RM and I have hosted many international guests — both teenagers and adults– in our home from countries from all over the world over the last fifteen years. The countries they represent include Germany, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Italy, Ukraine and Mexico. So when the World Cup played out this year, we had lots of teams to root for including the ultimate winner, Germany. Each hosting experience brings something different and new for us to appreciate. From the sweet gifts they bestow upon us, to the breaking of bread and tasting of foods both common and new, to sharing backgrounds and stories and learning about their perceptions of Texans, it has been a gift to both of us and to our family as a whole. Enduring relationships have formed over the years which are ones we treasure. So many people shy away from opening their homes to guests from afar but after you have done it once, it is really a breeze. You have to be willing to share yourself and be open to others. For example, don’t worry that your home is not perfect. Guests want your house to feel like a home and we all know our homes are a continuous work in progress. Guests do want a sense of their own space so make sure they have a private bedroom and easy access to a bathroom. Here are some other tips:
1. Cook for them and let them help you especially with the setting of the table and cleaning up after. You don’t have to make special meals for them but you do want to cook the foods you love to prepare and that have a local significance. In Texas, they will gobble up Tex-Mex and BBQ. Ice cream is a universal love.
2. Insist on lots of water to drink (go easy on the ice) as Texas is hotter than most climates especially during peak tourist season during the summer.
3. Share your neighborhood and city with them and take them to the off the beaten track places like the locally owned boutiques, restaurants, and music venues.
4. Check for temperature control as our houses are often cooler than they are used to in their home countries. Offer to adjust the temperature, provide an extra blanket or to modify ceiling fan velocity.
5. Let them stay in the shower as long as they like – we have awesome showers in America.
6. Be sure to have conversations with them about their work, friends, family, hobbies and be patient with them as they find the right words. They want to practice their English but it may be hard for them to find the right words. Offer help with what you think they are trying to say but normally just pause and listen very attentively and be patient — communication will happen even if you have resort to charades and pen and paper.
7. Laugh often and share music and the arts – they always bring people together.
8. Offer access to the internet if you can as this often helps with home sicknesses and a sense of peace.
9. Allow time for sleep and for them to have some personal space and time to reflect on what they are experiencing.
10. Give them hugs often and quiet reassurance that they are among friends. Expect them to have some challenges with digestion and feeling ill — offer over the counter remedies and if necessary get them to the doctor if they need care. You would want the same.
Happy hosting to all and please come to Texas when you want to experience hospitality at its finest. We will leave a light on for you…