How do I refuse the kindness of these strangers that I'm related to?
October 5, 2011 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Long Lost Relatives filter: Am I a bad person for only wanting to take them up on _part_ of their generous offer? If not, help me politely communicate this!

My boyfriend and I are going to Italy for a three week vacation and while there I will have the chance to connect with some long lost relatives of mine (I say long lost because the last time I saw them I was 16 years old; I'm now 38). They don't know me as an adult and I don't really know much about them. Our first stop is Rome, where we have our first two nights booked at a B&B and then planned for two nights with my aunt and her family in Ostia (on the coast, not far from Rome). My aunt, though, is pretty insistent that she collect us at the airport and take us to their home in Ostia for all four nights, and tour us around Rome by day. This is really kind of her but I want to have a leetle space in Rome (one of my favorite places on the planet) to do touristy and romantic stuff with my BF. THere's probably going to be a couple of days at the end of our trip, too, where we're back in either Rome or Ostia or both.

I'm really worried that refusing her offer would offend her and set us off on the wrong foot. I'm also wary of being dumped into a potentially awkward family situation while super jetlagged (we're flying from the west coast of the states) and perhaps a tad emotional (that time o' the month, huzzah!). How do I kindly but firmly say that I think it would be better for us to do it the way we planned -- two nights at our B&B to adjust and then two nights with them? Or is that not an option?

Fallback fib: I already booked the hotel and I will lose my deposit if I cancel.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I guess after reading enough ask vs. guess stuff on metafilter, I sort of know that some people might think this is rude? But honestly, from my perspective, I can't for the life of me figure out what about this might be anything other than completely acceptable behavior. "Thanks for the offer, [Aunt], we'd love to stay with you on Thursday and Friday! Tuesday and Wednesday we have other plans, so what time would be good to be at your house Thursday morning to drop off our things and start touring Rome?" Done. If she presses? "Oh no, we have other plans Tuesday and Wednesday" -- no other details, no nothing. This is NOT RUDE. Not even a tiny, little, teensy bit. Seriously. Not rude.
posted by brainmouse at 12:24 PM on October 5, 2011 [15 favorites]

All you have to do is tell them that you'd like some alone time with your boyfriend. If they get offended by that simple request, then don't deal with them at all for the other two days and consider it a bullet dodged.
posted by inturnaround at 12:25 PM on October 5, 2011

Throw the boyfriend under the bus. He insists on the B&B for quality time with his lady in romantic Rome and is happy to share you with them once he has his way with you.

That's what boyfriends are for. We all have tire tracks somewhere on our backs.
posted by nickrussell at 12:26 PM on October 5, 2011 [20 favorites]

I'd go with the fallback fib, honestly. IME, different families - and often different cultures - have extremely various expectations about what's fun and appropriate during travel. I've been in situations abroad where my connections really felt that they should spend all their time with me and that the sort of rambly, unplanned stuff that I wanted to do was rather odd. (On the other hand, I got to experience a lot of "insider" stuff thanks to their generosity, and it was more fun than not, although a little tiring for an introvert.

You'll have two days with them, take them a really nice present and concentrate on being a perfect, obliging and easy-to-please guest.
posted by Frowner at 12:26 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is one of those situations where I say a little fib goes a long way towards smoothing things over and preventing conflict. Choose your story that prevents you from staying all 4 nights with them, use it and follow it up with saying how excited you are to see them and how gracious it is of them to let you into their home. Depending on how much they know already this ship may have already sailed but, barring that, just be honest and say you have made other plans since you didn't want to inconvenience them and wanted some alone time to recover.

Also, but I'm a bit on the blunt end, I wouldn't hesitate to mention the fact that you may or may not be jetlagged and need some alone time for whatever reason. These are reasonable requests and any host should respect them without question or hesitation.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:27 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

IME, you'll probably have a lot more fun and unique of a time if you stay with your family.

They'll TOTALLY understand that you guys want to go do stuff.

But if I were you, I'd take them up on their hospitality... it'll be cheaper and way more special.

Who knows? You may really connect with them.

And yes, based on my experience, not letting them host will be rude.
posted by k8t at 12:29 PM on October 5, 2011

Go on and on and on about how kind she is, how generous her offer is, as you keep repeating, we have already planned our stay in Rome but she is really the sweetest person to offer.
posted by theora55 at 12:43 PM on October 5, 2011

Last summer, my wife and I spent a couple weeks with her extended family in northern Spain. Our original plan was to spend some of the time in hostels or cheap hotels and have our own adventures in the area, and spend some of the time with family.

The family, however, insisted that they pick us up at the airport and house us for the length of the trip at their various homes. They were very nice and super generous, but very overbearing about what we would do each day, where we would go and how we would get there. We got very little time to ourselves to explore without someone tagging along and making recommendations or insisting that they drive us, rather than us figuring out a bus schedule or just having a nice long walk. It was frustrating.

Plus, for the first day or two, all I really wanted to do was people-watch outside cafes and adjust for jet lag -- I would have loved to have a cushion between arrival and endless conversation in a language that I only barely understand!

A little fibbing would definitely be worth it in this situation, methinks.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:46 PM on October 5, 2011

They'll TOTALLY understand that you guys want to go do stuff.

I wouldn't assume this at all - it they're already attempting to railroad your plans before you even arrive, I imagine that it will only be more intense when you get there. I'm sure that your Aunt's intentions are the best and she is sure that this is the best way for you to enjoy your visit, but it really is your holiday to spend as you like. I am much more of an introvert than the rest of my family, and it is sometimes hard for them to understand that what is fun for them isn't nessecarily fun for me.

You just have to stick to your guns as kindly and politely as possible - tell fibs if you need to - but doing things their way will mean that you will be tired and cranky, and not the fun gracious sort of guest that they are expecting.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:35 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is she Italian? Because if she is, she may unfortunately take offense (ranging from very slightly, to pretty pissed) if you refuse. It's silly, but hospitality and taking care of relatives is seen as especially important and it might (and, in my experience, probably will) be hard for her to accept your very valid reasons for not wanting to be hosted.

If you're in any way worried that she might be upset, bite the bullet and stay with her. I wouldn't normally suggest it, but I have Italian aunts too (that I'm very close with, so it should be easy to refuse! but no) and if I didn't stop at their house for lunch as soon as I got off the plane they would be mortally offended. Three course meals, four or so desserts, and a couple different liquors while severely jet lagged are my cross to bear to keep the family peace.
posted by lydhre at 1:53 PM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lydhre speaks truth---our Italian connections aren't close kin, but didn't matter--we stayed, we ate, we ate, we played, etc. If you want to get all romantic, just slip away, but promise to be back for dinner.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:36 PM on October 5, 2011

I would say the thing about the hotel AND say that you guys wanted a romantic vacation. Italians understand about romantic vacations, plus they can be super persistent, and what if she decided to "help" you get your deposit back from the hotel? Here is what I'd say, both in English and in subpar (formal) Italian.

"Oh gosh, you are so kind and I am really looking forward to staying with you! But we really do want to spend two days in Rome alone together, as a romantic thing, you know what I mean? Plus the hotel already took our deposit. I am so looking forward to seeing you on Thursday..."

"Grazie tanto, Lei e' cosi gentile e non vedo l'ora vederLa! Ma vorremo passare due giorni a Roma da soli perche abbiamo programmato una piccola vacanza romantica. Lei capisce. Poi l'albergo gia' ha preso i nostri solidi. Allora, veramente non vedo l'ora di vederLa Giovedi in Ostia..."
posted by hungrytiger at 5:51 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Flip it and reverse it   |   How do I prepare for the public defender... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.