For the first time and for the past month, I have been hosting families at my house for free. I have been hosting Afghan refugee families until the US government and NGOs find permanent housing for them. It has been a fantastic experience! Our discussions of their experiences are remarkable and insightful, and i have learned much about their country and plight. Many of the guests who have stayed at my house also appear wise beyond their years. Communication sometimes has been a little difficult, but google translate has helped a lot.
Also, just curious, has anyone else found that it has been necessary to somewhat revise the general house rules (both written and/or verbal) based on cultural differences between host and guests? For example, i have had guests from one country in the East that removes mirrors in the bedrooms (apparently this is related to a superstition…and they did not replace them on checkout). Or those from another culture, taking up the rugs in the main part of the house (and not replacing them before they checkout). I have also had more than one guest from another country who have not used counter pads and cutting boards for very hot items (unfortunately burning the Corian countertops). These issues are relatively minor, and I believe are likely due to cutural norms. I have not fully integrated these concerns in my written house rules, because I do not want to give the suggestion that removing mirrors or rugs is ok. And i do not want of course a different set up house rules (to emphasize certain norms and rules) for specific guests from different cultures. I am curious though if other people have noticed cultural differences in hosting, and if so, how do they address it, so everyone has a positive experience. I have probably had over 1000 Airbnb guests over the years, and I have only relatively recently noticed this. Thank you in advance for any suggestions you may have. And once again, a big shout out to my fellow hosts who are able to temporarily allow their house to be used for a worthwhile cause!
@richard1 Thank you for your service to these dear people. Our property is very often open to people on mission from our faith, as well as individuals suffering from PTSD, veterans, or those in need of shelter from trauma or abuse. Many times there are cultural and language challenges. You’ve got several issues: A new country, a new type of accommodation (that even fellow countrymen don’t know how to handle), war trauma, plus the pandemic. So much to consider. I have found that, in most cases, the policies that apply to the property regularly work very well as long as they are communicated clearly. Many of my guests want to rearrange the furniture and change things up. I make it clear in my check out procedure that they they are to leave “the property in the condition you found it when you arrived”. I do have a Guest Agreement (as opposed to a Rental Agreement) which explains a few simple things. I think there will be one or two things that probably keep happening and you will know what needs to be addressed, perhaps in an addendum. As they say, if something happens once, it’s on the guest. If it happens twice, it’s on the host (to come up with a way to communicate their “rule” to the guest firmly, clearly, politely & hopefully painlessly).
Thank you so much for supporting immigrants in their struggles to relocate and start a whole new life! Your effort has made me consider doing something similar, although we do not have a space large enough for a family.
Are these families all vaccinated and boostered?
Are you also juggling between non-immigrant guests, or is this a long-term commitment through AirBnB? My feeling is that, if you are not inconvenienced to the point of permanent structural change, and you have opened your home to these families, that they should be able to make some adjustments to accommodate their customs in a reasonable manner.
It sounds as though this has been a positive experience for both sides.
@momovich Thank you so much for your message and thoughts. I see your points. I also had not thought that some guest actions may be related to trauma or PTSD. I will also generate a guest agreement…it is a great idea. Finally, thank YOU for all the work you do. I am sure it is really making a significant difference.
@E_S_MARK Thank you for the message. I also appreciate your thoughts and suggestion. It is great that you may considering hosting immigrants. Actually i have had Afghan singles and couples stay at the house, so even if you have a single room, it can be helpful.
Great question re vaccination; i also initially had the same concern. Remarkably, the Afghan refugees have actually been “super vaccinated” (my made-up phrase). They were fully vaccinated in Germany (which was their first stop after leaving Afghanistan), and once they arrived in the US, the government could not locate their vaccination papers (and or they were given a Chinese vaccine), so they were fully vaccinated again… (I suspect that this is not ideal…but they have been vaccinated).
I am also juggling some between non-immigant guests and those from Afganistan; all is through Airbnb. It can be a little tough re check in dates involving the refugees (often i am told at the last minute when they may arrive), as well as making sure I still have open dates for paying guests (and I have two different calendars [one for each group] that do not always sync). And it can be a little bit more expensive hosting the Afghans, as I pay for the cleaning (without being reinbursed), and I have (voluntarily) paid for some food, among other things. Overall though it has been a very positive experience on my end, and I hope for them as well. Sometimes it even tough to say goodbye as they move to their new home, since they have really opened themselves up and discussed some intense subjects; it is as if we have known each other for a significant time…
An Afghan refugee woman recently spoke to our Zonta group which tries to help where needed. She pointed out that some of the refugee family members are from very rural areas and many not even be literate in their own language, not to mention English. Thus all our little written signs and policies may not reach the intended recipients. I would concentrate on communicating things that have real consequences like burns or other expensive repairs. When you’ve feared for you life, seen people shot, been separate from you family, etc. an accidental burn mark on a counter might not seem like a big deal.
Thanks Christine! These are good points; I will keep this in mind. Actually one of my Afghan guests did have significant difficulty reading his own language (when i used google translate). I found out later that he just had a primary school education; communication with him was particularly difficult.
@richard1 I have illustrated many of my “guidelines” (as opposed to rules) with humorous or colorful graphics. I’d actually like to do my whole House Manual comic book style. I’m pretty sure it would get read and would be understood by all language groups.
Fortunately I know someone who served in Afghanistan and picked up a lot of language. I would tap him in a heartbeat for help here. If you know any recent vets you might be surprised who can help.