Expat Etiquette - How To Be the Perfect Host. Defining Moves - The Art of Successful Relocation- Information, Inspiration and Resources for the Expat Accompanying Partner / Trailing Spouse Let’s be clear about this – I am most definitely not the perfect host. My concessions to visiting guests limit themselves to clearing the accumulated debris from the guest bedroom, providing toiletries and ruthlessly utilizing their airline baggage allowance to my own ends. Guests to my home have to endure 5.30 am starts, midnight visits from a large fat cat who can open (noisily) every door in the house and potential involvement in whatever home improvement (a flexible and dubious concept) project we happen to have going. So far, Evan rewired half the house while Jo supervised the installation of a septic tank, Miles fixed the leaky toilet, Sarah grouted the bathroom while Ify painted baseboard, and Simon and Sarah are on a first name basis with the staff in hardware stores across the globe.

Sadly for all impending guests, our recent time as tenants will be coming to an end and it will be back to the joys of home ownership and associated maintenance projects. So if you are planning on coming to visit, brace yourself. And wear old clothes..

For those of you who, like me, are a little challenged in the diplomatic art of hosting visitors, I have conducted a survey of those who do it well. Here’s what they told me..

1. Be clear about expectations are before they commit time and money – both your expectations and theirs. Discuss what facilities you are able to offer, what house rules you might have, whether you can spend time with them and what their goals for the trip are. If it involves you donning a chauffeur / chef uniform, it’s best to break the bad news to them gently now. And while you are at it, now is a good time to encourage them to research what they might like to do in the local area while they are visiting, rather than waiting until they are parked on your couch..

2. Show your guests how everything works - even better, make post it notes or written instructions so that they are not overwhelmed and you are not forced to continually repeat yourself. LifeHacker has produced a brilliant guest information packet that you can download here, which covers everything from emergency contacts to wi-fi password.. Include household quirks, security and safety issues, and any pet requirements. Ooh, and stop off at the cleaning closet and the laundry on your way – you never know, you may get really, really lucky.

3. Encourage your guests to make themselves at home, unless you want to be responsible for every morsel that passes their lips. Make space in the refrigerator (it encourages them to shop for food – never a bad thing..), and provide food storage containers if you have them (they can take sandwiches on trips and so won’t need to keep popping home to refuel). Stock up with easy to prepare breakfast supplies; cereals, toast, bagels and fresh fruit, and force encourage them to help themselves. If you have guests who have hired a car and are spending days out, give them a cooler and ice packs, and encourage extended adventures.. Be warned, however – their idea of home may be the TV continually running, large amounts of debris scattered around and the consumption of all meals on the living room couch.

4. Provide the basic comforts - clean sheets and towels, and  a hairdryer, clothes hangers, toiletries, adapter plug and bottles of water of they have performed particularly well on the chocolate importation front. The more travel sizes of toiletries you provide (shaving foam, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, pain relievers, disposable razors, sanitary protection and toothpaste) – the less likely you are to have to do emergency supermarket visits. I also include maps (they will inevitably need one at some point), local transport schedules and a list of where all the main supermarkets, coffee shops and pharmacies are.

5. Enable electronic access. Emily Post may never have had to write about the etiquette of cell phone chargers, but I’m going to. Take it from me, guest cellphone / iPad / iPod battery life is inversely proportional to the level of agitation and insanity displayed, and is exponential in teenagers. Provide adapters, and if you value your peace and family harmony, keep a universal charger kit for the house and car. It will be the best $20 you’ll ever spend.

6. Set them free. Spending every waking minute with your guests is a recipe for disaster. They may be staying with you, but they will also need time alone to explore, catch up with other friends etc. Provide them with information on the local area (a local hotel will have ready-made packs you can beg, or check out your local tourist information center or library), along with a map and if you are really generous, loan of your GPS. We also borrow a guide book from the library, get brochures and prices for the places that we have liked and encourage use of our car. Check your insurance is comprehensive, up-to-date and covers out of town visitors, and practice not wincing as they attempt to back out of the drive.

7. Take directions. Don’t attempt to organize their holiday for them – feel free to offer suggestions or resources, but remind them that you are a local, not a tourist. If they are international visitors, it may be cheaper for you to book things for them and them to reimburse you; but make sure you look on deal sites like GrouponGoldstar or your local version to make their budget go further.


Resources

Lifehacker: Creating a Bulletproof Guest Account for Windows - (see Comments section for a How To for Mac)

From Clueless to Class Act – Manners for the Modern Man  (Jodi R. R. Smith

From Clueless to Class Act – Manners for the Modern Woman  ( Jodi R. R. Smith)

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3 Responses to Expat Etiquette – How to Be The Perfect Host

  1. Tracey says:

    I’m going to print this off and stick on the back of our bedroom door with number 1 highlighted.
    My first year as trailing spouse has been filled with visitors who arrive ready to enjoy the holiday of a lifetime(well almost). This holiday of a lifetime includes the use of chauffeur, cleaner, cook (not a great one its true), meals out when the cook gets tired. When questioned on their preferred activity for the day the answer has always been ‘We don’t mind, we want to do what ever you want to do.’ I bet they don’t!
    I feel mean, but sometime I want to put a sign in the hall saying ‘Your hosts are not on holiday’

    • Rachel Yates says:

      Ah, the dreaded “we’re just happy to join in” comment. Somehow, making my visitors run endless carpools, vacuum the billowing clouds of dog hair threatening to overtake the house and fight the hoards at Costco during the weekly shop seems cruel. But hey, if that’s what you’ve traveled 4000 miles to do, who am I to disappoint?

  2. Well done. And fair. Just remember to get your charger and adapter back before your guests depart. This post is definitely a keeper.

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