Author Topic: Hosting family from out of town for the first time  (Read 1302 times)

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lnwalker

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Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« on: April 21, 2014, 06:24:37 PM »
Hi Ehell community -

I have been a lurker for a long time and could use getting some advice from all you knowledgable ladies and gents.

I am in my mid-twenties and moved across the country to California about a year ago. My parents, adult brother, and young adult sister will be visiting my new city in a few months. This will be my first time hosting out-of-town visitors and especially since it's my family, I really want to show off my maturity a bit by being a gracious and welcoming host.

Since I have a small apartment and live with my boyfriend and two dogs, my parents and brother will be staying in a hotel. (Their idea, not mine - they booked it on their own before telling me and it was probably a good decision since my apartment is too small to sleep 6 adults and 2 dogs). My young adult (21 yrs) sister will be staying with my boyfriend and me at our place.

We have all agreed on a general plan for what we will do each day they are here (4 days) and it is mostly sight-seeing, beaches, and restaurants.  My brother has never been to my area of California before and my parents and sister have never been to California altogether! I am letting them plan most of the sight-seeing schedule but giving suggestions if asked.

What can I do to be a good host?

As far as food, I plan on picking up the tab for dinner out at least once throughout their stay, but probably can't afford to buy every meal out. I also plan on having lots of snacks and drinks at my place to keep everyone's tummies satisfied. One thing I am concerned about is that I eat very healthily and mostly vegan (although I do eat meat and cheese about once a week) and my family does not. I like the idea of cooking some of my favorite healthy meals and snacks for my family - both as a way to show off how good healthy food can be - but also because I feel like since they are visiting my home they should have the experience of "my" food. (It wouldn't be weird food like meat substitutes or fake cheese or even tofu - I'm talking about veggie and peanut stir fry, for example). But I also realize that this has the risk of totally blowing up and being unsatisfying for them all... thoughts? (Side note: I also would love to cook my family healthy food as a way to demonstrate how far I have come in the past year - I've lost almost 30 lbs and have totally transformed my health).

I know most of them will not be staying at my apartment but I still feel like I am the host of my city (and I'm sure they will come over at least once a day anyway).I will clean my house thoroughly before they arrive, at least, but any additional tips on housekeeping for someone who still has a college-like apartment?

Am I missing anything?

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2014, 07:12:50 PM »
Make sure there are clean guest towels and soap in the bathroom.  Also extra toilet paper.  I like to keep a spray deodorizer in there.

Have a variety of beverages available.  I don't use bottled water myself, but I have it for guests.
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Bobbie

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2014, 07:15:15 PM »
Make sure your apartment smells great.  Its the first sense that people use as a first impression.  Have a fun time!!

peaches

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2014, 07:59:46 PM »

As far as food, I plan on picking up the tab for dinner out at least once throughout their stay, but probably can't afford to buy every meal out. I also plan on having lots of snacks and drinks at my place to keep everyone's tummies satisfied. One thing I am concerned about is that I eat very healthily and mostly vegan (although I do eat meat and cheese about once a week) and my family does not. I like the idea of cooking some of my favorite healthy meals and snacks for my family - both as a way to show off how good healthy food can be - but also because I feel like since they are visiting my home they should have the experience of "my" food. (It wouldn't be weird food like meat substitutes or fake cheese or even tofu - I'm talking about veggie and peanut stir fry, for example). But I also realize that this has the risk of totally blowing up and being unsatisfying for them all... thoughts? (Side note: I also would love to cook my family healthy food as a way to demonstrate how far I have come in the past year - I've lost almost 30 lbs and have totally transformed my health).


I would be very careful here. Your relatives are coming to visit you - not Dr. Dean Ornish - and they're not coming for a health spa experience.

I would try to compromise on this issue. You could fix meals that incorporate a dish or two that you know they like, and also a healthy or vegan offering that you and your BF enjoy. For example, you could fix hamburgers, along with turkey burgers or tofu burgers.

Another approach is to fix a family favorite - say, pot roast - in a healthier way. Cooking Light has a lot of family favorite recipes made a bit lighter, but still recognizable.

Some meals, like roast chicken, span the traditional and the healthy.   

You don't have to abandon your convictions about eating, but at the same time, don't make your guests uncomfortable about theirs. They are entitled to live the way they want; they aren't a project. And a visit where you are extending hospitality isn't the time to impose a makeover on your guests.

They may notice you've lost weight and look wonderfully healthy, and they may want to know your secrets! I'd let them inquire if they're interested; I wouldn't foist my new philosophy on them.

I think it's great that you're so interesting in being a gracious host. Good luck to you!

Arila

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2014, 08:01:41 PM »
I think it's OK to have "your" snacks and food available at your house, but I wouldn't go on and on about how healthy it is or showing them that it can be tasty as well as good for you. Honestly, my aunt went vegan, (cousin paleo etc etc etc) and it's not the food that bothers me, it's the incessant sermonizing about it that drives me crazy!

I've changed my diet and lost a lot of weight, and I am really obsessive about it, but I'm really careful to keep my lips ZIPPED. If someone asks me about it, I will tell them about the program, but otherwise no one would know.


Don't be defensive, just be positive. "Do you guys want some snacks? I have carrots, and my favorite cookies" No need to modify that to "My favorite vegan, gluten and fat free cookies - don't worry, they taste GREAT and are healthy!""You must try them!""Try them!""Try my favorite cookies!""You'll never miss the real thing! Honest!"

blarg314

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2014, 09:22:34 PM »

I'd be careful about pushing your dietary choices on them, for a couple of reasons.

One is that this is a vacation, and a lot of people like to indulge on vacation. Another is that there's a good chance that your view that your diet is so much better than theirs, and you're so much healthier will spill over, which is not the tone you want to give a short visit. A third is that they are staying in a hotel, and if your vegan meal is not filling enough for them, getting more food is inconvenient.

My husband, for example, wouldn't be satisfied by a veggie and peanut stir fry. He would eat it politely and not complain, but we'd need to stop on the way home for something more filling and protein heavy, or he'd be starving and grouchy by morning (he's got a fast metabolism and a high need for protein).

You say you do eat meat and cheese about once a week. So what I would do is scout out restaurants that will give everyone a good choice for a meal and have suggestions ready, and when you eat out, each pay your own way (although I'd expect them to pick up the tab once).  Have them over for dinner at your place one night, and make a healthy but not completely vegan meal.  Say, something like a vegetarian lasagna with cheese and mushrooms, a bean based salad, steamed veggies, and garlic bread. Or make it a vegan meal with a meat side (they get grilled chicken breasts, you get grilled tofu).

Have snacks on hand, and offer to stop by a grocery store if there is something they particularly want, particularly for the sister who is staying with you.

For the sister staying with you - if you don't have a separate guest room, make sure she's got somewhere to put her suitcase and cosmetics, and hang up some clothes. Ask her what she eats for breakfast, and stock it, within reason (pick up some muffins, buy a box of cereal, make sure you've got coffee on hand, even just the Starbucks quick brew stuff). When she arrives, point out the stuff she can help herself to - snacks, beverages, where to find the glasses and coffee maker, etc. Provide towels and a washcloth.




miranova

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2014, 09:31:19 PM »


As far as food, I plan on picking up the tab for dinner out at least once throughout their stay, but probably can't afford to buy every meal out. I also plan on having lots of snacks and drinks at my place to keep everyone's tummies satisfied. One thing I am concerned about is that I eat very healthily and mostly vegan (although I do eat meat and cheese about once a week) and my family does not. I like the idea of cooking some of my favorite healthy meals and snacks for my family - both as a way to show off how good healthy food can be - but also because I feel like since they are visiting my home they should have the experience of "my" food. (It wouldn't be weird food like meat substitutes or fake cheese or even tofu - I'm talking about veggie and peanut stir fry, for example). But I also realize that this has the risk of totally blowing up and being unsatisfying for them all... thoughts? (Side note: I also would love to cook my family healthy food as a way to demonstrate how far I have come in the past year - I've lost almost 30 lbs and have totally transformed my health).


I think it's great that you are thinking this through and care about your family's enjoyment whilst at your house.

Having said that, the purpose of feeding your guests is to feed them, not to show them how healthy you are or teach them how vegan foods can be delicious.  I would be careful about what you are trying to accomplish.

If I were visiting a vegan I would certainly be open to tasting some of their favorite vegan meals, absolutely!  But if I got a vibe of "see, this is how you should be eating" or "look at how healthy I've become" it would give it a negative spin that might make it awkward. 

As to what you should serve, I think that depends on whether you are morally opposed to cooking and serving meat, if that is the case, then certainly you don't have to do so.  Just cook and serve what you normally would and don't be upset or offended if someone goes out and grabs a burger.  As long as you are offering plenty of food, you are in the clear, etiquette wise.  But even guests are entitled to go out and grab what they are craving as long as they do it discreetly and don't badmouth your food in any way.

If you don't have a moral opposition to making and serving meat, then I'd likely compromise and serve a few meals that have meat while still showing off some of your best vegan dishes as well.  Win win.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2014, 09:37:08 PM by miranova »

lnwalker

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2014, 09:36:03 PM »
Thanks everyone for the replies so far. Very helpful.

I am definitely not the preachy type about my food choices, so I think I've decided to stick with those instincts and have my healthy food as an option that is available but have plenty of "conventional" food around as well. My mom loves to cook as much as I do so I have a feeling if we have a night eating in we will share the cooking responsibilities, ending up with 1/2 and 1/2 or 3/4 and 1/4 dishes split between the two cooking styles.

ktanne

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2014, 06:31:51 AM »
First tip for a college-like apartment, is just to tidy away as much as you can for the weekend.  Although they aren't all staying with you, when they do come to visit a small apartment will feel really full with 6 adults and 2 dogs!  My place is tiny, so when I have people coming to stay or visit, I clear away (shove into cupboards/ under the bed/ into a big basket in the garage/ even into the boot of the car!) things to make a bit of space.  That space sometimes makes the world of difference - I rarely notice it when I have put things away, but boy do I notice it if I've invited 6+ people over, and I haven't moved the decorative-but-useless-woven-basket, shifted the couch right down next to the bookcase, and cleared things of the coffee table so people can put their mugs or glasses down somewhere!

So appraise your space and see if you can give yourself a little extra breathing room in some areas, & clear areas where people naturally congregate.  This goes double for the area your sister is staying (as someone noted, she'll at least need a spot to put her things, in a way that she can comfortably access them - ideally without having to keep everything totally packed the whole time).

As some other PPs mentioned, lots of clean towels, toilet rolls, tissues, and paying attention to fragrance will all make a great impression.  I think the most important thing, after providing a clean and tidy space, is just to relax and enjoy getting to show your family around your new home!  Have a great time  :)

NyaChan

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2014, 01:27:41 PM »
I've been in a similar situation as you OP :)  I actually just asked my family ahead of time - "You know I've been working hard on eating healthy so I won't be able to eat a lot of the foods you will be eating.  How do you want to handle food?  I can make you what I normally eat or we can get separate foods and eat out."  In my family at least the response is usually that I should eat whatever I need to in order to keep on track with my plan and they eat normal foods.  The only danger is that my mom then feels bad letting me cook them that food because she knows I can't eat it and often insists on doing it herself. 

knitwicca

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2014, 02:08:12 PM »
I dated a vegan guy for over a year. I learned to make a really good stir-fry using tofu "chicken".  One evening he invited a friend to dinner. The friend had no idea the "chicken" had never worn feathers.  It was not intentionally hiding the fact, it was simply what I made for dinner.

As for making your family feel welcome, you might want to put together a "welcome package". I have done that for visitors in the past. I include a map of the local area with notes about the nearest coffee house, grocery, pharmacy, gas station.  I include a few local treats (in my area that is locally grown fruit) as well as travel-sized items that are often forgotten: decent quality shampoo and conditioner, disposable razors, band-aids, unscented hand lotion, travel sized toothpaste.

I also make certain to have the extra towels, bath tissue, kleenex, bottled water that others suggested.

Above all, remember that your family came to visit you. To enjoy seeing where you live.  Give them the opportunity to see you in your new life.

Carotte

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2014, 02:56:21 PM »
Have you considered how you will all travel to/from the sighseings and all?
If by car, get a map of the city.
If by bus, metro.. get a few maps and look into the best tickets, bundles.. (in my city there's a few different options depending on how long they stay, how far they have to travel, week-end or not, adult or not..

Are they coming by air or car? If they're coming by air and if you can, you could provide the beach towels so they don't have to carry them (tell them before they leave! ).

Will you be with them at all times? If not you could make a short list of where to find a pharmacy, grocery store, coffee place... for all the sunscreen, to go snacks and stuff.

The rest is basic hosting stuff, offer drinks right away (I'm on the 4th floor with no lift, I have glasses and water out before the guest are even at the door because I know they'll say yes to it).
As for food you can always make sure there's enought side dish to fill everyone, rice, smashed potatoes..

If you have a wifi network and a password have it ready for your sister. If you are ok with it you could offer the use of your computer to those that want to check their email quickly (that can be good or a really bad idea depending on who you are offering this, you're the best placed to know if it means they'll check their mail for 5 minutes or monopolize the computer for hours and hours to catch up with eveeeerrryyy thing).
« Last Edit: April 24, 2014, 03:07:17 PM by Carotte »

gellchom

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2014, 03:17:49 PM »
I am worried that you may be setting yourself up for some disappointment and resentment if you look at this in an abstract host-guest situation.

What you have here is your immediate family coming out for a visit.  You are an adult, and it's your new city.  But my guess is that they aren't going to think of themselves and you as Guests and Host -- they're going to think of themselves as Mom, Dad, Bro, and Little Sis and you as Big Sis.  The family dynamic will not be that different from any family vacation you take together.  I don't mean that you will be treated as a child, and certainly not that you should be -- I mean a family of adults.  Even if none of them has ever visited California or your city, they probably won't feel a need to be "hosted" as if you were just an acquaintance.  So even though you live there and they are visitors, I suspect that they aren't going to be depending upon you the way they might if you had moved to a country they've never visited with a language they don't speak and a culture they don't understand.

More likely, in fact, they are going to want to treat YOU and your boyfriend to some nice meals and activities.  I know that's how it is in our family, both when my husband and I visit our adult children in their cities (even the one in a foreign country) and when my mother and big brother visit me here -- and I'm 56, so really, it's not about being considered a child. It's just a family being together, and this time it happens to be in your house.

So I hope you will remember that and not expect everyone to somehow be in stiff, unfamiliar host-guest roles all of a sudden, or disappointed if they don't sit back and let you be tour director.  More likely, the dynamic will be pretty much the same as when you visit them.  The main thing is just having a good time together as you always do.

I have a lot of house guests, running the gamut from family to friends and even strangers.  I can tell you the most important thing I have learned from experience about being a good host -- and serendipitously, it also is what makes it a lot easier and stress-free for me:

Let them help themselves!  Coffee, snacks, drinks, extra towels and toilet paper, anything else you can think of -- show them early on where everything is and tell them to help themselves.  That will make them much more comfortable, and, once you let go of that odd feeling of being out of control of your own home, it will make your life much easier, I promise.  I know it's an adjustment, but believe me, it's worth it all the way around.  As this is also your boyfriend's home, discuss it with him first.  Just put away anything you don't want eaten/used/observed.

I would do this with breakfasts, too, for your sister (and the others, if they will be eating breakfast at your house).  Don't ask -- just put out a bunch of stuff and let people get their own when they are ready to eat.  You probably have a pretty good idea what they like, but when I have no idea, I just put out coffee, juice, bagels, butter, cream cheese, jam, cheese, yogurt, cereal, and dishes and flatware.  I might offer to make some eggs or something if it's convenient.  But I find that people really appreciate not going through a conversation about breakfast first thing.  And go ahead and put out some of your healthful yummies, too! 

Other than that, though, I agree with the others about food: don't try to educate them. (I'm guessing you may already have had this conversation with them anyway.)  I'd say that no matter who the guest were; a good host provides what the guests will enjoy, not what the host thinks that they should enjoy.  Just like gift-giving.

Have a fun visit with your family!

bah12

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Re: Hosting family from out of town for the first time
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2014, 06:00:00 PM »
For the food question, I think you can cook the food that you are used to eating and not worry too much about it.  Just don't say anything to them about how healthy it is or ask them if it's as good as their non-healthy preferences.

If you want to make a veggie and peanut butter stir fry, go for it. It sounds delicious!  If you're worried that your family might feel unsatisfied because it doesn't include meat, then just grill up a chicken or steak that you can cut into their plates.  Have full-fat salad dressing options if you think they'll like that better, etc.  And make sure the portions are more in line with the volume of food they are used to eating.