I like doing "business" in our neck of the woods, because I'm reminded that behind the goods I buy - the wood, the wine, the fruit and vegetables - there's a person who produced them, with whom we always end up having some social interaction.
http://www.fuoriborgo.com/fuoriborgo/2013/05/the-wood-cutters-passion.htmlOur woodcutter, for instance. When he delivers the firewood, he never accepts payment there and then. In fact, he positively refuses it. Instead, he invites us to stop over at his place to have coffee someday in the future. It doesn't seem to matter how much he needs that money he's owed; a social connection is more important than a cash payment in an isolated rural community like ours. And we never leave without some kind of a gift from him – a homemade panettone, porcini mushrooms, preserves.
We stopped by the other day for coffee with the woodcutter (and to pay him, naturally). Just as we were leaving, he went to a large outdoor freezer, pulled out two packages about the size and shape of grapefruits (actually, quince!), wrapped in white paper. This time, our gift was two large chunks of Alpine butter he'd bought at a malga (mountain hut).
Though I know the rules and traditions, and by now recognize how valuable and how much sense they make, it still seems odd to be given a gift when I pay off a money debt. But more and more, these gifts I walk away remind us that we too are part of this community.