I was in Murska Sobota for the weekend spending time with family. When I go there, I become very aware of a few cultural differences. They all revolve around food. I don’t know why, but it seems these differences are much more magnified when I’m in Murska Sobota. Perhaps it is because I’m with family.
I drove here with my cousin and we arrived here on Thursday night, around 9:45. In my head, I always imagine getting dropped off at my aunt’s house, my cousin leaving after a quick hello, and then me going to get ready for bed. But this never happens. I’m not even sure why I expect it anymore.
When we arrived, we sat at the table for a while. My aunt brought out some food for us that was made earlier that day. Spaghetti and chicken paprikash. Also some pickled veggies, bread, cottage cheese, and meat to put on the bread. She also warmed up some tea for us. And my uncle gave me a spritzer (white wine and sparkling water mixed together, it’s very common here). And of course, we sat and ate and talked for a good while. This also happens each time we drop off my other two cousins. We are invited inside and provided food. Lots of it. Also alcohol and other various drinks. This all usually takes place at around 9:30-9:45 because that’s when we arrive. At this time, all I really want to do is start getting ready for bed. But nope! FOOD.
I’ve noticed that when I go into a Slovenian household, one thing always, and I mean always, happens. I’m offered a drink. Whether it be juice, tea, coffee, a cappuccino, or a spritzer (but never water). I’m also offered food or asked if I want to eat something. I see this happen to other people too. When someone comes over to the place I’m staying in or to our apartment here in Ljubljana, they are offered coffee or tea. Every time. Even if it’s the shortest, most casual visit you can think of. And maybe you’re thinking that’s just good manners, Megan!
But I think the reason I find it so interesting that Slovenes do this is because here it is normal for people to just randomly stop by for a visit or only give a short heads-up. Especially if it’s family. There is no need to schedule anything. And if someone does come over, there is nothing worse than them not having something to eat or drink. You can almost always guarantee that coffee will be made.
It’s pretty ingrained into Slovenes that you must offer your guest something. Even if it’s a very brief visit. In the US this doesn’t really happen. You can’t go to someone’s house out of the blue, not even on the weekend. If you do go to someone’s home, it’s because you are invited, whether for coffee or tea or lunch or dinner or whatever. It’s all a lot more scheduled and you know what you’re gonna get.
Since going to visit family means eating and drinking a lot more than I usually do, I have to be strategic. I also need to be firm with my no. Family members will ask me multiple times if I want something, sometimes even insisting. There have been many instances where I ate or drank something that I didn’t really want. When it comes to wine, if I don’t want to have more than one glass, which is most of the time, I try to keep mine full because they will fill it up again if they see it empty. Or even if it’s not. Avoiding overeating is hard, truly. There is always so much food. I find myself wanting to try it all. This is not the problem though. The problem lies in when there is extra. The logic of the host is, “well since you are the guest, you get to eat the most!” At least in my experiences.
And if I ever go to someone’s house for a long period of time, it usually goes something like this: Eat, wait 2 hours, eat again, wait a few more hours, eat again! This happened to me twice while I was in Murska Sobota over Christmas. Both times on Sunday after church, but with different family members. I was invited over for “lunch.” Which means that you eat a snack, wait 2 hours for lunch, eat a gargantuan meal which makes you want to never eat again, sit around for a while waiting for your food to digest, more people will probably come over, you have coffee and cake, you sit around and chat some more, then dinner! Leave at around 10 pm. When dinner rolls around, I’m always still full from lunch, but of course, I partake in the meal anyway (like I have a choice).
While I love to eat (who doesn’t?), spending time in Murska Sobota sometimes makes me feel like I’m going to explode. But I can’t complain. I enjoy spending time with family and eating all their delicious food. Even more than that, I love to observe Slovenian culture and chuckle to myself about all its quirks.