5 Tips for Hosting Family and Friends Abroad

June 4, 2015
5 Tips for Hosting Family and Friends Abroad

You’re living or traveling abroad, you’re posting lovely photos of your expat life on social media, and friends and family members back home are eager to visit and get a taste of this country for themselves. Sound familiar? Hosting family and friends in your new home abroad can be such a rewarding experience.  It’s great that the people in your life want to share this experience with you—they want to get to know a place that’s important to someone they care about.  Yet, it can be stressful as well.  Here are things to keep in mind before you agree to host family and friends abroad:

5 Tips for Hosting Family and Friends Abroad

1. You’re the expert, so there’s a chance that you could see the group dynamics change when people come to visit.

Here’s an example: when my family came to visit me in South Korea, I was in the leadership role–even though my mom has a really strong personality and normally plans our family trips.  While it didn’t end up causing much friction in our situation, it may not run so smoothly when those who normally lead need to step down—or when those who are outspoken suddenly look to you to make all of the decisions.

2. Because you’re the expert, you may find yourself constantly doing the talking, money handling, and activity planning.

I felt very visible during my tour of Korea with my family, and as an introvert it definitely became taxing to constantly be the one booking our tickets, telling our taxi where to go, ordering our food, and translating for friendly strangers on the street who wanted to say hi or ask my parents a few questions.  And though I didn’t love the role of being our group’s public relations coordinator, while traveling the country and sightseeing, it was a necessary one for me to take on.

3. You may need to take some time to yourself, and that’s okay.

My mom insisted one evening that I go out alone with my boyfriend (now my husband—thanks mom!).  We were situated at my apartment, we had eaten dinner and were in the winding-down-before-bed phase of the evening, so really it was the perfect time for he and I to leave the house together and give me a break from being my family’s designated hostess.  That break meant so much to me—again, I’m an introvert and I require a small amount of quiet time each day to collect my thoughts and center.  It was vital to my sanity to get away!

5 Tips for Hosting Family and Friends Abroad
My friend and I in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing. She had already been to this site tons of times, but visited again for my sake!

5 Tips for Hosting Family and Friends Abroad

4. You might have to do a repeat visit of a site you’ve already been to.

When I stayed with a dear friend in Beijing, every single awesome site we visited was one she’d already seen.  Unrestored sections of the Great Wall?  She was there the previous year.  The Lama Temple down an old-city hutong?  She was a frequent visitor.  The Summer Palace outside of city limits?  Yep, she’d seen it before.  As I watched her pay admission fees to these places, I felt guilty, but it appeared my friend had already come to terms with the fact that there are certain things people want to see when they visit China, and that in her role as host she’d go again and again.  It was really very generous of her and something to be aware of if you’ve already been to most of the “iconic” places in your new location.

5 Tips for Hosting Family and Friends Abroad
My parents at dinner in Jagalchi Market, Busan South Korea.

5. Your guests may not love the place like you do, or they may not love the same things that you love about it.

Even if you present all of your own favorite things about a place, the things you think make it charming and special and lovable and unique, there’s no way to account for simple differences of opinion.  It’s possible that your visitors just won’t love the place where you’re living.  Maybe they had a negative experience that colored the trip, such as an illness or lost suitcase.  Maybe they hated the food or had a run-in with an aggressive local.  Or maybe they just didn’t find much to fall in love with after all.  This doesn’t mean you failed as a host, so don’t blame yourself!

It simply means that people will always have their preferences and they may be different than your own.  Similarly, they may latch onto something which seems totally random in your opinion.  For example, my dad absolutely loved a souvenir shopping experience that I personally remember as being pushy and abrasive.  It doesn’t matter that I got a bad vibe from the souvenir vendor—my dad had a blast and still talks about how much he loved seeing all the carts of Korean wares lined up for sale.


Hosting is not an easy task.  As much as it’s exciting to show your friends what’s made you fall in love with a country where you’re living abroad, it can be hard to constantly be planning activities and liaising when there’s a language barrier.  However, I think any situation is better when your expectations are realistic.

Now it’s your turn!  Have you hosted loved ones while living abroad?  What was your own experience?  Do you have any tips to share?

Photos by Abby Woody.

About Abby Woody

Abby Woody is the editor of the brand-new blog HumaniTribe.com and an avid drinker of single-origin coffee and small-batch gin. She loves hiking muddy trails with her dog Brida and getting her passport tattooed at customs. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and most other social media platforms (she hates privacy).

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