The Joys of Hosting: Initial Preparations
One of the most eagerly-anticipated (and occasionally dreaded) events for foreign residents in Mexico is a visit from family or friends.
Even if your lot in life is an overly fussy father, a garrulous aunt, sullen sister or show-off son, the time you have been apart from them is likely to have assuaged past exasperation and ambivalence about their company. No doubt you will be itching for them to see the best of the city and its surroundings, to fall under the spell of this varied country's multiple charms, so that they develop an understanding of what keeps you so many miles from home. Even more so with friends. One would like them to have such a rollicking time that they devise a plan to return even before their departure.
But, as the date of arrival approaches, you are increasingly apprehensive: What if they don't like it? Or get sick, or mugged, or wiped out by jet lag, floored by the altitude, hate the food, the heat, the smells, the noise, the smog, the chaos, disregard for time-keeping and chronic unreliability?
Half the battle can be waged before meeting them at the airport with a few thoughtful emails (or phone calls). While it is good to keep advice to aspirant travelers to a sensible minimum endless barrages could make them nervous (this isn't the time to mention alacranes or scorpions) or stressed with information overload some friendly tips are part of an initial welcome.
But tailor your counsel to their characters: Are they timid or reckless travelers, are they the types who will read up before a visit, or do they prefer to play things by ear?
For example, everyone wants to know what to expect of the weather when they travel, so it may be worth explaining seasons are primarily divided into wet and rainy, which one coincides with their visit and what likely temperature ranges they will encounter.
Suitcases belonging to visitors from northern climes tend to burst open with bulky sweaters and warm trousers and socks, yet they are short on the light shirts, blouses and T-shirts that get sweaty, crumpled and salsa-spattered in no time, so a gentle reminder along these lines is a good idea. Also international student credentials and drivers licenses are often useful. Always end with reassurance you can lend umbrellas, sweaters, T-shirts, swimwear anyway.
If they don't know what to expect, make them a list to think about and choose from.
Work out if they are outdoorsy Teotihuacan, Tepozteco pyramid types, and you might even want to add football match (season permitting), bullfight (your ethics permitting), and throw in a Xochimilco trajinera on a Sunday. A more contemplative approach to history could favor a long visit to the Museo Nacional de Antropología, the Templo Mayor, cathedrals and churches Puebla makes for a superb side trip.
Arty types ought to know about the Museo Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kahlo's Blue House, Rivera's murals (at least those in the Palacio Nacional) and the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco.
For those who want to savor popular culture, there are the cantinas and markets, Plaza Garibaldi for the streetwise and nearby nightclubs, and you could whisk them off to a balneario (swimming pool) on the weekend.
Don't offer, in a fit of enthusiasm, to take guests to things you hate (cock fights or table dance might be an examples, or noisy rock concerts or silent retreats), or you will cause yourself stress and resent them. At the same time, remember, they might know more than you (lovers of architecture for example may be eager to see the Juan O'Gorman Museo Estudio in Altavista that you haven't got round to visiting yet), so be open to their suggestions too.
Lastly, if they are elderly, have demanding jobs, are recovering from nervous breakdowns etc., accept that they may want to do "nothing" (presumably they are paying for the ticket). They may want to relax and be satisfied with a few neighborhood wanderings, such as those richly afforded by the Colonias Condesa and Roma, San Angel and Coyoacán.
Once you have a sample of priority places, check opening hours and days (remember most museums are closed on Monday, but Teotihuacan remains open), how to get there (public transport, or road if you'll be driving them), time of journey and nearby places to have a meal, or at least a light snack.
If your guests are religious, you may want to check nearby churches or temples (English speaking even), and mass or service times. If kosher, check out the seafood and kosher restaurants and their proximity to sights (e.g. Danubio on Uruguay in the center for former), El Buen Gaucho (kosher) in Polanco and close to the Anthropology and Tamayo Museums. If fitness freaks, enquire about a day membership at your or your friend's gym.
Sometimes guests want to do something special that requires extra planning for example, my mother wanted to swap conversation lessons, to improve her Spanish and help with someone's English. Most people will want to go to the beach for a while, in which case booking hotels and flights/buses will probably fall on you.
You can increase your pleasure by making allowances for your guests' fads and fancies and will reduce your anxiety by knowing you have aired these topics in advance of their visit.
By Barbara Kastelein
Return to top