You know that moment: your guest arrives jet-lagged and unsure how to communicate without a common language. Perhaps you’re there to welcome them in person, or maybe they’re following your instructions to locate the key under the garden gnome. They’ve come a long way to arrive at your doorstep. Have you thought ahead about what might make this far-from-home place feel welcoming? Well, many of you certainly have! And we’re excited to share lots of your thoughtful ideas far and wide.
Adopt a curious and patient attitude
Open-mindedness —and even some playfulness—can make the unknowns of hosting international guests less intimidating.
- Be open-minded. You must understand that we are all different and we are not the center of the world. Imagine how you would feel in another country! If you see things that you do not understand and think that they’re due to different customs, ask, speak, show interest in your guest’s customs. Many guests love to explain their customs!—Michael, Mexico
- Often, I talk with foreign guests about our different manners and behaviors, comparing styles of speech, proverbs and gestures, which sometimes leads to much fun.—Lisa, Germany
- Be firm but flexible and don’t be annoyed over small things.—Kim & Jen, Norway
- I think being me, acting personal, when welcoming or meeting [guests] is a key to a good stay for both the guests and myself.—Mariann, Norway
- Do not be afraid if people come speaking another language … generally there are no problems and it can be fun to be able to understand each other if you don’t speak the same language.—Michael, Mexico
Overcome language barriers
Eye contact, sign language, and attempts at finding common ground can foster understanding. Some hosts practice several languages so they can chat with their guests, but there are lots of clever ways to connect, even if you’re not multi-lingual.
- Welcome your guests with a smile and half your job is done. I speak English and Spanish which makes my life much easier, even if I have issues with certain accents. In any case google translate is my friend. The majority of my guests are foreign and speak at least one of these two languages. And they love speaking in French when they can.—Sylvie, Dominican Republic
- I try my hardest to spell correctly and use simple English in messages. It’s hard sometimes. No “c u soon” or “thx”. And I can’t imagine how google translates misspelled words! I also try try try not to assume cultural norms and practices. Very difficult. One fun thing I do is make icons for house instructions, instead of words. Google images is fun for this.—Paul, Washington, US
- I can greet people in many languages including Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Russian, Swedish, French, German, Hindi, Thai, etc. and I can also sing in Arabic and Urdu. Singing in their language suddenly brings you sooooo close to them!—Huai-Dhawa, Canada
- I use Itranslate App. It records what you say and translates it with no problem to any language from any language.—Omri, Israel
- I have a little book that I LOVE and has saved me several times! It is called Point it. —Priscilla, Brazil
- Smiling, nodding, pointing! Saying Aha! and Oho! and smiling more still. Hoping that the impromptu sign language we just invented between us has the required result.—Sandra, Australia
- As an important communication tool, I constantly improve my English. Knowledge of foreign languages or the willingness to communicate with a lot of sign language is clearly THE prerequisite for international guests.—Angelina, Germany
Create a warm welcome
A guest’s arrival is so important, we have a Host Award category at every Airbnb Open dedicated to celebrating hosts who do this well. Those first impressions can diffuse anxiety and help a weary traveler feel like they’re arriving home, even if it’s just for a night.
- When my guests arrive, I always have material about São Paulo , there is always a personal message and something in their language.—Priscilla+Gabriel, Brazil
- One of the best tips that I can give to other hosts is to pick up their guests at the airport and bring them to your place. This is always the best way to connect and create a bond with your guest before arriving at your property and this will also make the guest more relaxed and stress-free as he/she is sure to arrive at the right address. Another advantage to doing this is that you can make some extra money by charging the guest for the airport transfer. That is definitely a win-win situation!!!—Oomesh Kumarsingh, Mauritius
- My daughter makes a welcome sign in [the guest’s] language and in Hawaiian using the guests’ names. Guests love that so much they take pics holding it.—Momi, Hawaii, US
- I have an internet radio and when guests are arriving from another city/country I will tune the radio to a station in their country & leave it on for their entry.—Beth, Arizona, US
- In our guest room is the book When in Germany: Do as the Germans do. It helps with such basic questions as: Do I wait in the restaurant, until I am assigned a table?—Till & Jutta, Germany
Make your House Rules and guidebook accessible
Avoid misunderstandings by writing clear House Rules, and help your guests navigate your town with an insightful guidebook. Having these translated can be especially helpful!
- Evolve: Every time you visit a guest with another nationality, add a page in your guide with his language.—Michael, Mexico
- I get a lot of guests from China, and they’re such wonderful guests that I want to encourage them to book. To this end I paid to have a copy of my House Rules and a summary of my House Manual professionally translated into simplified Chinese so they know exactly what is expected and feel welcome. I’m also gradually assembling a collection of instruction manuals for laundry and kitchen appliances in a range of languages—Louise, Australia
Set your guest up for success with the right amenities and information
It can be challenging for guests to find their way around, connect online, and replace lost or forgotten toiletries easily. Here are some tremendous suggestions from hosts who know how to smooth the way to a seamless stay.
- Make available universal adapters (this is great for them)—Alfred, Spain
- Set up all the electronics in your language and put printed guides, conveniently located, of the most basic (internet, kitchen, hot water, keys, trash, etc.) of the accommodation in English (if you can with little text, Schematic) and translate it if necessary.—Aaron, Mexico
- Have good Wifi! Especially for our non-European guests. In fact their phones don’t necessarily have access to the French network and only work with Wifi. Compared to other countries where wifi is everywhere, France isn’t very well equipped; it’s sometimes a bit of a nightmare for them to communicate.—Emmeline, France
- For US guests, we change the thermostat to Fahrenheit. And select an appropriate TV program. In the guest room / bathroom there are enough travel adapters. And we explain how a German roller shutter works.—Till & Jutta, Germany
- I try and adapt to the ways of my guests, the Americans use lots of pillows, so I put more in the cupboard, the same goes for towels. Germans often tend to have their own sheets on top and even their own duvets, all the while sleeping in the same bed. I provide an additional cover in the wardrobe. I’ve added an Italian cafetière, Italians and even Spaniards prefer it to my electric cafetière.
I put a little snack in the fridge – egg and ham for Americans and brioche bread with butter for Europeans. And a local beer or rum depending on my mood.—Sylvie, Dominican Republic
- The thing I would emphasize more about my measures for international guests would be to change the audio of the TV to English to be heard in that language if the content was created in that language, such as movies and series.—Marc, Spain
- I have about everything someone might forget or an airline would refuse in hand luggage: chargers, cables, shampooing and other liquid products. It’s funny, if someone asks “Do you have an idea, where I could get a cable to connect that item?” Waiting for instructions about some far away shop and I say “Yes, just in this drawer,”—Helga, France
- Offer to set up the Uber and Lyft [ride sharing] apps on guests’ phones.—Nina, California, US
- I have snacks in the room, toothbrushes, toothpaste, little soap, phone chargers, tablet, shaving cream and razors, toothpicks, some anti-cough lollipops, some band-aids, cotton pads, cold medicine and Tums (; Cute comic book, Rubic cube, puzzle, some candies… and all kinds of drinks:different tea, mate, cocoa, coffee, instant lemonade -regular and sugar-free… And couple bottles of water, of course. (; Map—Anastasia, Nevada, US
- A tip for my guests: a note in the welcome letter that the water in Vienna is drinking water and with special quality. There is even a info-folder from the city of Vienna – I recently discovered. Since then, there are hardly any mineral water bottles for disposal.—Monika & Elisabeth, Austria
Celebrate the local
Share the best of what your town has to offer and don’t be shy to brag a little! International guests can be such a delight to host as they’re often the most inspired and interested in the everyday aspects of your town.
- You should definitely keep an open mind AND make them discover the French way of living, not dressing our listings up as international hotels with ‘international standards’…Creating memories, giving our guests ideas, allowing them to at least discover what makes France a model for its way of life up until recently is, in my opinion, also a way of making them like our country and feel welcomed with joy.—Olivier, France
- Give them a good bottle of French wine. They have come to France after all!—Nathalie & Giles, France
- My idea is to, for the guest who stay more than 3 days, you can leave a local breakfast. As I am in Bahia, Brazil, I will leave some fruits, Tapioca/pancake and some local tea, because I would love to try the local food everywhere I go. I think it’s a very good idea to the people who trust you and choose your house to stay.—Josie, Brazil
- I always find out my guests fav color and get a Hawaiian Lei for the female in that color….with a note written along with it in their language expressing Welcome.—Momi, Hawaii, US
- I provide them our local childhood treats…Moon Pies, anyone? For those on a long stay, I take them all over town and to our regional and international restaurants they would be unlikely to find on their own. I also leave prestamped souvenir postcards of Nashville with a note to write their mother.—Amy, Tennessee, US
So, the consensus is that a willing and curious attitude is the key to navigating differences, and a sense of humor can make unexpected challenges turn into opportunities for rich connections. What are your best tips? Join the conversation in the Community Center.