Living in Europe is a guaranteed way to get a few unexpected visitors. Whether you have extended family members or random friends flying in, it is common for Americans living overseas to get the occasional house guest.
There is nothing better than having someone welcome you into their home with some good old-fashioned hospitality. Here are a few tips and tricks for being a first-class host and turning your guest room into a delightful Gasthaus.
SOMETHING FRESH. Be sure to open the windows and freshly launder all your guests’ linens and towels before their arrival. Having their bed made and ready to go will be a welcome retreat after a long trip across the ocean. Consider grabbing a bunch of flowers from one of the flower fields as well. There’s nothing like fresh, local flowers to brighten up an unused space and breathe a little life into an unused room.
TRANSFORMERS, ETC. Have transformers and outlets ready for your out-of-country guests, including a hair dryer if possible. Show them where they can plug things in before they find out the hard way that pocket transformers can’t handle everything. There is nothing worse than blowing out a straightening iron on Day One of vacation.
INCIDENTALS. The next time you are out shopping, be sure to grab a few travel size over-the-counter pocket meds like Tylenol, Motrin or Alka-Seltzer. Getting sick on vacation and having to ask your host for medication can be embarrassing. Put a little welcome basket in their room with some local German snacks and treats, disposable toothbrushes, soap and shampoo, and any household medicine they might need while visiting, like Melatonin or Airborne. You can even add a few magazines for middle of the night jetlag.
READING MATERIAL. Have a local guidebook available for them to borrow. There are a number of handy book options and most of them include basic travel information. While the Internet is a great resource, trying to access it while on the go can be a pain, and printed papers are easy to lose.
Not all houseguests come prepared with a plan, and they might look to you for local advice and expertise. Dog ear a few simple day trips and encourage them to use the train system. Hosting company doesn’t mean you are obligated to accompany them everywhere, but it is nice to help them get started.
BREAKFAST. One of the best things you can do for your visitor is have breakfast ready and accessible when they wander into the kitchen. If you don’t have time to skip down to the bakery before they wake up, don’t sweat it. Stop at your local Germany grocery store and buy a bag of
pre-packaged rolls. Put them in the oven for seven or eight minutes and you will have hot, German rolls ready to go. Add some yogurt and granola or nougat-filled cereal and your visitor will be delighted with your super simple, super authentic German breakfast.
DINING OUT AND SHOPPING. Depending on your guest, there is a good chance they will want a taste of our marvelous local German cuisine. Be sure to give your guest the 411 on eating out, including clueing them in on tipping and asking for the check. Sometimes things that have become standard procedure to Americans stationed overseas are foreign and nerve-wracking for visitors. From shopping carts to keeping coins for public restrooms, make sure your guest has a little information on what to expect. Put a simple list together that they can look over and keep with them, including emergency phone numbers (112).
DRIVING. If your guest is going to be driving in Germany, be sure to lecture them on speed limits and traffic cameras. They should have an international drivers license if they are driving one of your cars and not a rental vehicle. Be sure to educate them about the autobahn and its periodic speed limits. Americans are notorious for driving in the left lane; encourage them to stay to the right unless passing.
Taking a little time to help your guests acclimate will get them started on the right foot and give them some much needed confidence that their host family is good for more than free lodging.