Help me make my friends laugh... in less than 24 hours.
July 1, 2014 10:02 PM   Subscribe

In about 24 hours I will be picking up old friends from the airport and taking them to a rented apartment in the city, near where I live. They will be tired and jet-lagged so I wanted to make their first day as hassle-free and pleasant as possible. At the same time, they have a goofy sense of humor and I would love to play a prank on them. Can you help me make them laugh?

Additional info: my friends are from the US, a family of four (two kids 8 and 4 years old) coming to my city (in Europe) for a few weeks in the summer, same as last year. They have stayed in the same apartment last year and have many friends in the city, but most of our shared friends are out of town this week which is why I'll be the one to take them to the apartment and give them the keys. The plan is for me to pick them up and drive them to the apt and leave them to decompress/shower/etc. We haven't seen each other since last year. They are super excited to be here. They have been working hard at learning our local language but it's a difficult one and we often joke about how hard it is to learn.
Also, they are thrilled to have the same apartment as last year that they loved. It's a two-level apt if that helps.

I have stocked the fridge, so that they don't have to start the day with a grocery run. They are arriving at around 10 am local time.

I would love to surprise them by having people they know wait for us inside the apartment but unfortunately the people they are closest with will be out of town. But if I could, this is the kind of prank I had in mind, not anything that would stress them out (too much).

Can you help me out?

Bonus points if you have any other advice about how to make their first day more fun!
Anything I can hide inside the apt that would be nice to discover in a day or two?
posted by M. to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you tell them that you won't pick them up, but will send a driver, and then be at the airport with a sign and a good disguise? Or have a friend they don't know pick them up, and you pop out of the trunk?

After a long and foreign flight, though, they might be pretty exhausted, especially with kids. I'd do a silly surprise at the airport and then have some favorite things at the apartment (maybe a favorite local snack, some special way they like their towels folded, an electricity converter for digital stuff?)
posted by stillmoving at 10:24 PM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

But if I could, this is the kind of prank I had in mind, not anything that would stress them out (too much).

Well, your friends might be perfectly okay with this, but what about their children? A long international flight can really discombobulate a kid, and it's possible that even a seemingly benign prank could be potentially frightening for a child. (Sorry to be a wet blanket about this.)
posted by scody at 10:44 PM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, I absolutely do NOT want to do anything that could stress them out!
Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "prank".

I am looking for ideas on how to make them smile. Something like a sweet surprise, or a light joke, something to delight rather than stress (like in the example I gave).
Welcoming them at the airport wearing a disguise and a sign (without stressing them out by announcing I wouldn't be there) sounds like one such idea, thanks :)
posted by M. at 10:52 PM on July 1, 2014

How about bringing a silly sweet to the airport, like cotton candy for everyone and say it's a "continental breakfast"? Or a "bouquet" of huge lollipops from which you would give everyone a lollipop? Maybe T-shirts/ ball caps for everyone? Souvenir keychains with the name of your city, back at the apartment on which they could put the apartment keys, and then of course, take back home with them?

If the apartment is two levels, is there a staircase? If so, maybe helium balloons, or ribbons, tied to the bannister? Nice soaps for the adults and/or bubble bath for the kids in the bathrooms?
posted by angiep at 11:08 PM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

More in the spirit of what you would have really preferred (having their friends there), would it be possible to arrange some sort of surprise Skype or Google Hangout with some of those same friends? For instance, after you've picked them up and they're settling in and washing up, connecting them and springing it on them? If that won't work, maybe a welcome video, or welcome notes, by the same friends?

A cabinet with special treats, and helium balloons that pop out when they open it?
posted by carrienation at 12:59 AM on July 2, 2014

Have someone pick them up. The gag is that the person has to play you.

actor: "Hey guys, welcome to whatever american city! I'm so happy to have you here!"
them: "umm...who are..."
actor: "maxine you look beautiful as always. tom have you been working out? Who do we have here? Is this scott and susan? You guys are so big now. about we get in the car, and i bring you to your apt? I'm sure you guys are tired and just want to chill out for a while. oh, about that thing you brought up in your email...yeah, specific details here here and here"
them: hey...its great to see you too...did you change your hair, or body type?
actor:'re always so funny. come on, my car's parked over here. i'll carry this big one.

when they get to the are waiting there.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:10 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are the other friends out of town already? You could get one of those giant cards they make for group greetings and get everyone to write a message like "Welcome! So excited you're here!"
posted by third word on a random page at 1:38 AM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: Yes, our other friends are out of town already - otherwise that would be a lovely idea :-)
posted by M. at 1:42 AM on July 2, 2014

Best answer: Rather than work overtime on something with disguises or things like that, perhaps having some things in the apartment that give it a spa like feel. A jar of bath crystals for the tub. A fruit basket. A little toy for each of the kids. A bouquet of flowers.

Frankly, just a ride from the airport and a full-fridge is plenty. I promise.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:04 AM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe make one of those taxi placards to hold up in arrivals, but instead of 'Mr Smith' have a large photo of them, or all your absent friends, or some picture from the last get together, or something like that (if you can cut and paste the photo into powerpoint a copyshop should be able to print it out A3 sized, and you can glue it onto some cardboard).
posted by tinkletown at 5:22 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

They will want to chill. Scented candles throughout your apartment, room darkening shades, bowl of fresh fruit. Wine. Some kind of crafty thing for the kids, like a play-doh set or similar to keep the kids occupied so parents can decompress. Maybe pay a massage guy to meet them at the apartment with a massage table.

I would love coming "home" to this. In fact I am going to demand this from my wife every Monday evening.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:34 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have some local treats waiting for the kids - like local candy, or chips, that they can't get at home. My husband and I giggled no end over stuff like roast beef and horseradish crisps in the UK first time we got to London together. (Even if they do just taste like bbq flavor.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:39 AM on July 2, 2014

If you have time, make up some "Most Wanted" posters of them with lists of silly crimes. Maybe have some toy handcuffs for the car-ride. (Kids love them.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:57 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I always take people on a tour of the odd spots in my city. It especially helps if I can get them into someplace that is usually closed to the public, but anything that makes a visitor feel like an instant insider in a strange city is guaranteed to make people smile. Messy Nessy Chic just did a post about layover tours of a city -- brief, to-the-point tours of local oddities and color -- that I think gives a nice sense of what these tours can be like.
posted by maxsparber at 8:12 AM on July 2, 2014

Best answer: After I've taken long-as-hell flights I am always super dehydrated and itching for something that isn't plane food. I'm not sure what your car situation will be like, but a cooler of THE BEST drinks (in adult and kid varieties) in the car would make me crazy-happy.

If you have the option, cover the inside of the apartment with post-its that have the local-language name for all the things and put them in amusing places like inside drawers and on windows with names of plants and animals outside. This works better if the place is FULL of them, obviously.

Also if you can take photos of your friends who can't be there (or use old photos) and put them up around the house with talk-bubbles saying various things in the local language, maybe idioms or expressions that are tricky to learn or pronounce (and maybe with the same image with a translation of it in their language) it would remind them of their friends in a pleasant but non-intrusive way. You can do ones for the kids that have local animals (here is a kinkajou saying "How's it going" for example)
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 AM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

A selection of crazy slippers by the door
posted by maggieb at 9:06 AM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Once my mom picked up a friend from the train station. They hadn't seen each other in twenty years.

I made a banner (the kind commercial pick up services use to find people at the airport, saying "Mr. Soandso") in the biggest, gaudiest letters ever. It was rainbow colored and biiig!
Everyone on that plattform stared at us, my mom went to hide behind a pillar leaving me, blushing, to hold that monster banner by myself, and her friend, when she finally came, burst out laughing.

She later confessed she hadn't been sure if she was really welcome, but when she saw that banner, she knew.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:27 PM on July 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

Rubber ducks. In the fridge. Labelled with different wavelengths in the infrared spectrum.
posted by Zarkonnen at 1:58 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Give the rooms door tags with funny names. (Tailor it to their humour, of course).
posted by Omnomnom at 2:46 PM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great answers. I went with the safest option - snacks, drinks, small gifts - but I'm keeping all ideas for future guests/visits.
Also, having cold drinks waiting in the car was a great great idea.
They were exhausted but I'm sure they appreciated the reception they got, and we had so much fun together!
posted by M. at 3:42 AM on August 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

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