The Swedish Tradition Of Not Sharing Meals With Guests

By Peter C

Sharing meals with others is a fundamental aspect of hospitality for most people. However, the practice of inviting guests to join the family meal is not universal, as exemplified by the Swedish tradition of not sharing dinner with guests.

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This cultural phenomenon came to light through a viral Twitter thread that sparked a global conversation about food culture and hospitality. The thread prompted users from all over the world to share their own experiences of food culture and hospitality, highlighting the differences between cultures.

In Sweden, it was customary not to invite guests to join the family meal in the past, but this practice has gradually faded over the years, especially since the 1990s. However, some Swedes still hold onto the tradition of not sharing meals with guests, believing feeding a guest creates a sense of obligation. The Swedish belief of not wanting to impose a burden on others or feel indebted to them is deeply ingrained in their values of equality and independence.

In other parts of the world, the act of sharing meals with others is deeply ingrained in the culture, and it is considered a way of showing hospitality and building relationships. In India, for example, sharing meals with others is a way of breaking the ice and getting to know someone. In China, hospitality is deeply connected to the Confucian idea of reciprocity, where the host is expected to show kindness and generosity to their guests.

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The reasons for these differences in food culture and hospitality can be attributed to a variety of factors, including historical events, social norms, and cultural values. In societies with a lengthy history of poverty, the recollection of hunger may lead to a sense of obligation to extend hospitality toward one’s own community.

Regardless of the reasons, understanding and respecting these cultural differences is essential to building strong relationships across cultures.