From Host to Visitor

As a quasi-native “Hoosier”, hospitality comes naturally to me. Hoosiers (people from Indiana) are proud of our hospitable nature, even coining the term “Hoosier Hospitality” for our innate ability to be welcoming to visitors and newcomers to our state.  As a manager of a U.S. Department of State-funded international professional exchange program, I’ve had the privilege of hosting numerous emerging leaders from around the globe. It is extremely rewarding work — I get to showcase my city and state, connect people from places such as Kazakhstan to an Indiana farmer or take hospitality professionals to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see Indianapolis 500 qualifications. But while the positive relations and impressions endure and invitations to return the favor in my visitors’ home countries frequently come, I had not had the opportunity in my current job to take part in a reverse exchange. That is, until now.

In May 2016, Marcello von Schneider, the Director of International Cooperation for the City of Campinas, one of Indianapolis’ Sister Cities, made a visit to Indianapolis, sharing information about the city and its economic development and tourism strategies. What synergies it shares with Indianapolis and central Indiana! I was so energized by the connections and filled with ideas on ways that our cities could learn from each other. . I shared my excitement with our guest, and as it happened that I would be headed to Sao Paulo, Brazil, on a pre-planned vacation within just weeks, he extended an invitation for me to visit Campinas, a short one hour drive away from Sao Paulo. As this was a rare opportunity to see our Sister City firsthand and connect with our counterparts there, I jumped at the chance!

And Marcello and his team did not disappoint!

A car was sent to pick me up, along with one of the talented interns who served as my English-Portuguese interpreter. When we arrived at City Hall, I was met by the Coordinator of Agribusiness for the city, who promptly offered me some espresso and water, exactly what I needed after the 8:00 am departure. Marcello then joined, welcoming me in the typical Brazilian fashion – with a hug, kiss on the cheek and greeting, “Tudo bem?” (All’s well?) to which I responded, “Tudo OITIMO!” (All is GREAT!). To further welcome me to Brazil, I was given a beautiful paper weight filled with representations of Brazil such as coffee beans, vanilla and native woods. I then presented the city with a commemorative flag of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Following the gift exchange, I met the director of tourism and an economic development advisor, who shared more about the city’s business tourism and sports tourism offerings and strategies, as well as the many synergies and opportunities in science, technology, innovation, logistics, defense and security. We then sat down to eat feijoada, the national dish of Brazil, and I was treated to lunch at an amazing restaurant where the conversation and connections continued.

It was so amazing to be on the receiving end of an exchange similar to the ones I facilitate on a weekly basis! The conversation was engaging, the people were intelligent, passionate and welcoming, and the food was second to none. It was an honor and a privilege to be hosted by this group of Brazilian professionals who embodied hospitality to the letter.

And so I return to the notion of hospitality. And I have concluded that,  no matter where you are in the world, if you welcome people with open arms, offer them food and beverage, and bring an open mind to sharing and learning, positive relationships can be fostered, nurtured and grown. Hospitality is indeed universal!

By Beth Barich, International Visitor Program Manager, The International Center