Englishman Abroad: A Peep at People (or a focus on folk)

It seems to me that it’s people that make the experience. That’s what genuine hospitality is about after all – a welcome, not a greeting, a table at a restaurant, and not a hotel room. It’s the people. Those you meet, those you take along with you, those you listen (or read) when you tell about your adventures … and misadventures. Hospitality is about shared moments, whether it’s your business or your pleasure, or of course both.

Shared moments

So this time around it’s no exception. Less than a week in, and the memorable moments generally revolve around the people:

The taxi driver who until a few years ago was a maitre d’ and who shares the belief that to work in the hospitality industry you need to care about your guest and go the extra mile, always. Those I know in Europe and the USA who get the most from their hospitality jobs also give the most [yes, you know who you are if you’re reading this].

The entrepreneur whose enthusiasm to share her knowledge with a stranger who wants to learn the trade is refreshing. As an entrepreneurship intern this sort of exchange is so important. And it IS an exchange. The successful intern brings something different to the job – enthusiasm yes, but open eyes and ears, a willingness to ask simple but insightful questions, to make suggestions, to be willing to fail in order to grow and ultimately succeed. When you’re seeking feedback, where would you be without people to give the gift of comment and conversation?

The colleagues – interns and permanent employees alike – with whom you share the experience of learning, and whose contribution to the team adds to your own, achieving by joint effort more than the sum of individual parts. Here I’m very lucky to be working in a young enthusiastic team, some of whom have been here only a little longer than I have. Age isn’t the issue here. It’s the attitude, the desire to learn. It’s an international team including Spain, Hungary, Portugal and the UK, which only goes to make the cultural experience stronger.

Nowadays the ‘followers’ – in the social media rather than any other sense – are important too for many of us. Yes, it would be good to know a few are following my own progress but if you’re part of Gen Z or a millennial you will, I’m sure, have a different take on all this. It’s a form of feedback as long as you take some with a pinch of salt and have a fairly thick skin at times. But it mustn’t take the place of real human engagement. Echo chambers may be reassuring but until someone opens the door there’s a limit to what you can learn.

And then there are the flatmates. I’ve found myself living with a seemingly nocturnal and evidently international, mix of people thrown together and (it seems) living their own lives in parallel. But that can be a positive experience too, trying to find common ground to meet on (and times when our schedules overlap), making an effort and compromising – a bit of empathy goes a long way and it’s no bad thing to build a little resilience, a thicker hide. Certainly my karma seems to have improved since I did more than a bit of cleaning and tidying, and persevering on the light conversation front. And not worrying to much about nightly noises!

Hospitality… and service with a smile.

As someone wanting to learn about people and service, you can learn so much from the people around you, including of course those that are delivering a service to you.

You’ll have heard it said that you should walk a mile in a person’s shoes to be enlightened, or at least to be a mile away and have their shoes. But to focus on the first point, how can you learn about service if you do a disservice to those doing something for you?

Watch, listen, engage and discover.

Someone may even let you try on their shoes for a while.

And who knows where that will take you…?

Published by John Humphreys

Education and leisure industry professional with over 30 years' experience and a focus on delivering international experiences and employability development.

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