Benjamin Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” However, when you are traveling internationally to visit your friends and family, this rule does not apply.
In my diverse network of expat friends, I have never once heard someone say that they do not like having visitors. In fact, everyone says how much they look forward to hosting friends and family and are disappointed when people don’t want to visit. It seems that the longer you live abroad, the hungrier you are for the familiar.
Not only is it wonderful to reminisce with old friends but we also love showing people how we live, where we work, and where our kids go to school. We love sharing the different culture and the local languages and customs with our friends and family who many have never experienced it before.
If you want to guarantee an invitation back and a free place to stay at your expat friend’s house, here are the top 10 ways to be an A+ (or an A++) international house guest.
1. Communicate early
A+: “How long is too long for you? We don’t want to overstay our welcome.”
Pass: “I emailed you our flight itinerary and can’t wait to see you!”
Fail: “Sorry, I forgot to mention I was coming. Is it still okay?”
2. Bring gifts/items your host may be missing (hint: it’s usually food)
A+: “Hey, I brought you this from home because I know you miss it and can’t get it here.”
Pass: “I’m leaving my book here so you can have new reading material in your native language.”
Fail: “This place is awful. You can’t get X here? What kind of country is this?”
3. Offer to pay for your food
A+: “Don’t worry about groceries this week. We’ll take care of everything.”
Pass: Pay for your half of food.
Fail: Eating all of your host’s food and never saying thank you.
4. Offer to babysit for a night
A+: “I know you don’t have any family around for babysitters so I’d love to watch the kids for a night. What night works best for you?”
Pass: “Let’s eat in tonight or find a family-friendly restaurant so we can all relax together.”
Fail: “See you! I’m going to hit up the clubs tonight so don’t wait up.”
5. Be receptive to new experiences
A+: “How do I say a few words in the local language? I want to be sure I’m pronouncing it correctly.”
Pass: “Sure, I’ll try that new dish.”
Fail: “Ew. What are you eating?! That’s gross!”
6. Don’t constantly ask, “When are you coming back home?
A+: “We totally understand why you live here and we love seeing how happy you are.”
Pass: “This is a really nice place to live.”
Fail: “Don’t you miss us? When are you coming back home?”
7. Encourage your friends and family to visit
A+: “Their house is so cool and they are wonderful hosts! You should visit them before they move again.”
Pass: “I had a great time at their house!”
Fail: “It was really strange going to a different country. I don’t know…”
8. Acknowledge that your hosts may have to work during your visit
A+: “I know you have to work and I’m excited for our time together when it works best for you.”
Pass: “Oh, are you able to take any time off while I’m here?”
Fail: “I can’t believe you’re not spending all of your time with us while we are in town. Why do you hate us?”
9. Understand that your hosts are no longer tourists
A+: “I know you’ve been to this tourist destination 10 times already so I’d love to buy your ticket so you can come along with us.”
Pass: “Thanks for playing tour guide for us this week. We really appreciate it.”
Fail: “Hey, I don’t have the local currency. Would you mind buying my ticket as well?”
10. Say thank you numerous times
A+: “Thank you so much for letting us come and stay with you. We really had a wonderful visit.”
Pass: “Thanks! We will Skype soon.”
Fail: “I gotta go catch my plane. Bye.”
Don’t forget that your hosts are acutely aware of jet lag exhaustion, the expenses you’ve incurred to travel halfway around the world, and how out of your comfort zone you are while visiting. We do our best to forecast your sleeping patterns, anticipate your needs, and of course, we want your visit to be as positive as possible.
We are fortunate that we have never had any house guests with failing grades. So far, we have had wonderful international house guests. We love love love A+ house guests and you’ll be invited back every time.
Feel free to add your own A+ house guest practices in the comments!
My A++ house guests have all backed our book on Kickstarter!