Entertaining vs. Hospitality: Immigrant Edition

Hospitality is a slippery word. Let it start associating with Pinterest images and Martha Stewart magazines, and suddenly inviting others into your home becomes a really intimidating thing.

I don’t have time to plan a themed dinner party with the deadline at work and/or the kids just starting school! you think to yourself, and it’s true: you probably DON’T have time to entertain on a regular basis.

But notice how easily “hospitality” morphed into “entertaining” in the above paragraph! Though we confuse them in our minds sometimes, they are NOT the same thing.

Entertaining = Creating a special experience for guests with the goal of surprising, delighting, and…well…entertaining them. Often uses special menus, decorations, and out-of-the-ordinary activities to achieve this goal.

Hospitality = Inviting people into your home with the goal of connecting with them. <– period

Now I love entertaining (or, let’s be honest, I mostly like being entertained) with a great party planned weeks in advance with a grand spread of food, a special playlist, and scented candles arranged prettily on the coffee table. Special celebrations are something we should have more of, I think, BUT that’s not the point of this article.

The point is, if we think that hospitality = entertaining, it will discourage us and cause us to miss opportunities to welcome people (including and perhaps especially internationals) because it feels too overwhelming and we don’t have the time.

But are you eating dinner at home sometime this week? If you are, could you make a double batch of that spaghetti or buy two rotisserie chickens instead of one, and invite another family to come over? Could you pull up an extra seat to the table so an international student can join you?


  1. It doesn’t matter what you serve as long as connection and love are on the menu.
  2. You don’t have to make it special. It can just be normal. Normalcy (not just novelty) is what immigrants crave when they come to a foreign land.


You may find when you invite someone over that it is their very first time being invited to an American home (I’ve been told this more times than I can count and it floors me every time!). No matter how ordinary the occasion (Tuesday night is taco night!), if it’s the first time—or one of the first times— it will certainly be memorable.

Here are a few more tips to keep hospitality non-overwhelming:

  1. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Don’t feel like you have to get things perfect before you start. There is wisdom in just jumping in before you feel ready. Please don’t browse Pinterest for entertaining ideas and then feel inadequate when you see your very normal home looking normal. It’s ok! People come to your house to see YOU. And honestly, the best way to get more comfortable and regular in inviting internationals over is to…you guessed it…just start inviting them over.

  1. Have priorities in cleaning and cooking.

It’s nice to pick up a bit before guests come over. Key words = a bit. Don’t worry about making everything spic and span. Just prioritize on the essentials.

I’ll let you in on my own tried and true formula when I’m short on time and expecting a guest: do a 5 minute wipe down the bathroom guests will use, do a sweep of the living areas to corral toys that might be stepped on into a basket, move any piles in the living areas to my bedroom, close my bedroom door. Good enough! This should all take 15 minutes or less.

When cooking, you can reference this post on considering the dietary needs of immigrants from different backgrounds while maintaining your sanity. Almost everyone likes rice. Spaghetti, pizza, and curry are also usually crowd pleasers. Don’t make special food if it stresses you out. Just deconstruct (if necessary) your tried and true recipes to suit guests (i.e. make half the spaghetti sauce with meat and half without if you’re inviting a vegetarian).

  1. Prioritize connection

As the host, you set the tone. Often hosts who are entertaining don’t feel like they really get to enjoy the party, because they’re worried about orchestrating all the special details so others can have a good time. But those who are showing hospitality keep things simple enough that when the knock comes at the door, their hands and hearts are free to attend to their guests.

The food and the atmosphere are upstaged by the loving connection. All you have to do is make sure the food and atmosphere are not SO BAD as to be distracting (there’s a low bar for you!) from getting to know each other better. By the end of your time together, if you have deepened your knowledge of one another and feel more connected than before, you have been a success as a host!

What’s one of your most memorable experiences opening your home to internationals?



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