There comes a time in every ex-pat’s life abroad when the tables turn, just for a moment, as they become the tour guides of their adopted homeland.
It’s really a time to shine. Living abroad, particular in a place where the language is foreign, requires a competency in a set of mental gymnastics. Hosting your family and friends in your new home is your sort of Olympic games where you can really demonstrate your new skills.
I’ve been happy to host family and friends a number of times since living in Germany. In the past year alone, we’ve had my aunt; brother, mother, and sister-in-law; niece, my daughter’s friend and three sets of family friends.
Living here gives me the opportunity to cultivate and curate the best opportunities for travel and experiences. In a place where biergartens are ubiquitous and holidays are often, I can pick and choose the best experiences and opportunities, so that when visitors arrive, I can introduce them to an experience that I know that they’ll love and remember.
Germany’s social calendar is very seasonal, and there’s always a fest or a celebration of some sort. It’s been wonderful to be able to match up these visits against whatever happens to be taking place and be able to show our visitors the very best of Bavaria.
Similarly, the anticipation of visitors can be an impetus to do things that possibly have been put off. In preparation for eleven (!!!) visitors back at the Christmas of 2011, I was really motivated to improve and practice my German in order to be a better interpreter and tour guide. I really made an effort to find Christmas gifts that reflected the season and the country of Germany, itself, so that they’d be a memorable token of the trip.
Understanding the local culture and some of the more obscure sights really presents your guests with a fuller, deeper understanding of the area, and I have found that in nearly every case that they enjoy it on a different level that they would have if they had ticked off top tourist destinations. For those of us who have family and friends who maybe don’t completely understand our reasons for choosing to live abroad, I find that these local interactions help explain our daily routines giving them insights as to why we find our quality of life so high.
Sometimes just visiting a local grocery store can provoke unforgettable conversation for the next few years. Just ask my cousin James.
I don’t actually own any Birkenstocks, but I do welcome any chance I get to welcome people to Germany to show off my adopted city. I can put my best foot forward and showcase this beautiful country. My visitors will likely never live here, like I’ve chosen, and maybe they’ll never even come back. But, what they will have are beautiful memories of a trip of a lifetime for them. Maybe it’s something silly…like listening to a German marching band playing Hank Williams’ Jambalaya or it’s the experience of crossing the world’s longest Tibetan style pedestrian in the the Austrian Alps. Whatever it is, it’s my pleasure to bring that experience to life for them.