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Filoxenia

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Definition: Filoxenia is an important word in Greece - it means "love of strangers" or "love of foreigners". Filoxenia has very ancient roots - one of the titles of the Greek god Zeus was "filoxenios", or stranger-loving. It comes from "filos" - which means to love or like - and "xenos", a pre-Greek word which means "from the outside" or "outsider". "Xenos" also forms part of the word Xenodochia, or "tourist place", indicating an inn.

Filoxenia is at the root of the great traditions of hospitality that the average visitor to Greece will find almost anywhere in Greece. While a few stressed Greek tourism workers may find their natural store of filoxenia begins to wear thin as the season continues, most will still give a genuinely warm welcome to travelers who cared enough to come all the way to Greece - where any reasonable person would want to be anyway.

Zeus was thought to care enough about the concept of Filoxenia to test it out occasionally. It was believed that Zeus might disguise himself as a foreigner and approach a village to see what kind of welcome he might receive. Any strangers just could be Zeus in disguise - so best to treat them well. Fortunately, most Greeks feel the same way still.

The myth of the wandering hero also contributes to the idea of filoxenia. The reception of Odysseus by the Phaecians is an example of "filoxenia" from a time when strangers also served a crucial function of providing both news and entertainment. While modern tourists may feel they don't fulfill this function, they actually do. I'm no longer surprised at the number of Greeks who want to talk politics, often knowing fairly obscure details of how things are going in the United States. And as tourist stagger around in vividly-colored summer wear with their wheelie bags trailing behind, I'm sure we provide more entertainment than we realize!

Pronunciation: fee-lo-zen-eea
Also Known As: hospitality
Alternate Spellings: philoxenia
Common Misspellings: feloxenia, filozenia, philozenia
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