This is a hard post to write because it is a tricky subject to navigate, but it is important and thus I will do my best to simply dive in.
Switzerland’s unique position in the center of Europe is certain to attract visitors. Friends, families and even acquaintances will make the journey to Switzerland to enjoy quality time with you and your family, all the while, discovering the beauties this small country and the surrounding countries have to offer. Preparing yourself and your guests for the days, weeks or even months that are about to unfold will certainly make for a more memorable stay.
Our experiences with visitors have been genuinely positive, but as all expats can tell you, there are times, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”
Here are a few tips below and I will say, 99% of our visitors have been amazing, so if you are reading this, rest assured, you are welcome to visit us again in Switzerland.
Finally, ask your guests what they hope to get out of their holiday. What do experiences are essential and how can you help them achieve their goals?
Set expectations prior to arrival – This is key! Always inform guests the cost of travel, food, lodging, dining out, etc. in Switzerland. Life in Switzerland is very expensive and guests need to be prepared in advance. Also inform guests that unless otherwise stated that they will be responsible for all of the costs they incur while they travel.
Let guests know you must still resume your normal work, school and life schedules. Though it would be incredible to skip out on the requirements this life deems necessary, it simply isn’t possible, therefore, they should be comfortable filling their time with activities.
Ask if guest will be staying with you – Never feel bad about saying your dwelling is too small to house guests. Especially if this disrupts children’s sleep habits, work routines, and general comfort levels.
We live in a small flat, with just enough rooms to house our family of four. So needless to say, whenever we have extra guests, it is no surprise that our home starts to feel very, very small. Our new rule of thumb is one guest is all right, but more than one person will require lodging somewhere else.
If your home is too small, look for alternative, affordable accommodations for your house guests. The key is to make everyone comfortable. Being crammed, or having guests sleep on a couch is not ideal and there are better ways to ensure a memorable visit.
Consider Airbnb, or even asking a dear friend or neighbor if they are away, if you could possibly rent or use their home for your guests. We have done this in the past and it was brilliant!
How to make guests comfortable – If at all possible, create a small space exclusively for your guests. This provides guests with privacy and a place to retreat after a long journey. In addition, it allows guests to work out their jet lag, write an email, read a book, or take a much needed nap all in the privacy of their own room.
Provide a toilet plunger in the bathroom – No real explanation required.
Accommodate Guests – Have snacks, water, Kleenex, a trash bag/bin, a map, tram passes, itinerary ideas available for guests upon their arrival. Having these items in their room will allow your guest the time to sift through important information and decide where they would like to go, what they would like to do while they are visiting.
Pick guests up at the airport or train station – This is huge. If your guest is comfortable navigating the area alone, fine, but there is nothing more joyful then stepping off a plane and seeing a familiar face. Welcome your guests by picking them up, it requires extra effort, but believe us, there is nothing more deflating than arriving at an airport alone. Bring the signs, and the fanfare, believe us, it’s worth it.
Ask guests to assist with routine activities and help out – Unless you are comfortable running a bed and breakfast, there is nothing wrong with asking your guests to help out. By having an extra set of hands to help clear dishes, prep a meal, or read a book to a child, you can relax and truly enjoy your visitor without feeling exhausted at the end of the day.
Encourage guests to take trips on their own and to be independent – The best way in my humble opinion to deal with guests that stay more than a week, is to encourage them to venture out on their own for a few days and nights. This allows the host family time to clean up, catch – up on laundry, meet a work deadline void of distraction, chill on the couch in PJ’s, pay bills and do all that necessary life stuff that sometimes gets put on hold with visitors. The space is necessary and welcome for both parties. Plus, you will have something to discuss upon their return.
Also encourage your guests to visit museums, cafés, book stores, grocery stores or to take walks independent of you. The distance will be refreshing and necessary for both parties.
Bring something, anything – When you are a guest in someone’s home, show up with something from your home country. It doesn’t have to be big, or large in monetary value, but the considerate gesture will go a long way. Consider a bottle of wine, flowers, a book, a magazine in their native language (if they are residing outside the US), a food item that is not obtainable in their new country.
Enjoy and remember, showing family and friends your new home can be a genuine delight, if boundaries are set and expectations are put in place from both parties.