Breaking Down Cultural Barriers Through Food Sharing in HSE Dorm

Sharing food! It is nourishing for both the body and the soul, and it is real love: The best way of ice breaking in new culture.

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers Through Food Sharing in HSE Dorm

At the very beginning of my dorm life in Russia I was very worried about how I could cope up with new culture, people and place. First few days it seemed to me I was fish out of the pond. But after few weeks I discovered my days became amazing in this beautiful city surrounded with my splendid friends. And my ice started to melt from our kitchen specially when we started to share our food!

Perhaps more than any other tradition, food crosses cultural boundaries more frequently and easily. Nevertheless, I have also found proof of this interesting fact in our HSE dorm. At the very beginning of my dorm life, I was feeling so lonely and bored, but gradually I found an amazing group of friends from different countries. Surprisingly, I discovered that the majority of my friendships are formed in our dorm kitchen.

In our dorm, we have students from different countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Italy, Sri Lanka, Spain, Japan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Finland, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Vietnam, Iran, and, of course, Russia. So, our kitchen always smelled of various foods. Interestingly, based on the food smell, we can easily recognize who is cooking! Like when we found our corridor smelling of spices, everyone could easily recognize the Bengali or Indian guys are cooking! In the same way, we can easily mean from the corridor who is in the kitchen. For communication, we also have a group on Telegram named “Lensoveta29 Foodies”. When anyone from the group cooked any good dishes, it was announced in the group and we enjoyed the food together.

We always offer food to each other if anyone cooks their traditional food. During eating together, we share our culture and exchange our views on others' food. In such a way, our friendship deepens.  We cook traditional dishes related to our country's traditional events and invite our friends. For example, on the first day of the Bangla New Year, I cooked our traditional dishes (we call it Panta Hilsa) and Biryani. For the Chinese New Year, one of my Chinese friends arranged “Dumplin Party” in the Chinese traditional way, my Afghani friend cooked Kabuli Polao on the 1st day of the lunar month, and on the 31st of December, we celebrated it in the Russian traditional way. This now becomes a tradition in our dorm. We celebrat different countries' traditional days on their way and enjoyed their food also.

The most exciting and interesting thing is that after the end of every module of our study, we arrange an international dinner where we invite all international students to come up with their traditional dishes. Every time, we enjoy 15-20 different types of dishes from different countries. On that day, the whole dorm looked festive. During the event we play, sing and sometimes watch movie together. This really helps new international students to break the ice and cope with the new environment.

The cultural and historical background of food, such as the act of showing hospitality to others by serving the most respected local cuisine, conveys friendliness and warmth, which helps us smoothly transition into their other heritage as well as share my culture with others. Despite this, food is generally both cultural and nutritious. Food and eating behaviors act as a medium for expressing affection and emotional ties, and sharing food signifies a connection between acceptance and closeness. This is how we international students get acquainted with different cultures and food as well as tighten our bonding.

Text by

Md Naoshad Chowdhury