How to Be the Perfect Host (When the Family Comes to Visit)
No doubt your spare bed or couch is in high demand from friends and family, wanting to take advantage of your local knowledge, not to mention, free accommodation. Oh, and they also want to see you because they've missed you terribly.
The excitement of spending time with someone that has known you for more than a few months is huge and the pressure is on to show them just what's so good about this place that made you leave them far behind. With this mix of hype and pressure, there's a danger of the much-anticipated visit falling flat. It has happened to me and after mulling over what went wrong, here is a little list of dos and don'ts for when you are desperate to impress.
1. Don't Try to Be Perfect
This may sound like the exact opposite of the promise that lured you here in the first place, but stay with me. When the countdown to the arrival of my first visitor in Beijing finally hit zero, I was in such a flap that I rushed him off the airport express at the wrong stop. I then fell just short of having enough credit to get straight back on, forcing us to wait while I queued to top up my card. I was so annoyed at myself for making such a stupid mistake that my bad mood became more of a downer than the 15-minute delay and 25 wasted kuai.
Ideally you'll make it a little further than I did before messing up, but things will go wrong despite the very best intentions. Just because you are a resident of your city you cannot guarantee everything will go smoothly and you can't beat yourself up every time your perfect plan goes slightly awry. Your visitors won't hold it against you, they'll just be glad to have a “local” with them to help sort things out.
2. Be Flexible, Have Options
In my home town, I'd struggle to plan dinner that night until at least lunch was out of the way, but for some reason, the temptation to draw up a detailed itinerary months in advance was suddenly overwhelming. Sure you want them to get the best out of their time but remember often the best holiday moments are unplanned. Pick out a handful of must-dos, perhaps with the best time to do them, but then stop obsessing and leave plenty of room in the schedule for last-minute decisions.
3. Don't Expect to Pick Up where You Left Off
When you spend your whole time meeting new people from around the world, there is something immeasurably comforting about hanging out with an old friend who's already seen you at your best and worst. But the sudden collision of your former life and your new far-away digs can be jarring, no matter how close you are and how many Skype sessions you've had. It may take a little time to find the old rhythms of your friendship, so ease into it. Speaking of which...
4. Do what You Do Best
If your thing at home was to drink endless cups of tea together and compare the horrors and hilarity of tinder profiles, then do that. Just because you're in a foreign country, doesn't mean everything you do has to be completely different. Whether it is bushwalking or book shopping, stick to the things you know you enjoy in between the touristy things.
5. Have Some Time Apart
Did you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together for days in a row back home? Even if you consider yourself best friends happily, no one spends that amount of time together. For good reason! You would drive each other crazy and the same goes for holidays. You'll need a break from being a tour guide and they'll need a chance to discover the city on their own. Then when you meet up again, they'll be so much more to talk about.