Have you had visitors these holidays? Are you saying farewell with a heavy heart, wondering if you’re doing the right thing being away from family?  Or are you desperate to get back to normal, to cease the extra roles of tour guide and chef?

Visitors are lovely. The travel restricted periods of the last few COVID years made abundantly clear that Zoom is just not a substitute for simply spending time with folk.

But the reality of an extended visit, from parents, or siblings that you’ve not lived alongside for years can be a lot.  Extra work – cooking, cleaning, and trying to keep everyone happy across the generations can be stressful.  Think Christmas on steroids.

So it’s no wonder that it can often be a relief to wave visitors goodbye at the airport.

If you didn’t fare so well this time, here’s some thoughts to stand you in good stead the next time someone mentions they’ve booked their flight over!

If you’re hosting:

  1. Don’t overcomplicate things.

You’re not a hotel, so umpteen breakfast options and elaborate meals are not necessary.  Crowd pleasing fare works best, with help yourself options of cheese, fruit or yoghurt if anyone feels like dessert.

However, If cooking is your thing, and you want to make a special effort, keep it to one day and try to prep in advance.  A bit of effort is appreciated, but time together is the important thing.

Or if eating out is an option, choose something casual that will suit everyone, rather than something exquisite but uptight. No one enjoys having to manage restless children (or adults) through a protracted meal, with interesting service! 

Not sure where to go, ask friends for recommendations, or check out instagram reels from @mike_in_geneva or @livingeneva for inspiration.  Even a pit stop to Manora can go down well with lots of choice for everyone and a terrasse with a view!

2.Think about the capabilities and preferences of your guests and the weather!  

Grandparents might not be suited to a mountain hike, but a driving tour plus a refreshment stop somewhere with fantastic views could hit the spot.

Try to ensure your own children aren’t accommodating all the time.  It’s their holiday too, so endless museum trips to keep Grandad happy will quickly lead to grumpy kids and frazzled nerves.  

And think about your guests.  Are they actually interested in visiting things, or happy to pop to the park and play a board game with the children?

My in-laws have never lived close to us, so we have always had “visits” even when we all lived in the same country.  But after many mis-fires I’ve accepted they are not enthralled by new places or seeing something beautiful or different.  So short outings are best, balanced with plenty of time with the grandchildren one on one, as they chat, play a game, or work through a sudoku.

  1. Don’t plan too much.  

Such an important one!

A full itinerary is tempting; to show off the positives of living in Switzerland, so that relatives appreciate why you want to be here.  

However, tiredness makes everyone tetchy and if the kids start to misbehave there can be the temptation for visitors, particularly for family to comment or step in.  I don’t care how laid back you are, criticism of your parenting or your children is hard to take!

Also if your guests are staying for more than a few days, don’t underestimate the benefits of a quieter day.  Perhaps even hosting a playdate so that everyone gets some down time.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Does it really matter if your guests insist on washing up by hand rather than using the dishwasher, put all your utensils back in the wrong drawers or seem to have an unquenchable thirst for tea made only by you?  Tolerance is key.  By all means moan to your other half when you get a minute alone, but try to remember it’s only for a short time so you don’t end up seething. 

When you’re a guest:

  1. Ask when’s a good time to visit.

Simple right. 

But this step often gets missed.  Grandparents start checking out flights and the thought of quieter airports and cheaper tickets steer them away from the school holidays.  But work schedules and after school activities don’t leave much time for proper time together. 

If you can’t redirect them to a better time, then give them a realistic idea of who will be around and when.  This should ensure there aren’t any nasty surprises when their son or daughter is at work each day or a grandchild has 2 hours of football training straight from school.

  1. Go with the flow.  

Unless you’re really not capable of something physically or financially, then go along with whatever is planned.  Have low expectations by all means, but enter into a trip positively.  If your host has planned something there’s likely been a whole lot of thought, deliberation and consternation gone into it, so make a good attempt to appreciate their efforts.

We had the best guests recently, an unexpectedly broken car, plus pouring rain all day did not dampen their spirits.  We were mortified that all our plans were in disarray, that our four walls,  a sodden u15 football match and a stroll around our environs was all we could conjure up in the circumstances.  However, they took it all in their stride; happy to catch up, trade family gossip and play card games with the kids.  

  1. Help with the little things.  

Offer to make hot drinks, wash up after dinner or unload the dishwasher.  But don’t be slaves to helping out.  Sometimes a host needs a bit of time to organise and crack on with things, rather than be distracted by thinking of what tasks you can help with, without getting in the way!

  1. Bring some treats from “home”.  

Snacks, teabags and chocolate from “home” somehow feel extra special when they are distributed straight from a suitcase at the start of a visit.  Getting off to an appreciative start, might just help ease everyone through day 3 of the visit when politeness fatigue is seriously setting in.

And if past experience has taught you that whatever you do, visits will always be akin to being on the edge of a diplomatic crisis, you can always suggest a hotel might be best!

The Hub Geneva