how to ask someone if they're expecting to host you
January 13, 2017 1:21 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are going to see his cousin Karen and her family for a weekend. How do I ask non-awkwardly if Karen is expecting to host us in her house or if we should find our own Airbnb place? Somehow that never got clarified.

So, my husband, John, and his cousin, Karen, haven’t been very close historically, but 1.5 years ago we spent a month in Karen’s beach town (while staying in our own rental apartment) and had a lot of fun together. Karen and her husband have two cute little kids, one of whom absolutely adored John from the moment she set eyes on him, so we ended up getting together a lot for tea and/or beach walks in that month. Since then we’ve all seen each other a couple of times, and Karen and I write back and forth on Facebook periodically.

John and I were talking last month about how it was a shame we hadn’t seen Karen and her family in a while, so I wrote to her with some news and also said we’d love to see them sometime. We figured out that next weekend worked for both of us (i.e. 7 days from now) and that John and I would come to their town and then left it at that. I’ve been assuming that we should just find an Airbnb place so we don't impose on Karen. But we went to a family dinner recently and her very awkward mother told us that Karen had lots of space and we should stay with Karen.

So, my question is: do I just ignore the mother, make an Airbnb reservation (there are still plenty available), and write to Karen and ask when she has time for tea next weekend? Do I write to Karen and ask if we should make an Airbnb reservation or expect to stay with her—while making it clear that we’re happy to do the Airbnb thing? The second option feels horribly awkward to me, because I don’t feel like we’re at that level of familiarity yet. But the fact that she’s family makes the water a little murkier, and I don’t want to offend her if she’s somehow assuming we will be staying with her.

I would ask my husband to handle all of this, but at this point, I think I’m closer to Karen than he is. And I know I should have handled this sooner, but I've been doing that procrastinating anxiety thing and avoiding it.
posted by colfax to Human Relations (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd text her and ask "Hey, any hotel recommendations nearby?"

If she says "yeah, there's a Radisson down the road" you just say "cool, or may we'll do an AirBNB, either way see you soon!"

If she says "The radisson is awful, we're making up the guest room as we speak!" then you'll know what's up.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2017 [63 favorites]

I don’t want to offend her if she’s somehow assuming we will be staying with her.
I think it would be worse to assume you are staying with her than that you are not staying with her. Even if she has plenty of space, they may not expect to be hosting you. I would send her an email with two AirBnB listings and ask if she thinks one is better than the other. Then she can give you her opinion or say, "Nonsense, you can stay here!"
posted by soelo at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

Just ask her! If you're friendly it won't be rude, and you can probably frame it as "lol your mom said we should stay with you but don't worry, we got a hotel! Can't wait to see you!"
posted by masquesoporfavor at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2017

Nthing that the Guess Culture Approved (TM) way to do this is to ask a question about some aspect of your plan to stay elsewhere. E.g., "John and I are looking forward to seeing you and the kids next week!" + ...

"When is best for you to get together on the weekend? We were planning to get an Airbnb for Friday & Saturday night (probably near [local landmark]), so we'd be free whenever."

"We found a great Airbnb rental in [neighborhood] but wanted to double-check before booking--is that a reasonable drive over to you guys, or it is better to stay close to public transit?"

"What's your schedule looking like? We're happy to hang out as much as you want (or take the kids someplace fun if you'd like a break!) but don't want to impose on the usual weekend plans. John's found us an Airbnb that should be an easy walk over."
posted by cogitron at 1:46 PM on January 13, 2017 [18 favorites]

"Hi Karen! You know how some moms can be kind of quick to speak for their kids? Well, last week we were talking to your mom at dinner, and told her we were visiting you. We had always assumed we'd be getting an AirBNB place -- which is always fun for us, and we love it, since we get to have our own space -- but your mom kind of implied that you were planning to have us stay at your place. Is that true? Because we do have our eye on this one AirBNB that looks really fun, but if you were planning to have us there with you that's fine too."
posted by amtho at 1:53 PM on January 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

It doesn't sound to me like Karen is expecting to host you, especially since there is no precedent for that. Like everyone is saying, this is textbook ask vs guess stuff. It sounds like you guys are still building a relationship with this person, and in that case I would probably just get an Airbnb and not mention anything.
posted by cakelite at 1:57 PM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Don't plan on staying with Karen since she hasn't invited you. Tell her that you plan on seeing her/them after you've dropped your stuff at the hotel.

And it would be best if your husband did it. She's his cousin after all , however distant he may feel today. And you're, em, only the wife.
posted by Kwadeng at 2:06 PM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

She has two young children, please stay at an Airbnb!
posted by jbenben at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

Ok bear with me: It doesn't actually matter if she's expecting to host you. What matters is 1) Would you like it if she hosted? and 2) is she willing and able to host?

I'm going to assume 1) is "yes", otherwise you'd not be asking. So that just leaves:

2) It is completely reasonable for you or husband to ASK KAREN: "If it's not too much imposition, would it be ok if we stayed with you? We are also happy to do AirB&B again but your mom mentioned it might be an option, and I thought if we stayed with you we (could spend more time together, spend the saved money on a nice dinner together/gifts, etc). Anyway, just wanted to check, no big deal either way, thanks!"
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:08 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it were me, and someone was coming to visit and mentioned a hotel, I would assume that there is a good chance that they are telling me that they don't want to stay with me, especially if I had kids/pets that might be fun to visit but maybe not to be in the same house with all weekend. I would not want to invite them to stay, worried that it would put them in an awkward position in which they have to refuse my hospitality / give up the nice hotel stay.

So....I would be slightly more direct and just write to say "We're finalizing our trip to see you - can't wait - do you have a recommendations on where to stay?" That way I'm clear that we do not have any plans made for accommodations, nor do we have any preference. It leaves it more open than asking for a "hotel" or "airBnB" recommendation, and hoping she'll chime in with an invite which doesn't know you want.
posted by girlpublisher at 2:27 PM on January 13, 2017 [37 favorites]

I think that if she wanted to host you, she would have extended the offer. I personally am usually happy to host people if they need a place to stay or if they seem like they really want to stay with me, so if my friend texted me to say "any hotel recommendations?" I would probably assume they were fishing for an invite and I would extend it. However, I have learned in my old grizzled age that hosting is actually a lot of work for me and while I enjoy it, it often leaves me tired, which is why I don't usually extend direct invites unless I know I reeeeally want to do it.

SO. If I were you I would just book the Airbnb and not even ask for a recommendation or hint at it, lest you push her over to the side where she feels obligated to host you. It's not always so black and white as someone definitely wanting to have you stay or absolutely hoping you will not stay. It's probably more gray.

And ignore her awkward mom. :)
posted by pazazygeek at 2:41 PM on January 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Seriously, ask her directly "Were you expecting us to stay with you or should we keep the AirBNB we booked?" Anything else could be misinterpreted in a lot of ways and this lets her know you have accommodations so she does not feel forced to invite you, if that does not work for her. I feel that adding extra dialogue about her mom's offer or your confusion tends to make it more awkward. You can quickly move on to other planning if you feel really weird, but please be direct when you ask if she's expecting you to stay with her.

In your shoes, I'd probably ask my husband to do it (as it's his cousin) but there's no real reason you can't ask personally.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:49 PM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Her mother cannot make you an offer to stay at Karen's house. Pretend that never happened. Ask Karen for a hotel recommendation and she will either give you one or ask you to stay with her. Most Guess Culture people seem to know that "What's a good hotel?" is code for "Are we staying with you?" The only alternative meaning to the question "What's a good hotel?" is, "I have no idea how to use Google."
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:11 PM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

You didn't stay with her last time and she did not invite you--I'm thinking you're not invited! My take on asking about this is that inviting oneself to stay at someone's house is rude and indirectly inviting oneself by hinting around is annoying.

Ignore mom, god bless her.
posted by kapers at 3:37 PM on January 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

I think it would be worse to assume you are staying with her than that you are not staying with her.

In a much smaller context I once had a couple of old friends over, one more of a friend of the other friend than one of my own, but still a person from my old neighborhood and who I knew (of) since elementary school. My closer friend had traveled to be here and all three of us went to a show, and that evening we were talking about plans for the next day and yadda yadda yadda I said to him, "Oh, are you staying here tonight?" It was no problem for him to stay, but it was uncomfortable, probably mosly for me, but still it's best to be clear about these things.

I'd say, "We were looking at AirBNBs, do you have any neighborhood recommendations?" or something similar like the Radisson.
posted by rhizome at 3:42 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think "asking for recommendations" is really obvious code for "are we staying with you?" so only do that if you're okay with her knowing that that is your intended question. Cogitron's examples are more subtle because they project the sense that the Airbnb is a done deal and that you're just trying to clarify some plausible details. If she really wants you to stay with her, she can say so at that point. If she's lukewarm on you staying with her, she can breathe a sigh of relief and be like, "whew, sounds like they're going the Airbnb route."

Since you didn't stay with her the first time, and she hasn't mentioned any logistics, I think there is a strong chance that she's assuming you'll stay in an Airbnb or hotel.

And yeah, ignore the mom. It wasn't her place to invite you to stay with Karen.
posted by delight at 5:14 PM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I don't know that I would get the implication of being asked to weigh in on your airbnb choices-- I would just think you're kind of high-maintenance and I would find it a little odd because how the hell would I know which stranger's place you'd prefer to stay in? You know your preferences more than I do and you have the site with the maps and pictures and reviews and contact with the host and all that.

Also, if I did intuit that you were kinda sorta asking me to stay at my place I would probably offer so as not to be rude but I would feel very put out. Would you be able to have a nice time knowing you may have gotten a reluctant invite?

I had no idea I felt so strongly about this but inviting oneself is Not Done in my book! And you weren't invited. Go with what you were doing before Mom opened her mom mouth.
posted by kapers at 5:23 PM on January 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

"We're finalizing our trip to see you - can't wait - do you have a recommendations on where to stay?"

This is our accepted guess-culture code, and works well enough even with folks who don't know the code. If they're feeling generous they can offer, if not, you get a decent close hotel suggestion. It all works out. If perhaps she says mid-stay, "You know, you could have stayed with us", you can do the whole, "well, we didn't want to put you out, but perhaps next time" dance, and no one loses face.
posted by bonehead at 8:40 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another tack on asking/guessing this situation:
Do you want to be a family who says what they mean? Or do you want to be a family who sometimes misunderstands each other?

Because it's clear you are currently not confident in your guessing interpretations and miscommunication is bound to happen sooner or later, if not on this trip.

Balance the awkwardness of direct and clear language against the discomfort of guessing completely wrong.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:03 PM on January 13, 2017

Hi everyone. Thanks so much for your thoughts! You've helped me sort out what I want to do, which is to be direct with Karen and also not impose on her and her family. So I've made an Airbnb reservation and I just wrote her a note telling her where we'll be and asking when it would work for her to meet up over the weekend.

If she says at some point, "Oh, you could have stayed with us!" then I can say, "Next time!" and I feel like that will be more organic than me fishing for an invitation now. And if she doesn't say anything, then we can keep making Airbnb reservations which is totally fine.
posted by colfax at 2:41 AM on January 14, 2017 [12 favorites]

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