Being a Good Host to Long-Term Guests: A Not Always Obvious Guide

December 13, 2016

Being a good host to an expat family

With our holiday break a few short days away, we are preparing for the mad dash that is out holiday break. While super exciting to be home for the holidays and to share good tidings with family and friends, it’s good to keep in mind if you are dealing with expat friends – or being a good host to one – that going home isn’t all it’s (nut)cracked up to be.

We sleep in different beds and lug around two toddlers (and sometimes two dogs) and bags. Lots of bags. We don’t always have a reliable car, let alone, a car. Husband and I  are lucky to have our own room in my parents’ house and that my parents, along with a handful of others, open up their home without reservation or expectation (though don’t mess with Dad’s TV remote). But, it isn’t always smooth. In talking with other expat friends who stay places long-term, many rent apartments because the thought of living in someone else’s space for an extended amount of time is unimaginable… and I can’t say I blame them; living under someone else’s roof can be hard.

And being a good host can be just as hard.  Sharing your home and being flexible with your lifestyle is easy for a day or two but more than that can be grueling, especially if you are used to a familiar and quiet routine. And while it is certainly on the visitors to hold up their end as good guests, a good host should seriously consider what they’re signing up for. Friends staying long term appreciate the offer but be honest. Do you have the space? Do you treasure your quiet mornings? Do you need things done a certain way? Like life in general, a lot about being a guest and/or housing an long term guest, is accepting the mess. The novelty wears off – and quickly – so if you are planning on opening up your home, here are some things to think about when being a good host.


Come back later this week for tips on how to be a good guest.


*These were collected and combined over time from conversations with different expats.

EMPATHIZE

8 weeks, 3 countries, 9 cities. We, including our kids, slept in 11 different beds last summer. The life of an expat can often be confused with the life of a gypsy. It ain’t for the faint of heart. We want to see you. We really do but it isn’t always easy so please bear with us. Sometimes we won’t get to that party you’re throwing but, believe me, we just air traveled to get here, we’re trying.

reminders are great… just not this one.

Most guests want to adhere to your routine and lifestyle as best they can because we are aware that you are sharing your home. It gets really awkward though, if you are constantly reminding us that this is, in fact, your home. Letting people know some expectations (remember not to leave the lights on or set the alarm when you leave) is fine but if you feel you need to remind people that “in my house, we…” you should probably reconsider having people stay with you.

Don’t look for a payback

Offering up your home is a V E R Y kind gesture – absolutely – but as we are all told in elementary school, you do kind things to be kind not to get something out of it. If you feel that opening up your home means that your guests owe you something, it might not be the right reason to do so. However…

tell us what to do

With that being said, last summer, Husband fixed my parents’ crooked fence. He went to a hardware store and bought what he needed to fix it. He also bought other supplies to reorganize and clean out the shed. When we got to their time share, we happily footed the grocery bill. At my best friend’s house, her husband asked mine if he could help assemble their new grill. We like to throw in and help out. In fact, we want to throw in and help out. So tell us. Do you need something from the store? Or do you need something fixed? Great. How can we help?

Reminder

Expectations are like dynamite waiting for a lit match

We love spending time with people we don’t get to see throughout the year, but, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, you aren’t the only person we want to or have to see. As it is, we have a hard time seeing everyone one time and you can’t imagine how many people have gotten angry with us for only having visited with them 5.7 days during our 50-day stay. We are essentially cramming a year’s worth of visits and loved ones into 8 weeks, maybe 6, possibly less. Please cut us a break here.

Be Flexible

Kids require, at times, immediate attention. Sometimes we leave our dishes in the sink until the kids are napping, at which time we clean up our house. In the immediateness of having kids, we can forget that others don’t run their homes the same way. We aren’t messy, dirty people – just exhausted parents of toddlers doing the best we can. We will absolutely clean and pick up after ourselves; it just might be on a slightly different schedule. If you are someone who needs things done in a certain way, at certain time, in a certain manner, hosting a guest (particularly those with kids) might not be a great fit for you – and that’s ok. By no means am I saying that a host should have to blindly accept every and all behaviors, but flexibility and understanding is crucial.

no need to pamper

We have excellent people in our lives; many of which have stressed themselves out about what they could do for us. What do you eat? What do your kids like? I can’t stress this enough: Don’t worry about us. We’re pretty easy and pretty happy with anything that even qualifies as a luxury, like empty drawers. Don’t feel like we need to be pampered. We didn’t come for that, we came to spend time with you.

Tab was a soda in the 80’s

My parents don’t always know our whereabouts nor do they ask (unless my mom is looking for a dinner count). More importantly, they don’t get angry for not knowing our every plan. Similarly, if we make other plans, don’t be offended. It isn’t an attack on you, it’s just that, to repeat, we have a lot of people to see. So this may sound blunt and difficult to hear but while we appreciate your hospitality, it doesn’t mean you get to dictate our movements or calendar. Pretty much don’t treat us like a child.

dont-tell-me-what-to-do

LENGTH ACTUALLY DOES NOT MATTER

For some breaks we have even less time. Sometimes we take a trip that cuts into our time or I might have a migraine for 5 days. Last summer, we spent the first week+ barricaded at home-base because the kids had walking pneumonia. It sucked. We only knew it was 4th of July because we heard fireworks. Kindly understand that unforeseen things happen and sometimes our stay is cut short. Which leads me to…

please Cut us some slack

We just spent a week (or more) packing and prepping our home for a long time away, flew over an ocean to get back home. We want to see you. Yet there is limited time and we are traveling with two kids who need some days of doing nothing. We need free days for us and them to play in the yard in their pajamas and veg out in front of the Today Show. Our kids adapt well and roll with (most of) it but 11 different beds is a lot to ask of anyone. So if we decide, one day, that we aren’t able to make it, please understand.

 

Truly, all expats and long-term guests are incredibly grateful for your hospitality and want nothing more than to respect your home. Knowing your limitations when it comes to long-term guests can help ease a lot of tension.


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Photo credits: Shena Tschofen Featured Image. CircaSassy, Scolding child.

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