Xenia: Why We Should Be Nicer to Strangers

By Nupur Kudapkar 

In my opinion, our generation is quite antisocial when it comes to strangers. Not to go against your parents’ warnings about stranger danger because yes, some strangers do have ill intentions but sometimes it is okay to talk to strangers. 

Xenia is a Greek word that means to offer protection and hospitality to strangers. It was a custom that proved vital in Greece because Zeus was the god who protected strangers. There were specific regulations that had to be adhered to in ancient Greece in order to be a courteous host and uphold the idea of xenia. Along with providing food and drinks, the host also has to give the guest access to a bathroom and clean clothes, in addition to keeping them amused and refraining from polite conversation until the visitor is comfortable. Additionally, the host was required to provide the visitor with instructions to their next stop. The Greeks hoped to be rewarded for their kindness instead of penalized. It was known that Zeus had eyes everywhere, so the people in ancient Greece did not know if the guest they were hosting was simply a passerby or a god/goddess in disguise. 

Applying this to modern society, I do not encourage you to welcome strangers into your home but rather use the practice of xenia to become a better person. Some things that you can do to help strangers include donating/volunteering to organizations that you care about, donating supplies to people who need them, giving blood, finding ways that you can better the environment, lending your ear to hear people’s stories, and more. Additionally, finding connections can be a great way to practice xenia. It is important to get out there and establish yourself and by getting to know people and reaching out of your comfort zone you can build lifelong connections. There are many ways to practice the art of xenia and I encourage everyone to try it at least once.