Hyooruh Asdzoonun eh — a guest is God’s. I had never heard that saying before Armenia. My friend Asthik’s family member from Erebuni, who invited us over for dinner one night, mentioned it when we were talking about the differences in hospitality in Armenia versus America. He told us a story about being a young boy and seeing his grandfather accept a beggar into his home because it’s not right to turn away a guest. Naturally that mentality got passed down to him. In America, with all that we have to keep up with, you’re only likely to accept a guest if you’ve planned ahead of time. There’s no right or wrong way to do it; it’s just a difference in lifestyles and priorities. In America, you work long hours, leaving less time for socializing, while in Armenia, there’s less work and so people socialize more.
This family, like many families in Armenia, went above and beyond to make us feel welcomed and special and stuffed. Dishes upon dishes of food, cup after cup of wine, desserts galore — and most importantly, genatz after genatz (cheers after cheers) to life, health, and of course, love. You know the drill if you’ve been here. They even got me a gift so that I wouldn’t feel left out since they got my friend one. But this incident isn’t unique in Armenia; even the least well-off families open their arms and homes to guests, and set a table that will make your jaw drop. And they won’t let you leave for hours and hours, and until you’ve eaten at least one of each item on the table. Needless to say, you leave stuffed in your stomach and soul.