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The vacation that isn't your vacation....

March 12th, 2015 at 12:00 am

Hello! Its been another busy week. I am still not great about adding new entries, but I'm going to continue to try to add occasionally!

The weather here in Japan has been quite chilly and really windy. Winters here feel very long, especially since the Pacific Northwest is very temperate without the major season shifts that I experience in Japan. I start to wonder if it will ever warm up here, but ask me again in August and I'll be longing for the days of cooler weather Smile

We did see some lovely early cherry blossoms. Hanami is the act of viewing cherry blossoms and is quite popular.


So, I've been saving up for a vacation, but its not my vacation. We have some family from the US coming to stay with us for a few weeks. During that time they want to see several sites with us as their tour guides. Now don't get me wrong, I love having people visit us. And I don't mind taking people to see things. But all this sight seeing and such isn't free. In fact, it gets pretty pricey pretty quickly. Our guests want us to take them to places they know we have gone or restaurants we like which is great, but for three weeks gets expensive. I'm paying for my family of four for things we space out over a year into a three week period. I find myself feverishly saving to make sure we don't go in hock to show our guests around. I've made suggestions that perhaps they select some places they can visit by themselves since I still have school obligations for my kids during the week that places major time restrictions on me showing them everything, but I've been kind of rebuffed as they prefer we show them around.

I feel quit conflicted as I would like to save for a summer vacation for my family to go to someplace we haven't seen/experienced before, but I'll be tapped out paying for our family to take our guests around on their vacation. I do enjoy that we will have visitors, but dread the financial cost and reworking our own financial plans around someone else's vacation.

Unfortunately, this blog entry isn't any sort of epiphany on how to deal with this or even fully a finance issue, but more of an emotional unloading and asking for suggestions on how to best manage this without offending my guests or breaking my bank account! Phew - I do feel a bit better writing down my conflicting feelings! Thanks for being patient with me and my woes! Smile

Hope you are having a great week!

10 Responses to “The vacation that isn't your vacation....”

  1. snafu Says:

    Most visitors have no idea of how much their visit adds to their hosts expenses. We get more international visitors than most so I empathize with your problems. I'm guessing family is from USA and fear of language barriers make them even more fearful of sightseeing on their own than if they were in an unfamiliar American city. I guess we have taken different paths to cope.

    While I let our guest know how excited I am to be their host cards and meet on campus for dinner. Food is so cheap it didn't matter who paid. Language was a huge barrier but like us, they found people were very kind, sought opportunities like muddled tourists to practice their English conversation skills and many actually reversed their plans and accompanied these couples to their destination.

  2. snafu Says:

    sorry, my computer is acting up and internet isn't good in this small resort in Thailand where we're escaping winter.g
    I was trying to say...

    While I let our guest know how excited I am to be their host cards and meet on campus for dinner. Food is so cheap it didn't matter who paid. Language was a huge barrier but like us, they found people were very kind, sought opportunities like muddled tourists to practice their English conversation skills and many actually reversed their plans and accompanied these couples to their destination.

  3. snafu Says:

    3rd try...

    [DH says I gush] I ask if they are interested in activities and events in our area taking place during the stated dates as often tickets are needed. There is usually a discount for advance sale. For specifics visitors mention, I do my best to send electronic promotional material and outline prices. For visits to places that add tanks full of gas, I've asked if they mind chipping in for gas. It's a given that they will pay for their public transportation, I encourage them to do the actual transaction as part of the international experience. When I hand over event tickets bought in advance, it's obvious that there is an expectation that they are to reimburse.

    DH and I and even some friends take turns accompanying visitors to various locals to 'show off' our city's best points and sight see. I start mornings with an easy to set out breakfast 'buffet,' so that no one leaves hungry. We take drinks in a cooler and a picnic lunch if weather permits as it gives guests a chance to wander in one of our famous parks as a bonus in the day. If you decide to go to restaurants, you'll need to pull on your big girl pants and announce it will be 'Dutch Treat' with everyone paying their own meal. If you go to the grocery store, take them along, and hopefully they'll occasionally offer to pay for some items.

  4. Buendia Says:

    I have the same problem... my mother in law is coming from the UK in a few weeks, and I know she wants to eat out a lot (we have some amazing restaurants here). Added to the problem is that she thinks the US is cheap (it is for her using pounds) although it isn't cheap for us. I love Snafu's ideas! D is very conflicted because it's his mum and he wants to be a good host and really treat her. But we eat out once a month or maybe twice. D said he was ok with not going out a lot as long as we had big meals every night and not my usual 4 or so nights vegetarian. I think it's more about him, because his mum would be fine with some simple meals (I've known her a long time, and I'm pretty sure I'm right; he agrees with me and is still conflicted).

    We're brainstorming about free activities this week. Also had the idea that maybe one meal out could be not a meal but rather a dessert after we eat at home... we have a really nice Tea House that his mum would love!

    And I think she'll be content with joining me to pick up F each day and then going for a walk downtown or maybe just sitting out on our portal on the cozy bench watching the sunset with a drink!

    I like your idea of mentioning school obligations as a way of getting out of some activities!

  5. snafu Says:

    If MIL enjoys eating out, why not reverse the process and go to the better restaurants for lunch which is always less expensive. You can get by ordering an appetizer or splitting the lunch special since American portions are so enormous. D & mom you go for lunch together for one-one-one time. You can boldly ask if going to 'X' is MIL's treat in a jovial, joking tone, particularly if she suggests the venue.

    I had tried to explain when we had Canadian visitors while we were in China, we had no car and sent them off on their own to explore, assuring them that locals were very kind to tourists. Locals will find an English speaker who often will reverse their plan to accompany a visitor to their destination. We sent visitors with destination written in Mandarin and business card for our University.

    sorry the Mac is contracting sentencesl today

    They see it as an opportunity to practiced English and a free lesson. Eating on campus is so cheap, it didn't matter who paid.

  6. LuckyRobin Says:

    I would simply be straight-forward and tell them that you cannot afford to do all of those things. If you can't be honest with family, who can you be honest with?

  7. CB in the City Says:

    I used to live in Williamsburg, Virginia, and I had the same problem -- people wanting to visit, and me having to shell out for stuff I saw all the time. As a resident, I was able to get an annual pass for the historic district. I paid for it upfront, but it saved a lot of money. Can you do anything like that for any of the popular stops? Otherwise, I don't see any problem with helping your guests get to the places they want to see, but declining from paying to get in yourself. Suggest good places to eat, but choose only one or two where you will accompany them. A good guest will be sensitive to not draining their hosts! They will probably offer to pay for some things, too, to acknowledge your hospitality.

  8. Nika Says:

    I absolutely love expat living. Would love to live in Japan also (uncontaminated parts). I've been few times and intend to go back with my son soon. If we could get a comparably paid job, I would do it in a heartbeat. (though it gets messier now with all the US expenses that would still remain).

    Which city do you live in? Is it near a large base/other US military families or an unrelated job in a regular Japanese city?

  9. tinibee Says:

    Thank you everyone for the feedback and kind words. There are many excellent suggestions. I particularly like eating lunch out vs dinner and dessert out while still cooking at home (even though I'll be expected to cook a lot of Japanese food for them). I have been trying to pre-purchase tickets to attractions/trips we have planned to maximize discount and there is the expectation of reimbursement. I even set up a tripit account for said family coming over so they can view what has been booked and so I can list out their costs and it can keep a running talley of what they will owe me when they arrive - no surprises.

    I agree with snafu that they may be reticent to travel out and about on their own due to the language barrier, but that's half the adventure, right? There is the expectation that meals out are dutch, but I have to pay for four people while they only pay for their single selves - still a pricey proposition, but better than paying everything for everyone Smile
    Nika - I live about an hour south of Tokyo. We are affiliated with a US military base, but do not live on base. My spouse is a civilian employee that works at the base. I would still call it a regular Japanese city however. The further you get from Tokyo, the less English there is LOL! Its a wonderful hybrid situation that we live in where we can pick and choose a lot about our level of exposure to Japan and its culture, but still have some of the familiarities of our US life (like US breakfast cereals - its the little things Smile). Sadly I see other US families here who choose to avoid it as much as possible, but such is life. Our personal choice is to experience as much of Japan and surrounding countries as possible. I hope my kids will look back fondly at this experience of living in another country and experiencing other cultures and that it shapes their world view.

    Thank you all. I still look forward to this family visit, but thanks to your suggestions, hopefully I will manage with a bit more patience and grace!

  10. scfr Says:

    If your family has not been to Japan before, they may enjoy seeing some things that are part of every day Japanese life and free or inexpensive: an early morning stroll timed to see the little kids parading to school in their adorable uniforms, visiting a train station at rush hour, quick trip to a pachinko parlor, hundred yen shop excursion, grocery shopping. You get the idea. Whatever is part of your daily routine may be fascinating to them.

    I don't know how much train travel you will be doing, but if they will need rail passes they are cheaper to buy stateside.

    Enjoy the visits!

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