expecting a reply, a guess just a reminder that she was in my thoughts. There was no response, which was fair enough – might have had late lectures, been sleeping, etc, or simply not in the mood for any ‘conversation’; tonight. I did subsequently ask her mother to try and contact her later – never heard the outcome of that either. I had to assume that contact had been made, otherwise I would have heard. Nevertheless, this Dad went to bed tonight, still concerned, and worried as to how his girl was coping but not wishing to ‘push’ too much.

James called around at  my place later in the evening – to borrow a couple of my ‘Art’ reference books which he needed to assist him with an art assignment he was currently working on for his post graduate university teacher training course. I asked him to make sure they were returned  asap and safely  –  sometimes my books tend to become on permanent loan!! One of the books he borrowed had been an Art textbook of mine during my Year 11 of studies – way back in 1963 – Gombrich’s Story of Art [or similar title] – quite a substantial reference source in it’s time, and in my view at least, a valuable part of my book collection!

Later, I watched a rather depressing ’apparent ‘ true story movie on SBS TV, called ‘Lake Mungo’, but in the main, set in the western Victorian town of Ararat, about 200 kms from here.

Basically, the story  of  a teenager who drowns while swimming in the local dam. When her body is recovered and a verdict of accidental death is returned, her grieving family buries her.  The family then experiences a series of strange and inexplicable events centred in and around their home, and they seek the help of a psychic.  It is discovered that the daughter had led a secret double life, and a series of clues lead the family to Lake Mungo [in south west New South Wales] where her secret past emerges.  The ‘ghost’ aspect of the film, was determined to be the efforts of the teenager to reveal the truth about her life, to her family – until then, her ‘spirit’ or whatever could not rest.  I suggested at the beginning that this was a true story – but perhaps not. The ‘film’ [ a low budget variety] is presented in the form of a documentary with the family, various videos, and amateur films from hand held phones, etc, incorporated into the story – though in fact, all of the characters are actors!  Their performance certainly had this viewer thinking initially that all the material being used was original and authentic. In fact, as one online reviewer noted   ‘Anderson and company [the directors] have crafted an almost flawless impostor: a entirely fictional story brilliantly disguised as God’s honest truth. This feat has been attempted by many, though none have come close to executing their visions with the style and grace of Anderson’s eerie endeavor’  I have to agree. It had me fooled for a while.

However, not really the kind of film I should have watched late into the night  – with thoughts going constantly back to how my daughter was coping, about 100 kms away, wondering whether she is wanting someone up there with her – is she working, studying, sleeping, crying?  Wish I was closer at hand!!






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