Azerbaijani Culture I: Western Hospitality through the Lens of the Canapé

Hospitality cultures in Turkey and the Caucasus are very different from hospitality cultures in North America and the West.

I have already written a bit about Turkish hospitality, and touched on how it can provoke extreme culture shock. I plan to write a whole not tongue-in-cheek post on it at some point as it is definitely one of the most difficult things for me to navigate as a Canadian.

I can only imagine that Turkish and Caucasian peoples experience an inside-out version of this when they spend time in Europe or North America.

According to a British girl living in Azerbaijan with her Azerbaijani boyfriend that I met on the train to Baku, this creates a general perception that people from the West are cold and inhospitable.


Mmmm, canapés…

She said, “I sometimes have to remind my boyfriend that Azerbaijanis don’t have a monopoly on hospitality – that we also have hospitality in the U.K., but we express it differently. Most of the Azerbaijanis I’ve met think that we are cold people and that they can’t expect to receive hospitality from us, which is true of some people, of course, but not really a fair assumption.

There was this one time I invited a bunch of our friends all round for dinner. When they arrived, it turned out they’d all been out to eat together just before and they weren’t hungry. I’d made so much food; a massive lasagna and everything. So I asked, ‘Why? I made tonnes of food.’ And I’d made everything – I made desserts.

They said, ‘We were really hungry and we expected to come over and there would be nothing but canapés and like, tiny little cucumber sandwiches. So we ate before.’

I said, ‘What? Why would I invite you over and serve you cucumber sandwiches?’ I can only imagine that at some point they all went to some British person’s house or something and that’s what it was… They probably expected a full meal and were really hungry the whole time. So they prepared in advance for my invitation.”


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