My love-hate relationship having visitors to stay as an expat

Being an expat more often than not you hit “visitor season” where people come out to stay with you.  A week, two weeks, a weekend, a few days.  People come out to catch up with you, to see you and to have a holiday.

Our influx of visitors started a couple of weeks ago, first up was my father-in-law, this weekend it’s my husbands best friend, then my mum, then our friends from back in London.  Then we get  bit of a break as it gets too hot out here for anyone to want to come and stay with us, so I become the visitor heading back to the UK for my summer hibernation with my mum.

I adore having people around.  I thrive off people being with us.  I am a social butterfly and massively extroverted compared to my husbands introverted nature.  Playing the gracious host, enjoying a glass of wine or three, feeding people up.  It’s all second nature to me.

The very fact that people are willing to pay good money to get on a plane for 7 hours to come and spend time with us, in a house where there is limited sleep for everyone.  Where we all get up at 5:30 in the morning and go to bed by 8:30.  In Doha, Qatar, a country that isn’t known to be a tourist destination as was it’s Middle Eastern counterpart in Dubai, means the world to us.  It’s always wonderful to see people, spend time with them.  It’s also wonderful to wave goodbye…

Why I love having visitors

The chance to explore a city that has become home to us, seeing it through a tourist eyes.  Getting off the park, soft play, mall, school, work track.  Doing more than just driving up and down Salwa Road to get from A to B.

The chance to show the beauty spots that you’ve discovered.  The brunches that are infamous.

Fork and cork brunch
When we took my sister-in-law to brunch

A chance to pretend as though you’re also on holiday.

As you head out for meal after meal.  As you walk around amazed at why you have never been here before.

Then there is the fact that you get to catch up.  To see what is new in their life whilst sharing what is new in yours.  To discuss new babies and old babies.  To gossip about old friends.  To immerse yourself in the life that you used to lead, with the friends that you see now but once a year (if you’re lucky).

To introduce new sights and sounds, to mingle new friends with old, to introduce family to your way of life.

Desert Safari
Everyone came over to celebrate my husbands 30th, so we went on a desert safari

And of course, there is the help with the kids.  The relationship building with Grandma or Grandad.  The joy of introducing your gregarious 4 year old (fingers crossed he isn’t in a f*%&!g fours mood) to friends and the adorableness of your cherubic nearly 2 year old.  Those blonde curls means he gets away with murder.

And when my father-in-law comes there is the chance to get him to do all the little jobs round the house that we put off, he fixes bikes, replaces bulbs, fixed my chair, plants the garden.  You name it he does it!

father in law planting the garden
My father-in-law planting the garden with his little helper

The difficulties in having visitors

Whilst your visitors are here on a holiday, to do the fun things like stay up late and sleep in (except have they not met your children?!?) to head to the beach when it won’t be crowded, to spend mornings by the pool, normal life for you carries on.  School is still going on, work is still going on.  And whilst my husband will take a proportional of annual leave to spend with visitors whilst here in Doha I’d rather he save the bulk for the chance to fly back to the UK with us when I leave for 9 week.  Or for a spectacular family holiday.  Call me selfish, but I cherish our family time away from home.  We love to travel as a family and we need time away, together.  So when he is going to bed at 8 to prepare for a 5am start the next day don’t call him boring, or say he’s changed.  He did the same in London, he did the same in Dubai.  Work is something that keeps us out here, that pays for our lifestyle.  Yes he will take a day here and there, but that’s the limit.

Same with school, just like you won’t pull your kids out of school for me coming home I won’t pull mine out for you.

And you still get me everyday – what’s not to love about that?

butterfly gardens dubai
My mum and the Big One at Miracle Gardens, Dubai

Then there is the fact that you have people living with you, this time round we’re lucky.  Our house is large enough to accomodate a spare room whereas previously people had to sleep in the playroom.  But still, having to keep the children quiet from 5am can be quite a challenge as well as exhausting.  Tiptoeing round.  And I get it’s not easy from the other side, being a visitor in someones home is just as tough!

The emotional aspect of having visitors from home

The thing is, when people from home come to stay, they remind you of all you have left behind.  Of the reasons why you didn’t want to be an expat.

They remind you that life goes on without you, that while you are able to fly back for the big things you miss out on so many of the little things.

Meeting new babies
When Nini met the Baby for the first time

You’re there for the wedding, for the Christening.  But you miss the engagement party, the build up to the Big Day.  You miss meeting the baby when they are first born and brand new.

You’re there for the Stag Do, for the Hen Do.  But you miss the random meet ups in the pub to watch the football (my husband), the girls nights in with a bottle of wine.

You’re there for the emotional times, for the break ups and make ups, but you’re only there over Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook.  When before you’d have been the one dragging them up, making them watch Twilight, eating curry and drinking wine.

You realise who your true friends are, that it doesn’t always matter if you make the pub every Sunday or if you only turn up home once a year.  That when you have a true friend it is as if you saw them last week if it was actually more than a year ago.

You share the same jokes, the same stories.  You still drink the bottle of wine.  You update and explore each others new lives.

Your friends and family visiting is marvellous yet can be bittersweet.

And although you get the relief of having your house back at the end of it, there is always a little echo that misses them there.

Abu Dhabi brunch with friends
Drinks with friends in Abu Dhabi

Why it's emotionally draining having visitors as an expat - my love-hate relationship with visitors.



  1. March 15, 2017 / 8:35 pm

    Oh gosh, it must be really difficult. There’s not many people I can tolerate staying in my house, it’s part of the reason I don’t want to get a house that’s much bigger!

  2. May 15, 2017 / 5:13 pm

    Loved the article. We lived in the UK as expats for years and visitors were always welcome. Keep writing such interesting articles.

  3. Chris
    May 20, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    My recent visit to son and daughter in law and new baby was a wonderful event for me not a holiday but a break from the norm and such a joy to be with them in their home. Something you don’t always do if they stay local. It gave me a chance to help them in really small ways and the chance to enjoy a different environment from my usual one it expands my world. Same when I visit my daughter and her family in Japan. That people are willing to come maybe give up a beach holiday for the visit and enjoy the time and company will stay in memories of all forever. When I’m sitting in my bath chair and can’t go anywhere these memories will be my best. For my children and their children I hope they will be precious too. Thank you for opening your homes to us don’t be sad when we leave it’s only a moment till we will meet again and if people are in your heart the distance becomes irrelevant. With love to all expats and their family and friends. Chris

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