The first time I heard this word was a couple of weeks ago in Greece. Is the opposite of Xenophobia. Xenophile describes a person who loves, likes, and is attracted to foreign people, cultures, and customs.
The word which comes from ancient Greek stuck in my mind for two reasons. First, because I have never heard about it before, and second, becauseI finally found a word that describes and matches the feeling of curiosity, questioning, and fascination I have for people.
The word comes from the combination of “Xenos” meaning (strange, unknown), and “philia “(love). It could be translated as hospitality, but it would not be accurate enough to capture its meaning. I want to try to define it with my personal experience, which is ongoing and hopefully never-ending, about finding foreign things amazing.
Before starting, I also want to highlight another sticked mental note I heard from an anthropologist at the University: You can just go out of your house and find a whole world, you can travel the whole world and find nothing. That is, it is not about how far you go, but about openheartedness. It is about how open are your eyes, ears, and heart to allow yourself and others to have meaningful encounters.
It is hard to know when it all started, but I love to know about different ways to do things, to eat, to drink, to say something, to act, to think, to be. While studying in Germany I lived in shared flats with different people. Iran, Russia, Bangladesh, Siria, India, and Togo were the nationalities of some of my flatmates. Enrolled in an international master’s degree, I had the chance to also meet people from Kenia, Afghanistan, Brazil, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Egypt, Thailand, Pakistan, and from my own country, but a different region, Colombia.
Now as part of the European Solidarity Corps Program I live in a shared flat with people from Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, and a Venezuelan living in Spain.
From all of them, I have learned an array of things that are now embodied and present in my life. Here is a list of them. So without more words, a big thanks for the shared moments to my friend from:
Afghanistan: who showed how putting our family before ourselves is a way of caring and love. Family is a circle of love.
Bangladesh: who no matter how tired or busy she was, put effort and time into cooking the best meal. Food nurture not only the body but the soul.
Brazil: For making showers before going to bed essential. It makes a lot of sense to enter the bed where you sleep clean and fresh rather than showering to go out in the city and get dirty.
Costa Rica: For teaching us how a nation should spend its GDP. Why invest in armies when we can do it with a good health system? Less industries complex, and more schools, and hospitals.
Egypt: For showing me that belly dance is a feeling, rather than a dance. So as cooking and sharing the food with others in Eid Mubarak.
Germany: For making me feel that being punctual is not rare, is respectful and saves you from stress. For the free body culture to de-eroticize the sexual burden on them.
Greece: For your stories of God and goddesses. For finding meaning behind every word. For your hospitality and this word.
Iran: For the Persian new year celebrations which means not only new beginnings but also welcoming the spring season.
Italy: For gestures and words that mean more than any sentence together. For a lot of expressos and showing us the perfect way to calm hungry everywhere: pasta
India: For the birthday celebrations who are made for sharing with people. For healing through food and making family anyone to feel as family members regardless of blood.
Thailand: For showing me the best way to sit. Who needs a chair when our body provides the strongest and comfortable way to balance.
Turkey: For the importance of calling family and friends and reminding them how important they are.
Ukraine: for the warm soups that need to be big to share with others and to have enough for upcoming guests and days. For standing in the hardest times as a country.
Romania: for spitting into people (kidding) to not curse them.
Russia: For your stories of utopias being true one day.
As Paul Salopek wrote for the New York Times “I’m not seeking the exotic Other. I’m walking toward the familiarity of people.”[i] Wish to complete a list of many things and conversations to learn about.