I found that this rule is accepted 8000 miles away in villages on the coast of Kenya. One of my favorite restaurants was in Galu-Kinondo. Mama Isabel’s Roof Garden is a pub and café on the second floor of a store and rooming house across the street from the house on the beach which our team lived in while in country. Most afternoons, I would walk across the dirt street to have a stout and some chips. I soon became familiar and expected at Mama Isabel’s.
One hot afternoon, I climbed the stairs and was greeted by young Gloria, one of the servers. She welcomed me and bid me take a seat. After she busily finished with other patrons, she brought me a stout, apologizing for the delay. I dismissed her worries, telling her that I should have served myself for as many times as I had visited. I had her sit with me to rest for a few minutes while I shared with her the Three Visit Rule of my house. She told me that my rule wasn’t new to Kenya and quoted me the Swahili version:
“Mgeni siku ya kwanza mkaribisha vizuri, siku ya pili mpikia ugali na mboga, siku ya tatu mpe jembe aende shambani.”
It basically says that on the first visit, you will be served, that all is good. On the second day you will cook your own food of porridge and vegetable (from the garden.) By the third visit you’ll be given a plow to work in the garden for your own food. This third visit would be a stretch, even for the most lazy of hosts, especially in a gracious country like Kenya. But we get the big idea.
After three visits here, you are part of the household. Please. Make yourself at home. Come on in. Grab a beer. Have a seat and relax in front of the television for a few minutes. As soon as you’re finished with your beer, we have some chores for you.