Guest etiquette in a place you used to live
February 3, 2019 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm anxious about meeting up with old friends in a place I used to live and would love some advice on how to have a great trip.

My work has approved me taking an extra long vacation, and for part of it I'm going back to an area of the world where I used to live for a couple years. A decade ago, I spent a couple years living in New Zealand and it was one of the happiest times of my life. I have a lot of good memories, and I made a lot of close friends while I was there.

I'm planning to go to some places I didn't get to the first time around, as well as go back to the city where I lived, and I would love to see some of these friends again. It's a couple weeks away.

Here's why I'm anxious: When I first learned about my vacation being approved, I reached out to two of my closest friends to let them know of my plans and that I'd love to catch up. If my plans [touring nearby region] interested them, they were more than welcome to join, otherwise would love to catch up for drinks when I'm in their town. Both of those friends ghosted me and it's put me in a state of paralysis. I feel really insecure now. (Yes, they both got the message, it is definitely ghosting and I'm not going to contact them again. The last trip I went on with one of them-- we met in a third country -- something seemed off, she seemed annoyed at me, and I think I need to accept that the friendship is over.)

There are still lots of other people I wouldn't mind seeing and I'm wondering how best to approach them. Being ghosted made me gun shy about contacting others. I don't want anyone to think that I'm just looking for a place to crash. I've saved for a long time for this trip, so money isn't an issue, but I also don't want to be rude if the polite thing to do would be to stay when someone who offers. For most of these friends, we've kept in loose contact through social media, the occasional email. Used to write letters/send packages when I first left, but contact became less frequent as the years went by.

I have one friend (she's from the same hometown) and I'm bringing some personal items to her from home. She's been really generous and offered for me to stay in her spare room and even use her car, but now I'm hesitant to accept the offer. Would it be rude not to? If I do, how many nights would be acceptable? What should I bring/do to be a good guest?

I'm also thinking it might just be best to reserve at table at a restaurant/bar and whoever is around can show up.

Would love to hear from other people who have returned to somewhere they lived and what worked best. So much time has passed and I have such great memories but also don't want to have unrealistic expectations.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I guess I would treat this like any other vacation. Rent your own hotel room, rent your own car, don’t be dependent on others for either transportation or lodging. Make your own plans and when you’re en route or have arrived, post a group message saying, “Hey, I’m in town for the next couple weeks. I’m staying at [hotel] and will be at [local gathering place] tonight for dinner and drinks. If you’re interested in joining me, message me and let me know!” Repeat as you enjoy yourself at various locales. If people want to hang out, they’ll tell you, and if not, then you have your plans and can go experience the things you wanted to do.

You can politely decline to stay in someone’s spare room by simply saying “I snore/will have irregular hours/have some kind of special need for which privacy is best” and offer to take them out to dinner when you’re in town. But you don’t need to apologize for choosing where you stay.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:04 AM on February 3, 2019 [21 favorites]

I think that for your own peace of mind you should work on reframing the ghosting as "these people are absent from the situation for whatever reason". Instead of any deliberate intention on their part assume an inability to make plans and try to proceed as you would had they responded with regrets but they'll be out of the country then. Basically a fake it till you make it situation, because when you get down to it their reasons for not replying are irrelevant to you - it's the same end result of you not spending time with them when you're there, but you'd want to make the best of it regardless, right?

For your lovely generous friend I would suggest that you bring something that complements the personal items you're bringing her as a host gift. If that doesn't make sense then hold off and pay for something like a nice meal out or a bottle of wine/spirits or maybe tickets to an event you'd both like to attend while you're there. Don't bring some generic gift that doesn't take her lifestyle and needs into account, so take a bit to get your bearings and then give her something you know she'd appreciate once you've figured her out a bit better.

I like to stay with people in their homes because I feel like it lends itself to lots of quiet long conversations and good memories, and it's easier to do spontaneous things with friends. But I also like to stay in hotels and have lots and lots of luxurious alone time to help me get to grips with being in an unfamiliar place - and sometimes places I've been to in the past that have changed are more unfamiliar than a brand new place, you know? So I think it's up to you, really. I don't think people are going to be insulted if you say you're getting a hotel room - the only time this kind of thing happens in my experience is when close family is involved, and it sounds like that's not the case with your trip.

I do have one negative suggestion, and that is to rent your own car/figure out your own transportation, and to definitely not borrow your friend's. This is the kind of thing where insurance gets really hinky, cars are very expensive, driving is unpredictable and statistically dangerous, and it's a lot simpler for everyone if you have your own ride.
posted by Mizu at 7:13 AM on February 3, 2019 [14 favorites]

I'd rent your own car, but stay a few nights with your friend, like two nights, see how it goes.

For other stuff, send out a general email or post to your social network of choice, let folks know you're coming and would love to see them at X place and time for drinks or a meal or whatever, and then let folks contact you. I'm sorry about the ghosting, but clearly there's at least one person there who wants to see you and there are likely others, so don't waste more energy on the ghosters than you have to - go, see people who want to hang out, visit your favorite old haunts, and have a good time on your own terms.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:35 AM on February 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Try not to take your two friends’ lack of response personally. Take it from someone who has moved quite a bit and gone back to visit old cities: there are lots of reasons people may not respond. They may be waiting till it gets closer. Some people are weird about friends who moved away (sometimes it’s abandonment issues, sometimes it’s just out of sight out of mind). Some people are just in a different stage of life and may not be interested in seeing anyone from that other stage.

Other people have given you great advice. Be open but loose and casual about making plans. Don’t let the two non-responses scare you off contacting other friends. Stay with your friend if that sounds fun, otherwise stay in a hotel. Rent your own car. Have fun!
posted by lunasol at 9:46 AM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of planning as if nobody will rise to the occasion, sending out a group text or BCC email, "Gonna be in X from date1 to date2, I would love to see you!" (the royal "you") and see where the chips fall. I understand there are emotional and nostalgic complications, but the response to your wanting to see people should make plans much simpler than wondering about each individual connection. It's not up to you to adapt yourself to every possible angle, it's your vacation!
posted by rhizome at 10:14 AM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

A friend who used to live in my city came to visit after a few years away. She sent a message to a group of friends (we played soccer together) a few weeks beforehand to say she was coming and that she'd love to meet up. From there, we arranged a catch up for drinks/dinner on a night most people were available. She made plans with other friends in a similar manner. She stayed with friends for about half the trip and got a hotel for the other half. Our city has good public transport so she didn't need a car. I saw her towards the end of her trip and she said it was great!
I think you should take a similar approach. Stay with your friend who offered for part of the trip but not more than 3 or 4 nights. Reach out to people who you'd like to catch up with but try not to take it personally if they don't respond. Most people will be working so flll your days doing things you enjoy and can do solo. Also daytimes can be good to catch up with any friends with small children/babies who don't work full time. I'd recommend renting a car if public transport in the area isn't good- gives you a lot more flexibility. Have a great vacation!
posted by emd3737 at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2019

Hey, I'm not sure how you reached out, or how your friends normally communicate, but I can ABSOLUTELY see getting a DM/text that says "hey, I'm in your city in a month, we should catch up!" and mentally filing it as a sort of far-off heads up (people do not plan their everyday lives as far out as they plan vacations) and figuring you would hit me up again when the date was closer and forgetting to respond.

Even if that's not what happened, it's absolutely not worth ruining your entire vacation over. Please have fun!
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:33 PM on February 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is the kind of thing I would use Facebook for. Make a post saying that you'll be in town and tag everyone who'll be there. Then make concrete plans with whoever replies. A mass email would work too.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:04 PM on February 4, 2019

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