Photo Credit: Dreamstime
After being in Geneva, Switzerland for only a few days I realized that every person that I had met was over a meal for the most part. The day that I landed, I hadn’t had time to go get groceries or anything. Immediately I was overwhelmed with offers from people to share their food. Whether it was Pavla, the sweetest lady in the world, from the Czech Republic, Daniel a sarcastic Dutchman from the Netherlands, or Charis from Singapore, I was assured not to go hungry that afternoon. This continued to be the model just about every day. Even when I had my own lunch, everyone brought food with enough to share. Mealtime came across to me as a very significant time. There was a lot of thought put into what to eat as well as where to eat it.
I don’t think I’ve been on four picnics in the past 10 years, but I experienced this many in about two weeks. One day while we were out on a picnic, strangers passing by on bikes and in cars yelled out, “Bon Appetit” to us. I thought this was the strangest and most charming thing. As if to say, we really hope you are enjoying your time together and that your meal is a pleasant experience. I was taken aback by such genuine care and courtesy from perfect strangers. In restaurants, meals are typically not rushed at all. You should plan to be at a dinner experience for at least two hours. Servers give you a chance to sit and chat with your company for the first few minutes, versus rushing to get your drink order before someone gets impatient. They take their time, and they expect you to take your time as well, to enjoy the atmosphere, your friends and the food. Absolutely no one had their cell phones out, at any table, in the restaurant. Mealtime is not for social media, business, or texts messages it’s for deep conversations and sharing life moments with those currently in your presence.
The other type of meal I experienced was dinner in the home of a couple from Senegal, friends of my cousin. I had never met or even spoken to these amazing people before, yet they invited me into their home for a traditional Senegalese meal based on the fact that they knew I was in Geneva and didn’t know anyone. They were so warm and inviting and the food was delicious! There were about three courses and each one was as patient to arrive as the one before.
The culture of this European city impacted me in a great way, but the way that meals were handled impacted me the most. Probably because, as I said before, I met so many great people over a meal or as a result of being invited to a meal. People from places like Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Singapore, Nigeria, South Africa, North Africa (Algeria), Korea, Senegal, and Brazil. Brunch, lunch or dinnertime brought us all together and it was in those moments that we shared our lives and our hearts. In those moments, I experienced true community. This experience has forever changed the way I see relationships and the time we spend cultivating them. Imagine the message you send to those you love and care about when you give them your undivided attention while sharing a meal?