Tips for having guests visiting from home whilst living abroad
In my expats days, we were often blessed with family and friends coming over for visits. Blessed in the sense that not only did they come over to spend time with us, they were also interested in experiencing our new lives, seeing the sights, the children's schools and our local amenities, learning something different about a city (London) which up until our expatriation had just been a regular holiday destination. For us, it meant the world to have people from back home engage in our new lives. It offered us a much needed connection between our two homes which we still to this day harvest the benefits from.
Benjamin Frankl said that fish and guests stink after three days. I wouldn't go quite that far with guests, but it's no secret that having people visiting can be exhausting.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most of visits from back home without losing your sanity:
Have a clear plan of who is coming when. Don't book visits too close to each other. Leave room to recover and pick up your normal routines again.
Keep in mind that a few successful days may be more joyful than a full fortnight.
Be mindful that it's not fair nor realistic to expect visitors to know or comply with your house rules. If you have a rule or two which are of particular importance to you, respectfully and politely ask your guests to follow this/these. Always advise them before an unknowing breach occurs.
To make your visitors feel at home and to make life easier on yourself, be flexible with your rules and routines. You don't want to bend over backwards - after all, it's your home, but you also want to make things run smoothly and make your guests feel comfortable for the few days that they are visiting.
If you have to work or your children have school during the visit, make sure you have made this clear before arranging the visit. Aligning expectations is key to a succesful visit: How much time do you spend together? Will you be doing sightseeing with your visitors? How would your guests like to spend their time? How do you expect your visitors to contribute, practically and financially?
Give a house tour upon arrival. Show them where they will be sleeping, showering etc.
If you have children, prepare them for having to share their space and toys with the visitors.
With the cleaning and grocery shopping, there are lots to prepare. Make things as easy as you possibly can on yourself - your guests are there to visit you and experience your new hood, not to inspect the cleanliness of your home. If you can afford it, ordering take outs or eating out can take some of the burden off your shoulders - even if it's just for a single meal.
Be mindful that your guests might want to contribute towards the cost of foods etc. You will want to gently balance expectations around this.
Invite your guests to take part in the cooking and clearing up after meals. This means more time to chill together - and sometimes, the greatest talks are over the dishes.
As for sightseeing, have a few ideas up your sleeve, but also check with your visitors. Perhaps they have something in mind too - and it may even be places which you haven't explored or heard of yet. We once had a set of guests who told us they would like to experience places in London which they couldn't see on teley .... It made such a refreshing change not to go by Big Ben and LondonEye.
Send your visitors out on their own adventure. This not only gives you a break, it also means they will return in the evening with new topics for conversations - and perhaps ideas for your own sightseeing. If needs be, supply them with maps, directions and instructions, but be mindful they might be seasoned travellers perfectly able to make their own way.
Anything from visiting art galleries to rock climbing, if you have a shared interest or know something your visitors are particular keen on, see if you take adventage of this when you plan outings.
It's okay to have days where you do nothing. Your guests haven't just come to have tons of new experiences under their belt; they have also come to spend time with you. And perhaps also to relax.
Take a stroll around your own neighbourhood. Most guests like to get a feel for the place; it helps them picture you in your new environment when they return home, and it helps you all to better talk about your expat experience, if they know your daily whereabouts like schools, amenities, shopping facilities etc.
Ask if they would like to see some of your favorite places, visit your favorite ethnic restaurant, talk your favorite stroll etc.; again it helps you bond over your expat experience.
If possible, allow yourself to take some times off to be a tourist with your guests in your new home.