Home · Weather · Forum · Learning Chinese · Jobs · Shopping
Search This Site
China | International | Business | Government | Environment | Olympics/Sports | Travel/Living in China | Culture/Entertainment | Books & Magazines | Health
Tools: Save | Print | " target="_blank" class="style1">E-mail | Most Read
Tours of duty
Adjust font size:

It was nearing a month and Peter's cousins were still occupying the living room of his small flat, despite having been invited to stay for just a weekend. At his wit's end after so long playing host, Peter was spurred to drastic action. If the two guests wouldn't leave, he would.

Peter booked a flight to an exotic destination, wrote a note explaining he had left for urgent business, and took off.

Houseguest horror tales are common conversation fodder in expat circles. As most foreigners living in China will attest, barely had they announced the big move overseas before friends and family were promising to visit.

A group of foreigners enjoy the Latern Festival in Shanghai. (photo: China Daily)

Often, the suitcases are barely unpacked before people begin making good on their word and arriving for extended stays.

Living in one of the world's top tourist destinations is an obvious beacon for overseas visitors.

And in China, where English is still not widely spoken and internal travel can be difficult, a host with local knowledge can be an alternative to a package tour.

Of course, hosting guests can be a wonderful experience, staving off homesickness and allowing expats to share the best of their exciting new home, while perhaps also showing off newly acquired language skills.

It can bring a fresh dimension to old friendships, and is an opportunity to catch up on the gossip from home.

But it can also be a stressful and frustrating time, when routines are thrown into disarray and relationships are put to the test.

While some guests are more self-sufficient than others, hosts can feel pressured to guarantee a memorable holiday, while at the same time balancing their own work and personal commitments.

Philippa, 34, had been in Beijing just over a month when a former colleague she had not seen for years e-mailed to say she was coming over. Philippa invited the woman to stay at her flat for the week, which turned out to be a trying experience.

"I booked us on a trip to the Great Wall, and on that morning she took so long in the bathroom my husband was late for work. When she was finally ready, she came out wearing a suit with a T-shirt and ballet flats.

"I told her we'd be doing a lot of walking, and asked whether she'd be warm enough, but she insisted she was fine. Of course, it was freezing cold when we got up there. Everyone else was in sneakers and big jackets and she started screaming at me in front of the whole group, demanding to know why I didn't make her get changed."

The guest turned sullen and barely spoke to her host for the rest of her stay. Afterwards, Philippa learned from a mutual acquaintance the woman made a habit of traveling the world and crashing on people's couches. She invariably bad-mouthed the host on returning home.

Chinese-American student Jeremy Chan says taking on the role of host to others in his new foreign home highlights the reality that, as an expat, he too is a "fish out of water".

"In the eyes of our friends, family, back home, the fact that we have a mailing address in China qualifies us to act as tour guide, no matter how tentative our grasp of the language, the people or the customs," Chan says.

Shanghai-based international relocation consultant Kate Lorenz recommends waiting for the initial whirlwind period of adjusting to a new country to pass before hosting guests.

"During the first few months you are getting used to the house, making it a home and understanding your neighborhood," the Ark International managing director says.

"This is also the time where China is extremely exciting and you are not yet missing your family and friends too much.

"However, after four to six months, expatriates often have a little dip in their enthusiasm and enjoyment of being in China.

"This is a perfect time to have visitors. You have been in your new home long enough to know how it works, what's in your neighborhood and which restaurants and sights are a must to visit," she says.

Before inviting visitors to stay, it is important to take stock of your living arrangements. If you have a one-bedroom flat, and they want to bring the kids, suggest a reasonably priced hotel nearby.

And while you don't want to throw a rule book at your friends the minute they put down their bags, it is a good idea to establish exactly how long they can stay, before they arrive.

Money can be a touchy issue, but be sure to let them know how much they will need to bring.

Transport, tickets for tourist attractions and performances, restaurants and souvenirs all add up, and you don't want to be left cooking every meal for them because they failed to budget.

Help with what to pack for the upcoming trip is usually appreciated, and avoids you having to scrounge through your own wardrobe because your friend didn't count on winter being so harsh.

E-mail your visitors with links for websites on your city and other information beforehand, and do keep a stack of current guidebooks in the guest room.

Once they arrive, provide guests with your address in both Chinese and English, and your mobile phone number, and consider buying an additional SIM card with a local number guests can use for the duration of their stay.

"China is an easy place to have guests, however if they have different recreational activities to you, this may be where some rules would apply. For example, if you have young children and don't want them disturbed late at night, you should warn your visitors about coming home late, which easily and often occurs in Shanghai's vibrant nightlife," Lorenz says.

The best way to ensure your guests have a great time, while maintaining your own sanity, is to relax and focus on sharing insights into your new life.

Set weekends and evenings aside to be with your visitors, and let them explore the major tourist sites when you have work or other commitments.

"The tasks that seem mundane to you are unusual to them. Remember back to when you first arrived and what excited you, and what you loved to see," Lorenz says.

"Show them the mix between new and old, Western and Eastern culture. These are the best things about China.

"Give them good Chinese food, and good Western. Most of all, relax and don't worry that your guests will be bored, China is an exciting country and almost definitely will be a completely new experience for them.

"Many people are here working and so guests cannot and usually do not expect your undivided attention. Shanghai, like any city, is best seen with someone who knows the place, so do make sure you take the time at the weekends to show them parts of Shanghai that are not in a guidebook."

(China Daily December 14, 2007)

Tools: Save | Print | " target="_blank" class="style1">E-mail | Most Read

Username   Password   Anonymous
China Archives
Related >>
- Beijing airport provides express channel for tour groups
- Russian rider wins prologue as Tour of Hainan 2007 begins
- Tour with caution when lusting over new film
- Landis files plea with CAS
- Macao tourism bureau to report dispute in Beijing
Most Viewed >>
- The Tao of food
- Snack attack
- How Does the VAT Works in China?
- What Is Renminbi (RMB) and How to Change Foreign Currency for RMB in China?
- The latest hotspot
SiteMap | About Us | RSS | Newsletter | Feedback

Copyright © All Rights Reserved E-mail: Tel: 86-10-88828000 京ICP证 040089号