If there’s one thing that is guaranteed to be a regular part of expatriate life, it’s guests from home. Whether its family, friends or even friends of friends, you’re bound to get people coming to stay at one time or another. The more interesting, glamorous, beautiful or interesting the place you live, the more visitors you will get.
As a result of living overseas for six years I have heavily treaded the tried and tested road of visitors from home and I have come to realize that hosting visitors is somewhat of an art form. Here are my top tips for ensuring visits from home are pleasurable… for all parties.
1) Set expectations up front
Make sure you talk to people in advance of the trip and set very clear expectations about what a visit to where you live will be really like. How much is there to do? How close to you live to the major attractions? Will you be able to spend time with them or will you be at work? What are they looking for from their visit? Are their expectations realistic? Make sure you have all the difficult and important discussions before they come so that they don’t invest in a trip that is not going to live up to their expectations.
2) Plan in advance
As an expat resident you are quite often called upon for your expertise about which places are worth visiting. However, there is a danger that you will end up playing full-on tour guide, with the responsibility of organizing trips, booking restaurants and making all the decisions about where to go and when. This is not always fun. Ask your visitors to take a look at websites and guide books in advance and send you a list of the things they want to see and do. You can then put together a rough agenda that will help to ensure that they fit everything in and you don’t end up with the burden on your shoulders.
3) Make your guests feel at home
If you don’t want to spend every waking minute looking after your guests’ every need throughout the duration of their trip then it is important that you give them everything they need to make themselves at home. Write down the wi-fi password, clear out wardrobe space and maybe even leave them a shelf free in the fridge. You may also want to ensure that they have access keys, print out the bus timetable and arm them with their own map. All these actions send the message that you are expected your visitors to maintain some independence and, while you may be around to help them out, you will not be holding their hand throughout the duration of the trip.
4) Ensure that you give them space
Just like you may not want to spend prolonged periods of time with your guests, they may want space from you. Don’t invite yourself on every single trip/visit them they embark on and don’t automatically assume that they will want to spend every evening dining with you. As per point one, agree expectations in advance and don’t be insulted in your guests want a little time to explore on their own.
5) Be mindful of costs
Many expatriates live in expensive cities and are paid salaries that allow them to live well in these cities. It is very easy to forget how expensive the cost of living can be in foreign destinations and you may unwittingly put your friends or family in awkward situations by booking expensive restaurants and entertainment. Try and politely find out what their budget for the holiday is and the amount of money that they are happy to spend on given activities and then plan appropriately. Furthermore, don’t be tempted to offer to pay for everything. While you may think this is a kind gesture, you could be in danger of insulting them.
6) Be mindful of the temperature
If you live in a country that has a climate that is very different from that which your visitors are used to, make sure that you plan accordingly and show consideration for the fact that they are not acclimatized to the weather in the same way that you are. For example, if you live in a city that enjoys year-round temperatures in excess of 30 degrees, don’t escort your guests on a three-hour guided tour of all the tourist sites and then wonder why they are feeling feint. Likewise, if the weather is cool, don’t turn off the heating when you are hot without first checking that your guests are comfortable. It is very easy to forget what it is like to be a visitor, try and bear in mind the fact that they may have different needs to your own.