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Handling Visits from Relatives and Friends

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 1 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Career Break Friends Family Handling

Handling visits from relatives and friends while on a career break abroad needn't be stressful, although it often is. There's a famous saying: both fish and guests stink after two days. While that may or may not be true, it does point out one valid point: nobody wants to entertain, cook for or clean up after an uninvited house guest, and few people want a house guest, even an invited one, who plans on staying for weeks, or even more.

Unfortunately, uninvited - and even invited - guests often become almost regular occurrences for people on a career break abroad. And for careerbreakers living in far-flung exotic places, where a return air ticket can cost the earth, these visits can tend to drag on, seemingly forever. Thankfully, there are ways to handle visits from relatives and friends with grace and diplomacy, ensuring that your relationships remain intact long after the visit is over.

Set Strict Guidelines

Long before Auntie Sue's luggage actually lands on your doorstep, let her know how long she is welcome to stay. Being economical with the truth is not a bad thing. To spare her feelings, you might tell her that you'd love her to stay for a week, but that the following week your in-laws are due and there simply will not be space. Also, if you expect Auntie to contribute to the food bill or rent while she's there, tell her. Even guests should be expected to pull their own weight, especially long-term ones.

Respect Your Partner's Feelings

If you mum wants to come for a month and your partner wants her to visit for only a few days, compromise on something in the middle. Also, spare your partner's feelings by making plans for you and your mum to spend ample time together out of the house while she is there. Better yet, plan a four-day road trip in the middle of her visit to give your partner some space. Ultimately, harmony within your immediate family is more important than getting on with people you rarely see.

Make Alternative Arrangements

If you are short on space, let people know that they are only welcome for a specific period of time. If your career break is in some far-flung locale and not financially worth visiting for less than two weeks, tell them you will need to make alternative arrangements for them elsewhere after the first few days. If it's pricey, the choice of whether to visit or not is up to them.

Set House Rules

Let friends and relatives know how your house is run as soon after their arrival as possible. If you don't smoke, wear outdoor shoes or eat meat at home, tell them, and make sure they know their children must follow your rules if they are living in your house. If you have work to do and need time alone, let your guests know. Also, prepare them in advance to respect the local customs of the country in which you are currently living. You don't want to encounter problems when they are with you - or after they're gone.

Learn to Say No

Don't be afraid to say no if someone wants to come at an inconvenient time, or if a friend or relative you simply can't stand demands a visit. If you evade the problem and insist on being polite your lack of spleen could backfire. Nobody wants to travel abroad only to find they're not wanted - even people you may find unpleasant deserve this consideration. It would be better for everyone, you and potential guests, to make up a valid excuse in the first place - and stick to it.

Handling visits from friends and relatives while on a career break abroad is a fine art, but one that can be developed over time - if you follow the right rules. Treat your guests with consideration and expect they treat you - and your house and its contents - with the same consideration.

Remember, eventually you will be back home and may be seeing these people again on a regular basis. It's worth maintaining as much harmony, and avoiding as much discord, as possible for the sake of your shared future, and to avoid potentially falling out within your own immediate family.

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