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When a friend’s cute baby vandalizes your cute outfit with its bodily fluids, you calculate, guiltily, the point at which you can hand it back without offending anyone. Similarly, when you move to another country and your friends begin to visit, you find yourself wondering, shamefully: how long until I can pack them off? Most won’t even need to vomit down your top for you to tire of being their host and tour guide.
It’s not that you don’t want to see you friends: you really do. When I first moved to the U.S., I craved their company and felt at times that I would go nuts without it. I still do. In the build-up to my pals’ grand entrance, I pace about, cleaning furiously, thinking about all the fun we’ll have. When they finally arrive, we head out for a reunion burger and beer and sink effortlessly into our normal rhythm.
But having your good mates — the ones you’d see a couple of evening a week back home — stay with you for more than a few days can add an awkward dimension to your friendship. Suddenly, they’re there when you go to bed; they’re there when you wake up. In the morning, you have to shuffle past them in a towel. At all times, they’re merely a few feet away.
And your visitors’ unease will be even worse. Most guests desperately don’t want to be a burden, so they say things like, “I’m happy to do whatever you want to do today. Don’t mind me!” Plus, they’re grouchy from sleeping badly on your flaccid airbed. Meanwhile, you’re frantically trying to think up appealing activities, realizing you having precisely no clue what your very good friends like to do on holiday. Remember, that’s what this is for them: a vacation. They’ve spent lots of money coming to see you and booked time off work, so you’re really keen to show them a good time.
But you may not be able to take a week off to hang out with your friends. Consider this a lucky break. Escaping to the office will give you a rest and your sleepover buddies a chance to do as they please without feeling like they’re putting you out.
What about if you work from home or you are using those precious vacation days? Depending on the thickness of your friends’ skin, you may have to deploy some not so subtle time-out hints. Try dropping their suitcase out of a window or locking yourself in the bathroom sobbing. Failing this, invent a sudden illness or urgent errands you need to run.
Just occasionally, you’ll entertain a house guest who won’t realize they’re being overly demanding, however many clues you provide. Having enjoyed a short stay at your free hotel without so much as gifting you a “Thank You” can of 7-Up, your friend decides to do you the honor of staying on indefinitely — on your buck, stinking up your sofa.
Thankfully, I’m yet to host such a monster, but I know expats who have. On my last trip home, I sat next to a British woman living in New Jersey who told me about the time she’d finally had to evict a long-stay friend. She’d come home one night and found him slumped, drunk and drooling, in her bath. He’d also stolen a dog, which was asleep on the couch. Despite everything, she felt guilty dispatching him to the airport. She also hoped he wouldn’t give her a bad write-up on Facebook, scaring off future visitors. Because the only thing expats fear more than tricky house guests is no house guests at all.
Any tips for getting rid of unwanted guests? House guest horror stories? Tell us below:
See more posts by Ruth Margolis
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.