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Photo of Marie-Pierres house

I mentioned, in my delirious tag sale entry, that we will spend our last ten days in Portland at a friend’s apartment….a crucial piece of the departure puzzle.

My friend Marie-Pierre, who will be in Hawaii in late March, has eagerly offered her apartment (pictured above) while she’s away, in part because she is European. There really is no way to describe the blessing represented by her offer: the tag sale will be going on during that time, there will be no bed at home, no kitchen utensils, no office, no….  Well, you get the idea.

Over lunch we discussed why it is that a European seems more likely to loan an apartment, or to socially adopt your cousin who just moved to Barcelona, or to come knock on the door to invite you for a neighborly drink. They will invite someone they just met to family lunch on Sunday. Marie-Pierre and I agreed that Europeans are better with this bonhomie, but we had no idea why.

And it’s dangerous territory, because we can’t say Americans aren’t gracious and open and so forth. We let all sorts of people in to sleep on the couch, usually for free. We meet with the friends of our friends who just moved to our town. We bring brownies to the new neighbors. But somehow, it is not the same. I think we are more cautious. Is it because we are originally a nation of immigrants and therefore, strangers? Is it because we now have more violent crime than any country on earth?

Since I’ve launched a blatant generalization about European hospitality, I might as well invent a theory to explain it. Mmmm... Europe is really small and it wasn’t that long ago that everybody was related. The royals were always marrying each other and moving around with large retinues, so people had cousins in every country. Naturally, family is duty-bound to share the castle. Oh, and Europe is so old that there were many, many years when they didn’t even have hotels or inns, so people had to stay in other people’s houses.

Okay, that’s lame. I leave it to you. Are Europeans really more likely to open their doors and hearts and be welcoming to strangers? And if so, why? Ponder this and let me know.

Back to packing…it has begun!

(Photo credit Google Maps)

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