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My houseguest will be staying for weeks but doesn't have spending money
May 30, 2014 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I agreed to let a friend from out of the country stay with me for almost a month this summer, but now that the visit is getting closer, she has been mentioning that she doesn't have any spending money. Help me make sure this doesn't become my problem!

A little backstory: I met my friend (we'll call her Angie) 5 years ago, while I was living overseas with my now-ex-husband. I was unhappy in my marriage and in the other country, and Angie and I bonded over how miserable we were about living there. She was a huge help and support to me, especially in navigating the language and the culture, and was really my only friend there.

Five years later, Angie is still in the same country, while I have since moved back to my original home in the US. Around six months ago, Angie asked if she could stay with me in my apartment for a few weeks this summer, along with a friend of hers. I live alone during the summer while my partner is away for work, so I thought that it would be a nice way to thank her for all the help she gave me when I lived overseas, as well as have some company while alone in the house. Also, she stayed with us for a few nights two years ago, so I figured I knew what to expect.

But as soon as she booked the flight, she posted on Facebook that she basically made the decision on impulse, saying that "being bipolar can get me in trouble", and that she has no idea where she's going to get the money to afford her expenses while she's in the US. And now that the visit is next week, she's been posting almost every day about how much she can't wait for her vacation, but "I still have to figure out my finances" or "I just hope I have enough money to get through my visit".

All of this has been on Facebook - she hasn't said anything to me personally at all about her finances. But she's been tagging me in these statuses - because she's so excited to visit - so she knows I know. But I don't know if I should bring it up to her when we discuss logistics for her arrival. It's not like she's asked me for money, or to pay for any expenses, so it feels weird to be the first to say something. And I don't even know what I WOULD say. But the fact that she's posting so regularly about having no money is just stressing me out, and I'd like to prevent any issues. What would you do in my shoes?
posted by Neely O'Hara to Human Relations (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Provide board games, TV, cheap food (beans, rice, steamed veggies), and $3 bottles of wine. Everything else is out of your hands.
posted by jsturgill at 1:59 PM on May 30 [14 favorites]


What would you do in my shoes?

I'd be pretty direct and say "Look I've been reading that you are a little concerned about your finances. I'm happy to have you stay with me but I can not support you during this time. I'm happy to provide (explain what you will provide: a meal a day? all meals? rides?) but beyond that I feel like I have to be clear that you are on your own...."

You say she is bringing a friend with her? Maybe this is something between her and the friend, so the friend will manage it and not you. I just feel that clear boundaries are the best you can do. Worst case she can not afford to be on vacation and she leaves early. That is her issue not yours. Opening your house to multiple people for multiple weeks is already quite generous.
posted by jessamyn at 2:05 PM on May 30 [32 favorites]


"Hi Angie! I'm as excited about our summer as you are! I read your Facebook statuses about finances, and have done some research. Here are some links to the amazing array of free or nearly free stuff going on in NYC. Take a look and let me know what catches your eye."

And OMG, if you are providing free lodging, this should be a breeze. Help her navigate the subway and you're off on the right foot.
posted by raisingsand at 2:06 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


She's coming with a friend? I hope that the friend has some money!

Otherwise, I'd stock up on cheap food staples (pasta, rice, beans, etc), cheap personal care products, and grab some public transport maps and some free papers that have ideas of cheap things to do around town.

I'd stay away from going out to bars and restaurants as I'd assume that I'll have to pick up the tab. And, if asked to borrow money, I'd make it clear that there's no money for me to lend. Period.

You're already being awesome by agreeing to hosting such a long term guest (and friend) for free in a very pricey city! If she asked to stay with you 6 months ago, she's had time to save. She just decided not to. That's her choice. Under no circumstances should you subsidize a fabulous vacation for her more than you already have.
posted by quince at 2:08 PM on May 30 [16 favorites]


Absolutely you need to set boundaries before she comes.

Otherwise they'll be an awkward encounter somewhere where she's waiting for you to pay and you're waiting for her to pay and eventually you'll find yourself reaching for your wallet.........

Also, there are usually a lot of free things to do in every city, do some googling and see what you can come up with!
posted by JenThePro at 2:10 PM on May 30


If you, she, and her friend are willing to shop cheap and pack lunches, being broke is not a huge impediment. But if she expects you to meet her needs, or if they camp out on your sofa all day because they can't afford the subway, that's going to get old fast.

The bipolar thing is also concerning. A month in an apartment with someone who has uncontrolled bipolar could be disastrous. Did you already know that this is something she struggles with? Do you have any idea whether she is currently receiving treatment or medication?

Assuming she's able to be responsible for herself, you can help your friend by being clear about what you can offer and what you need her to provide for herself. For instance, adding on to raisingsand's script, you might add:

"I'm happy to put you guys up. It would be great if you and [guest_friend] could each chip in $50/week (or whatever) for food and household expenses. I'm also hoping you'll be able to handle your own public transportation so you can get out and see some of the sights above."
posted by ottereroticist at 2:18 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


First, I would think about what I could afford, and what I would feel good about affording. This is totally up to you. All the rice and beans she can eat? A spa weekend in the Berkshires? One round of drinks per week? Figure out where your comfort level is ahead of time. If you haven't thought this out in advance, it's really, really easy to go over in the moment and feel resentful.

I think it would be good to set expectations in advance, or when she arrives. "Hey, I'm psyched that you and Friend are here to stay! NYC is awesome in July. By the way, I'm kind of on a budget myself right now. However, I'd love you treat you guys to takeout tonight, and maybe we can work out the best way to split grocery money and cooking duties. I've got a mean fresh summer roll I'd love to make you guys!"

Provide her with guidance for living cheap in NYC and free things to do, for sure, as other people have suggested.

I wouldn't assume that the FB posts are directed at you specifically. I'm guessing that she's hoping that other friends and family may be willing to pony up the money for her.

Also... I would feel guilty about doing this, for sure, in fact I feel guilty suggesting it, but I'd hide my checkbooks/bank statements/social security number/valuable jewelery. I mean, you know your friend, but it's been five years, and you don't really know *her* friend, y'know? I'd remove the temptation, just to be safe. (And really, this stuff should be hidden in a safe space anyway in case you have a breakin.)
posted by pie ninja at 2:22 PM on May 30 [22 favorites]


Maybe get together a list of free activities that she and her friend can enjoy during their stay. I'd even see if there are any community based organizations of her national origin that she might want to connect with.. She might be able to make some social contacts and establish an immediate network of people with whom she might be able to make some cash for part-time work. And this might come off sounding wrong but new acquaintances might also serve to buffer you from being the only source of financial support--new friends host dinner parties, treat people to lunch, invite people to events, gatherings, etc.

Reading your question made my stomach seize with anxiety imagining what it'd be like in your shoes. Have you responded to her posts or acknowledged it at all? I don't know what country your friend is from but there are several countries I can think of whose cultural norms dictate that hosts provide hospitality that assumes financial obligations on part of the host. Is this her way of aprising you of that expectation? The time to set boundaries you're comfortable with is now, before she and her friend comes to visit. Give her a chance to decide that it's not a good idea to make this impulsive trip or come anyway with clear expectations. I can see things getting awkward fast otherwise.
posted by loquat at 2:30 PM on May 30


Yeah, seconding pie ninja about stashing your information and valuables somewhere. I'm guessing since she was a fellow expat when you bonded with her, that you don't have many mutual ties or systems of accountability, and you certainly don't have any ties to her friend. She has said publicly that she is bipolar and that she makes questionable decisions about money. So it would be smart to reduce the risk of any bad situations by keeping those valuables elsewhere.

And beyond setting boundaries about money, set boundaries about the amount of time you'll be spending with them. "Hey friend, I'm getting into a really busy period at work but I still want to hang out with you. What about this coming Tuesday, next Thursday and that final weekend?" And having places for you to go that aren't your apartment so if you need some quiet time you can chill out without being forced to be social.

Better to come off a little formal at first and gradually warm than to be ultra-casual and then have to have a "come to Jesus" talk about money/food/etc.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:36 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


If she's not a US citizen, she might be stopped at the border and asked to show proof of funds.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:39 PM on May 30 [7 favorites]


I've had friends crash at my place like this in similar circumstances. I'm not saying it's guaranteed to, but at least every single time it ended with me having spent money in some way. Even if it wasn't like i handed them money, they were using all my house supplies and things and eating my food. Also, the awkward "go out somewhere and eat/get drinks, then suddenly it's bill time and lol" setup from above... ugh, yea.

I have never once had a situation like this play out without there being at least a couple instances of me, or someone else who lived in and paid for the house being left holding the bill. I've also never had clear boundaries set beforehand, or new boundaries set midway through after problems actually be respected.

Pretty much every single one of those people still at least theoretically, in a way we mutually agreed upon previously, owes me money.

jsturgill has the right idea, but honestly expect to come home to half the cool stuff from your fridge/cabinets being chowed down upon in some awkward half finished meal.

Independent of the problems i've had with that too, i have really mixed mostly negative and hesitant feelings about someone who would go on a trip like this knowing they couldn't really pay for it and basically be like "Oh well, i bought the ticket, #YOLO!" as far as personal responsibility and not just thinking "everything will just work out!" which will likely involve you well, propping them up. They tend to, as a type of person, have very pollyannaish views of how a vacation like this will work and either flip out when they don't, or assume you/everyone else will be helping them along.

I guess my point is i don't have a ton of advice on how to do this right, because no matter how much i've tried to be an adult about it, it's always ended up being stupid. At this point i hate it when someone stays over at my house for more than two or three nights even if they're making me dinner every night and contributing, almost like a PTSD thing... from a couple too many situations that started out almost exactly as you're describing here.

Another thing is, does she have a round trip ticket? Is there a clear, established, nonflexible outside your verbal agreement timeline for when she's coming and leaving? Because these types of situations can become "indefinitely" more easily than you'd think with ye olde crutch of "What are you gonna do, throw her out on the street?"
posted by emptythought at 3:06 PM on May 30 [11 favorites]


I've been asked to provide proof of my finances at the US border, so what TWinbrook8 said happens. Although in that case I was crossing a land border by bicycle and didn't have an onward ticket or job at home which does make them very suspicious. Still, you should probably encourage your friend to have her ducks in a row in case it comes up (if she's arriving by plane and doesn't have a round-trip ticket, it will *definitely* come up).
posted by Emanuel at 3:11 PM on May 30


Depends. Is she the type of person to take too much and overstep boundaries or is she one of those people (and I have known them) who could live on practically nothing? Doesn't sound like it by the Facebook statuses. The "being bipolar can get me in trouble" comment is worrisome too. I'd actually talk to her about all of this (on the phone, not texts or e-mails or Facebook messages) and set clear boundaries because this sounds like a situation that could breed resentment and even contempt.
posted by futureisunwritten at 3:36 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Decide ahead of time how much you're willing to have her sitting around your house not doing anything, and then make those boundaries clear to her. If you want to be generous/helpful, put together a list of free events and activities and places to hang out in the city.

NYC has a TON of free events in the summer so there's really no excuse for her to be haunting your living room.

Although that makes me think....make certain she's aware of what the subway/bus fares are, and that she's budgeting for transportation, and that she understands that Queens is not walking distance to most of what she'll probably want to do.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:02 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I'd almost be tempted to put it in writing, and give her a copy.

I know that I've been on the other end as the inadvertently annoying guest who overstepped her bounds, and I would have appreciated boundaries set up at the beginning, instead of it getting increasingly uncomfortable for all involved. Don't assume that they know, because they may not, or may not be able to pick up on the more subtle signals (like me).

At least have a talk about expectations and conditions at the beginning.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:20 PM on May 30


Yes, hide your valuables, and also any liquor or edible treats that you'd be irritated to find missing. Sometimes people would not think to touch your jewelry, but they will help themselves to an expensive bottle of scotch you were saving and accuse you of being a bad hostess for getting upset. Does your bedroom door lock? Can you stash a box of things with a trustworthy friend? It sucks to be so suspicious of a guest but better safe than sorry! Your friend's circumstances are raising red flags with me, compounded by the fact that she will have a friend with her you have not met. Sometimes perfectly nice people can be influenced into rude behavior by the company they keep. It's a very nice favor to let them stay with you and nobody wants to see you taken advantage of.

If she mentions wanting to do something together, see if you can get tickets online. Look it up, say, "Hey, tickets are $XX. If this date/time sounds good to you, I will go ahead and buy my ticket now, and you can pay for yours." Avoids embarrassing payment surprises at the ticket window.
posted by griselda at 5:01 PM on May 30 [6 favorites]


Lots of good advice up thread. I agree you need to talk to her and get an understanding of what "no money" means. Is it no big shopping trips or nothing at all? I'd also be concerned about the friend and their situation: for all you know, your friend told them, "Come with me! You just need to buy a plane ticket, we can stay with Neely, she'll be cool", with the implication being that you'll take care of everything. So give her a call before you all have an amazingly awkward month.
posted by sfkiddo at 5:07 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


You know what, OP? You don't have to actually go through with this if you don't want to. You have this internet stranger's permission to cancel these plans.
posted by hush at 5:44 PM on May 30 [26 favorites]


As a bipolar someone, I found her "being bipolar can get me in trouble" encouraging, as it demonstrates insight.

But since BP can mean dramatic mood swings, and since she probably doesn't have any US health insurance, I'd be concerned regarding her management plan while visiting. Can she transport adequate supplies of drugs into USA? Can an emergency prescription from a doctor back home be filled here? Does she have medical records to travel with her?
posted by Jesse the K at 5:51 PM on May 30


I don't know what your financial situation is, but one thing you may consider doing is renting a place through Airbnb (or similar) for them. Something close in your neighborhood, so they can come over often and it feels like their place is an extension of yours -- but not.

That way you can control access to your place, and also your funds, and visit with them only when it is convenient.

That is something I have done for family visits.

It would probably be cheaper (or the same), than you hosting two people for almost a month, and WAY LESS stress. And what you say to them, why you are changing plans, is that you wanted to give them a nicer experience than if they were staying couch-surfing at your place, which is partially true. It's a pretty nice present for all the help she provided for you, and it also will alleviate the situation you are now in.

Of course, this would be contingent on your belief that they would be good guests in someone's else's rental. (If you don't think that would be the case, then I would also consider cancelling.)
posted by nanook at 5:52 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


From your question it sounds like your friend Angie may have very different cultural norms from yours (since you mentioned she helped you navigate the different culture and its language). What are the usual expectations for hosts in Angie's country? Is she native to the country (or of the same ethnic background as most of the citizens)? Or has she really absorbed the culture even though she did not grow up in it? This will help you determine how you should react.

The times I have hosted people I have insisted on paying for everything, and wanted to ensure they saw all the interesting sites. This is how it normally happens with the people I know, and they did the same for me when I was visiting them. I would not extend hospitality to someone I felt would abuse the privilege though. Do you know Angie well enough to tell if she would be a gracious guest or an unpleasant one?

I agree with posters who suggest her Facebook messages might be intended to get money from her family or other friends for the trip. I am curious about the friend she is coming with. Perhaps she was under the assumption this friend would be financing the vacation? Perhaps she paid for airfare and the friend promised to pay for extras - and is now backing out?

I do not know what the country you and Angie lived in together is but you should be aware in some parts of the developing world people come to visit in the hopes they can somehow end up staying under the radar. In the country I lived in it was common for locals to marry or hope to marry people from North America or Europe strictly for citizenship, without the partner realizing this was happening. I have had close friends and family members deal with this on both sides of the equation. Also, it was common for family / friend hosts in the more desirable country to try and introduce visitors from the developing country to short term jobs, interesting single people, or the wonderful nightlife, to help their guest forge permanent roots. In this latter example, the hosts felt they were part of the same culture as the guest and wanted to give a little back to the community by helping other members. The host was part of the guest's culture, and, in the country they were hosting in, gained from being part of the ex-pat community in various ways. Is it possible Angie is seeing your friendship as a networking relationship?

While I am sympathetic to Angie and think most likely it is one of the above reasons you will encounter, it is hard from your question to tell how well you actually know her, how the friend she is bringing relates, and what her cultural expectations are. To be safe I suggest the following (some which others above have recommended):

1- you should decide what you will spend and what the vacation itinerary will be ahead of time so there are no surprises
2- if you have any concerns keep your personal papers, id cards, jewels and other valuables somewhere safe
3- talk to her and find out her expectations before she arrives. It is better to avert a situation than try and do damage control after the fact. This includes finding out if there are one or two experiences she has her heart set on, so you can try and factor it into your planning in step 1
4-who is this friend? Do you know and trust them? How does Angie know this person and for how long has she known them? Does she trust this individual? If there are any concerns see step 2!
5- you can cancel this or modify the arrangements if you feel uncomfortable. Remember she invited herself to your home - for a lengthy stay - in a far away country - with a friend coming along - which is quite unusual. This would be an imposition to the potential host in many cultures and is usually something only family members ask
6- have a plan in case her visit is not going well and you need to ask her to leave. I had a friend do this to me - their short vacation devolved into many weeks (Christmas unexpectedly included) and dirty underclothes strewn about my living room. It was a headache "evicting" her. Don't let this happen to you as you feel like a prisoner in your own home
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 7:36 PM on May 30 [10 favorites]


Definitely tell her upfront (e.g., now, not when she arrives) that you saw her FB posts and you wanted to give her a heads up about how pricey NYC is. Mention explicit dollar figures for certain things you know she'll need (like a Metrocard) - this accomplishes two things: (1) lets her know how much $ she'll need for those items, and (2) lets her know she shouldn't expect you to pay for them!

Lots of other good suggestions upthread.

For the record, I think her FB posts are pretty rude. She's putting you in a really uncomfortable position, whether it's deliberate or not. I would definitely be having second thoughts about these plans by now.
posted by sunflower16 at 8:06 PM on May 30 [15 favorites]


I don't think it's unreasonable not to want someone to freeload off of you for an entire month in the most expensive city in North America.

Bail now with guilt, rather than later with regrets. Regrets are overrated. Also, overpriced.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:43 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Just to be clear: She changed the plans on you.

She waited until you'd agreed to host her before announcing she was broke (and bipolar in a way that becomes problematic, apparently?). That means that you agreed to host her with certain expectations that she would chip in and that you would go out and do fun stuff together. This is no longer possible. She will no longer be able to chip in and cannot afford going out to anything that costs anything.

Worse, even if you stock up on beans and rice, it means you yourself will have to eat beans and rice for the next few weeks. Or go out and eat elsewhere. Because you can't very well eat good things infront of her that she can't have. Essentially, you either live very cheaply yourself or hang out elsewhere while she lives in your home!

She changed the plans on you. And that makes it okay for you to change the plans on her.

"Look, when we agreed on your coming to visit me, it was with the expectation that you would be able to chip in X amount" (be precise. Don't say "chip in something now and again", because that could refer to a packet of peanuts.) "Will you two be able to chip in that amount?" (Listen to reply.) "because I can't afford to host you for several weeks under these circumstances. It won't be possible."
Then offer her a compromise you can afford (shorter period?) or cancel altogether. If you cancel, Repeat "it won't be possible" like a broken record.

Don't accept a compromise you wouldn't be able to see through. For instance, don't agree that you will have breakfast together but beyond that they're on their own finding food, if you know in your heart of hearts that you'll feel like a big old meany and end up cooking for her every evening anyway. Repeat "that won't work."

She changed plans on you, now you get to adjust your own plans. She will not like this, she may try to make you feel cruel and yes, you may lose a friend. Weigh this against how upset you will be after after several weeks of being mooched on and unforseen expenses on your part. Will you even want to remain friends?

(Is my interpretation of your friend as a moocher uncharitable? Yes. Because friends don't spring this surprise brokeness on friends, having just invited themselves to their home for several weeks! It speaks of a moochy personality. Broke people can be extremely considerate houseguests, more so than well earning ones, because they know the value of your hosting, but this start does not bode well.)
posted by Omnomnom at 10:19 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


From an anonymous commenter:
Your friend has been up front about being bipolar and not always making good decisions. Being bipolar myself I can say that I don't always have good insight about my behavior and I rely on others to tell me when I'm wacky. You would not be out of bounds to tell her that since she is up front about her disorder and decision making difficulties that visiting now without funds is a poor choice. You can always temper it by saying that you'd be happy to have her another time, but someone who is bipolar and lets you know it is giving you tacit permission to set some appropriate limits. You'll be doing her a kindness, whether she can recognize that now or not.
posted by taz at 10:31 PM on May 30 [12 favorites]


Perhaps it's my Mediterranean background, but I don't understand the comments warning that this person might end up eating your food and drinking your liquor. She's your house guest: OF COURSE she is going to eat your food and drink your liquor. If she and her friend are not eating and drinking well during their stay with you, you have failed as a host. Your main responsibility as host is extending the warmest possible hospitality to your friend and her friend (now your new friend), which means doing your best to make them as comfortable as possible. If I were hosting a friend from a foreign country, I would welcome them with a good meal, a comfortable place to sleep, an unlimited MetroCard, advice for things to see during the day, and the statement that, while you are staying with me, what's mine is yours. I would plan to take time off during their stay so that I could do things with them. I would inform them to let me know if they're going to be home at X time for dinner, and ask them if what I'll be cooking will be OK with them. I would most certainly give them a key so they could come and go as they pleased. I would expect nothing from them monetarily or otherwise, although a nice parting gift would be nice. Most local attractions are free at least occasionally, but if there was something I thought it was important for them to see that cost money, I'd probably just give them the money to do it, or take them on my own and pay their admission. I'm not saying you have to spend extravagantly on your guests, but you do have to provide for them and make them as happy and comfortable as is within your means.

When a friend (especially from such a long distance) comes to stay with me, I definitely expect to spend money making their experience as pleasant and memorable as possible. Honestly, I don't think most of the commenters here understand what hospitality means in most of the world outside of the U.S. Many people from outside of this country would find a lot of this advice (putting guests up in an Airbnb, asking them to chip in for groceries, etc.) insulting.
posted by Leatherstocking at 2:32 AM on May 31 [21 favorites]


I'm from the Southern US, and came in to say almost exactly what Leatherstocking said so eloquently.

Especially considering that this is someone who seemingly went 'above and beyond' at a time when you were having a really rough patch, I would make every effort possible to ensure their stay is as delightful as possible!
posted by PlantGoddess at 4:47 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I don't think most of the commenters here understand what hospitality means in most of the world outside of the U.S.

I both agree and disagree with this. Yes, this is correct, but at the same time, if the OP does not have the money to afford this, this is simply something she cannot do - and many Americans have never learned how to do this kind of hospitality and may not have budgeted for it. (I also would not expect to pay for a Metrocard - transportation to trips that I arrange should be my responsibility if they cannot pay, but not anywhere they may take it in their heads to go.) As a host, you are hosting them in your home, not the City of New York. This requires meals, nice times at home, and occasionally showing them some sights.

I would look up some free things to do in NYC and take them there. (Are you aware that many museums are donate-what-you-want with only "suggested" donation?)
posted by corb at 5:45 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


So I think it's pretty clear that if your expectations of hospitality don't match up with what Leatherstocking just posted, you REALLY need to have a conversation with your friend.

Personally I find the idea that I'd be expected to spend over two hundred dollars on unlimited metrocards for people who are staying in my home for free COMPLETELY INSANE, but I'm from Boston and I also live in NYC and I don't make very much money.

The point being, don't assume you and your friend are on the same page with regards to expectations, because that's pretty obviously not a safe assumption, even just among the commenters in this thread.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:48 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Also, I think that in NYC particularly -- where hotels and other temporary housing are very expensive -- there's a difference many people draw between "guests" and "people I'm letting crash at my place so they can afford to visit."

My sister, if she came to see me, would be my guest. I wouldn't cover ALL of her expenses but I'd try and help her out. She would be included in any meals I made and I would try and make sure she had lots to do. But she would also only be here for a week at the very most, and she is my SISTER.

If a friend was staying for me for a month for free, they would be crashing at my place. I would think of myself as doing them the favor of saving them hundreds or thousands of dollars in housing costs. I would expect them to help with groceries and doing the dishes and tidying up the apartment. I would leave them to their own devices and their own budget most of the time. I would hide the good scotch in my bedroom closet before they arrived.

Is your friend (and her friend) a guest or someone crashing with you for a while? Does she know? Do you all agree?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:56 AM on May 31 [15 favorites]


Cultural norms of hospitality aside, what's at stake is the length of the visit, the income of the host, and the expectations of host and guest.

I put up someone who I actually don't like at all for three days and fed them and went to a few city sights with them. If it was a friend, I'd do that and more. But three days is different than weeks at a time.

The most important thing here is boundaries and communication, as many have noted.
posted by mymbleth at 6:38 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I think the length of the visit is significant. With a weekend or maybe even a week-ish long trip, I'd be more inclined to agree with Leatherstocking's approach (although even then I would expect my guest to at least offer to pay for herself on occasion, or to take turns paying for things). But a monthlong trip moves it more into the "people I'm letting crash at my place" category, as Narrative Priorities puts it. The fact that she's bringing a friend that you don't know also makes it seem more that this is a "crash with you while seeing NYC" trip moreso than a trip to visit you. I think it'd still be nice to take them out to dinner or something to celebrate their arrival, but much beyond that would seem unreasonably expensive.

I like the idea of reaching out to her now to say that you've seen her FB posts and wanted to be sure she knew how much things cost/what funds she'll need for the visit, with an explicit statement that it won't be possible for you to pay her way. Maybe it would help keep the message friendly if you emphasized how excited you are to see her, and framed it in terms of things you'd like to do with her assuming they fit into her budget.

In the best-case scenario, this will give her a reality check but she'll be able to come up with the money (or will already have understood this is the case); in the worst-case scenario, she'll be upset - but if the alternative is that you end up feeling upset (and broke!) once she's out here, it sounds like the friendship could be damaged either way, but by telling her at least you won't also be out all that money.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:41 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Angie asked if she could stay with me in my apartment for a few weeks this summer, along with a friend of hers.

Another vote for this being a "crash at your place" type of thing and that her comments on Facebook are concerning. Maybe it's time to break out the thing about Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture. She sounds like she is comfortable asking for an awful lot and you're going to have to be comfortable saying no. In your shoes I would hate to bring up the Facebook thing but at this point probably would.

Also we all have our individual standards of what we need to provide for guests. Mine is that I would try to include them in meals-- maybe with the idea that your partner is not their so they are just eating his share-- but the cost of this for a month is not going to be inconsiderable.
posted by BibiRose at 6:50 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Also, and this may be neither here nor there, but I keep going back to the part about your friend bringing along another person on this trip. Do you know this other person at all? On an abstract, idealistic basis I like Leatherstocking's framing of this as a "new friend," but in reality I'd be very weirded out at the prospect of having a stranger in my home for a month. Heck, even if I had reason to trust that person absolutely, I'd be uncomfortable at the thought of needing to be "on" all the time for someone I didn't know, or the possibility of travel exhaustion-fueled spats between her and your friend in your home.

I might be projecting here, but if you were similarly uneasy about this other person visiting but felt like you couldn't say no, I hope you are really taking this opportunity now to recognize that you don't have to accommodate your friend's every request in order to be a good friend.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:36 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Personally I find the idea that I'd be expected to spend over two hundred dollars on unlimited metrocards for people who are staying in my home for free COMPLETELY INSANE, but I'm from Boston and I also live in NYC and I don't make very much money.

I totally get this, and to clarify, this is not something I would do in all cases. In the past, most people who have come to visit have had money of their own (either saved up, or, if they were young, spending money given to them by their parents), so MetroCards weren't something I felt I needed to provide. In this case, with a friend who's basically broke, it would be worth it to me to spend $200 to provide the basic means for them to get around on their own and see things they wouldn't otherwise see (and leave with good memories of New York), if the alternative was having them hanging around my apartment all day watching TV.

I understand that people's budgets are limited. Mine is, too. As I said, make them as happy and comfortable as is within your means. If you eat rice and beans every night, you're not going to start cooking pheasant under glass for them. You don't have to take them to a Broadway show. They can eat your food or choose not to. But you at least have to sincerely offer and want them to join you, and convey a generosity of spirit. I mean, this person is your friend, right? I think that's gotten lost in a lot of the comments here. Maybe your friend is a bit of a flake, but don't we all have friends like that? She's still your friend.

My point is that I would never agree to host someone without calculating the expenses that I was going to incur in doing so. The expenses for me in hosting someone are not insignificant, and I know that going in and don't resent them for it.

I also would never agree to host someone who I trusted so little that I needed to remove all my valuables from the house while they were there.

But seriously, if one of my cousins came to visit and I handed her a grocery bill on the last day of her stay, my entire family would disown me, with good reason.

Also, this idea that you're already doing her a huge favor by saving her money on a hotel, and that she should be grateful for that, is ridiculous. This is not a favor; it's something you're doing, presumably, because you want to do something nice for, and spend time with, someone who means something to you, not because you're expecting a return on it. This is not a quid pro quo relationship.
posted by Leatherstocking at 8:49 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I'm American (and from NYC) and I don't think I have a misunderstanding of what hospitality means. I would never ask a houseguest to chip in for groceries or anything like that, and if she tried, I would refuse her money. I assume that hosting a friend means spending extra on groceries, toiletries, etc for the time she's visiting. I think treating the friend to an occasional dinner out or whatnot is very nice too, assuming the host can afford to do so. (This assumes, of course, that the situation we're discussing is one of a houseguest rather than a "crash at my place" thing - the people upthread who mentioned that distinction are absolutely right.)

But again, even if we are assuming that this is a houseguest situation, I don't think "hospitality" means "my friend gets to take in whatever NYC sights she wants for three weeks and I have to foot the entire bill". Yes, there are many free events and sights here, particularly over the summer, but I think it's reasonable to assume that the guests will also want to do some things that cost money (restaurants, plays, concerts, movies, museums, etc). Hospitality does not equal an all-expenses-paid vacation.

I think the OP and the other responders are concerned (rightfully so) because they foresee an uncomfortable situation coming up. Houseguest wants to eat dinner out or see a show. Houseguest has no money. Hmmm, who's going to pay for this?!
posted by sunflower16 at 9:26 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Another problem may also be that NYC is a really weird kettle of fish that is hard to navigate. If you lived in Tulsa, OK, and your friend asked if she could stay with you, with a friend, for a month or two while she negotiated her divorce or something, then you a) probably wouldn't say yes unless you were very close, and b) wouldn't get asked this a lot, as no one wants to come to Tulsa. Also, c) they would be expecting to spend most of their time doing their own stuff or doing what you want to do.

But there's something about *New* *York* *City* that makes the crazy come out, where nearly half of your friends ask to stay with you on their tourist time so they don't have to get a hotel and most of them you may not be very close to.

I agree that you need to figure out whether you're hosting them or whether they're just crashing. If the former, then you owe them hospitality. If the latter, you're doing them a favor.
posted by corb at 9:46 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Whether or not you think this is a houseguest situation, the whole Facebook aspect makes it a case of terribly unclear communication. It seems quite possible that Angie thinks you're going to be supporting her financially for a month. That is a whole different ballgame from playing the gracious host, in terms of how much it will cost. She's (indirectly) warned you she has zero money; she sounds kind of clueless; I can imagine a situation where she will show up having taken a cab for some outrageous distance and expecting you to pay the fare, that sort of thing. Or even needing a chunk of emergency cash for something like medical expenses. I very well could be wrong about this, but with someone whose communication is that unclear, plus a companion who is a complete unknown quantity-- you just don't know. I think jessamyn had it right all those posts ago: you can't afford to support two people for a month, with all that might entail.

I'd hope this would be an ideal situation that turned out to be an interesting cultural exchange plus making new friends and being able to look back fondly on that time you had guests from XYZ. And it still can. But if this is someone with a history of just leaning on anyone financially, your being a good host could be misinterpreted. I think you need to lay this out for her. It might be argued that you should have done this earlier, but she has been particularly oblique about communicating.
posted by BibiRose at 9:48 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


The houseguest/crash distinction is based, to a large degree, on who the person is, as well as the length of the stay. A friend is almost by default a houseguest, although they certainly have the freedom to come and go as they please. Uncle Spiro who doesn't speak English and whose wife died last year and is going to need meals provided for him is probably going to be a houseguest. Your cool 25-year-old niece and her college friend who have money provided by their parents will probably be more of a crash situation. Although you definitely need to spend some time with them, they want to be out roaming around on their own, going to clubs and bars, coming back home at 4 am and waking up at noon while you're at work. They're not going to want to be home at 8:00 eating dinner with their middle-aged relatives when they could be out living it up in the big city.

Not every moment of this person's stay is going to be unfettered joy. But sometimes, you just have to suck it up and do what you gotta do. A few weeks isn't a lifetime. Get through it and move on.

If money is an issue, you're well within your rights to say, "I saw on Facebook that you don't have a lot of cash, and I don't have a lot of money right now either, but we'll be sure to have a good time regardless. The important thing is that we spend time together. I'm really looking forward to seeing you again and meeting X friend."
posted by Leatherstocking at 10:03 AM on May 31


To be clear on what i was saying Neely, now that people have posted the "houseguest vs crashing" thing which i think articulated what i was trying to say a lot better, i think that this is being presented as more of a crashing type thing when in practice it won't be.

I don't misunderstand the concept of hospitality or whatever, i've absolutely had those kinds of guests, been that kind of guest, and helped out friends and family in need that way as well.

I just think that mission creep is a huge issue here, and might even be part of her expectations whether or not she can vocalize it. I mean, talk to her, but only once or twice in my life has someone actually been straight up about that unless they were absolutely clear when we started discussing it what they expected and what their plans were without me saying it first and them just kinda passively going "ok sure, of course". And bringing a friend is a huge red flag on that front.
posted by emptythought at 12:33 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I like the idea of reaching out to her now to say that you've seen her FB posts and wanted to be sure she knew how much things cost/what funds she'll need for the visit, with an explicit statement that it won't be possible for you to pay her way.
Seconded.

I think it's time to call her or email her for a reality check.

Tell her that you are frighteningly concerned that it seems like she's going to be arriving on your doorstep penniless, with a friend in similar circumstances. That while you're happy to give them a place to sleep [even if several week seems really boundary-pushing], that you're not able to finance some sort of all-expenses-paid vacation for them.

Let her know that she should be budgeting a certain amount of money for the trip...

...X dollars per day if she's going to be taking the subways to free things and taking a sack lunch, XX dollars a day if she's wanting to visit paid museums, XXX dollars a day if she's expecting to eat lunch each day at a restaurant, et cetera...

...and that if she doesn't have that, she's going to want to hold off on flying over until she has that sorted.

No one, neither she nor you nor her friend, want her to fly over and then just sit in your living room playing Uno for four weeks straight.

She may have stars in her eyes with ideas about seeing all of the Broadway shows and taking taxi's hither and yon... we just don't know. All we have to go off of is her posts to Facebook where she's saying
"Gosh, I don't know how I'm going to pay for any of this, LOL!"
which doesn't bode well for her being very responsible. It reminds me a bit of this old "guy walks into a bar" joke.

Also, have you met the friend she's bringing? Is it her friend or actually a boyfriend/girlfriend (which might turn your living room (or wherever they're sleeping) into the vacation-sexy-time area)?
posted by blueberry at 2:27 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I also wanted to address this from the OP:

It's not like she's asked me for money, or to pay for any expenses, so it feels weird to be the first to say something. And I don't even know what I WOULD say.

She *was* the first to say something, though; she tagged you in Facebook statuses stating that she's worried about funds for her trip. It's as if she called you up to express this worry, except she's doing it in a more passive-aggressive way.

I think I would send her a Facebook message/e-mail saying, "Hey, I'm so excited about your visit! I saw your posts about finances so I wanted to give you some tips. NYC is definitely an expensive city but there are lots of fun summer events we can go to that don't cost a lot. [Insert any details you like about free/cheap events going on.] [Also insert subway/bus directions to your place from the airport and explain that a cab will cost way more.] Can't wait to see you and meet [her friend's name]!"

I think that kind of note will give her a heads up that she shouldn't be expecting you to foot the bill for lots of fancy dinners and shows (I'm not saying she's necessarily expecting that, but it's a possibility). And virtually everyone who has visited me here has asked about ways to get to my apartment without paying cab fare, so I think the subway/bus/AirTrain direction info is widely appreciated. And sending that kind of note does not prevent you from being as generous as you like once they arrive; if she and her friend turn out to be gracious, non-mooching, non-taking-advantage guests, you are still free to extend financial generosity as far as you're willing and able to, treating them to dinners out/activities.

I normally would never send a houseguest a note in advance telling them about free things they can do in my city, but then again, I don't have guests visiting for three weeks at a time, bringing a stranger, and tagging me in Facebook posts indicating that they're broke. So I think some polite preemptive damage control is in order here and will help to set expectations for her visit.
posted by sunflower16 at 3:12 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Thanks so much to everyone for the great answers - they all helped me really put my head together about what my understanding and expectations are for her visit.

Just some clarification - luckily, Angie is a dual citizen. Not only does she have US citizenship, but she lived here for over a decade and can navigate the US very comfortably. And she has a round trip ticket and a definite departure date!

And thanks to all the guidance I got here, I was able to have a Skype call with Angie this weekend to clarify logistics, and it went SO much better than I expected. I was able to confirm that we're both on the same page about her and her friend crashing with me (that distinction was so useful, thanks!), and that they'll be taking care of getting groceries so they can take food with them while sightseeing, etc. (She also mentioned that her mother gave her some spending money, so she at least has a little more wiggle room than expected.)

Thanks again for helping me clarify my thoughts and expectations - I'm feeling much better about her visit now!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 10:42 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


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