The cool season is finally here and once again the streets are full of people. This is also the time of the year that those of us living down here receive most visitors from home. While I’m grateful and happy that friends want to travel all the way to visit us here in the desert, I’ve also learned a lesson or two through the years.
During our first winter in Dubai, we had so many visitors, it felt as if we were running a hotel! We didn’t get the chance to really settle down in our new hometown and meet with our new friends, because we were busy driving our visiting friends back and forth to the airport/Burj Khalifa/Mall of the Emirates. We also spent a big chunk of the money we had intended to save for our own travel, as we did not have the heart to say no, when our visitors wanted to go out for dinner every day at fancy restaurants.
At that time, I was at point where I did not want visitors at all, so we sat down and decided on a set of guidelines for our visitors. Though before you write me off as the worst friend in the world, please bear in mind that Dubai is extreme, when it comes to visitors. I’ve been living abroad on and off ever since I was 19 years old, and I’ve never received so many requests from people wanting to come and visit, than since we moved to Dubai. I’m not kidding, when I say that it is quite common down here to have visitors continuously from mid-October to late-March.
Here are my two cents on how to prevent turning visiting friends into foes:
Our first year in Dubai we lived in this big, 2-bedroom apartment right next to the beach. Both bedrooms had en suite bathrooms and access to a large balcony. Needless to say, I suddenly got lots of Facebook messages from friends I had not heard from for years, “just informing” me that they were visiting Dubai at this particular time, family of 4, could they maybe crash at our place? Well if I’ve never been to your place while I was living in Denmark, why do you think I would be ok with you and your family (that I have never met) staying with us for two weeks in Dubai? We therefore made the rule that we only want visitors, which we were in fact friends with before we moved down here. Just Facebook-friends does not count. Though we will be happy to assist you with hotel bookings, and we can also meet you for coffee or drinks.
We always make agreements regarding who pays what, before arrival. We usually say that we take care of breakfast, but that we expect our guests to arrange lunch and dinner themselves. We also expect our guests to help with the daily chores such as grocery shopping, carrying out the trash, emptying the dishwasher etc. Also remember that while you are on holiday, we are not, so please understand that we do not want to see our own holiday budget being spent on Burj Khalifa tours, fine dining on weekdays, zip lines and camel riding on the beach.
Bring Your Own Beach towel. This is one of my pet peeves. I tell my visitors every time, but more often than not, they “forget”. Only one or two days on the beach make even the most fluffy, soft bathroom towel look like crap. If you have forgotten your beach towel, you can buy one in Carrefour.
We are not taxi drivers and we don’t pick up people in the airport, nor do we drive them back and forth to Atlantis or Dragon Mart.
Taxis are not expensive in Dubai, and we have already seen most of the places, you want to visit, hundreds of times, so please understand that you have to do all the sightseeing stuff on your own.
Many of our visitors also do not get why we do not want to come and pick them up at the airport. The ride is only around 40 minutes, but if you count in the waiting time before they get out of the terminal and the drive back to the Marina again, the actual time spent is more than 3 hours. It would be ok, if it were only once a year, but for us, it is often several times a month. Once again, we’re not taxi drivers..
Buy a round
We don’t want to feel that we are being taken advantage of. We want you to stay with us, because you want to see us, and not just because you want to save money compared to staying at a hotel. Taking us out for dinner one evening or bringing us presents from back home (Danish rye bread and salty licorice are always appreciated) are both nice gestures, which makes us want you to come and visit again.
A Swedish friend once told me there is a saying that guests start smelling after 3 days. We usually don’t want visitors to stay more than a long weekend, because that is when we start getting on each other’s nerves. Of course, special rules apply for very close friends (you know who you are), and for family because…well, they’re family. They can stay as long as they like:)
This blog post is from my very old blog, but I think it still has some valid points for those of you living abroad or for those of you planning to visit a friend abroad. Though since I wrote this post, I have become even more strict regarding visitors, so today we only want very close friends and family to visit. Having a bunch of people in our home all the time just does not work for us, so we prefer people outside the immediate Circle of Trust to stay at a hotel, and we will meet for dinner or coffee instead. It works better for all of us.