We’ve been lucky enough to host so many different visitors while we’ve lived in Korea. Ryan’s sister stopped by Korea on a day-long layover to Thailand, my mom, grandma, and brother came last May, and they were followed by five or six friends at different times.
Having visitors definitely leaves us feeling exhausted and taking long naps. However, the times we have hosted friends or family have been some of my favorite memories in Korea. Not only is it great to catch up with people we haven’t seen for far too long, but it’s also a time to see our home in a new way.
Here’s some of the biggest reasons to go bug your friends who live far away, or if you live far away, to convince your friends to come to visit already.
Built-In Tour Guide
Forget worrying about learning key phrases in a language just to get stared at, or planning and planning only to spend entire days at surprising tourist traps.
Visiting a friend is like hiring a personal vacation planner to tailor your trip and experience to your personality. I spent a lot of time picking Korean sights that would please my mom, grandma, brother, and friends. Many of their favorite activities weren’t in any guides or blogs – they were things I enjoy doing that I wanted to share with them.
Spend Quality Time Together
I love living abroad, but miss friends and family back home. It’s just too much time and money to fly back and forth frequently, and when I do fly back home it’s hard to squeeze in meaningful visits with everyone I want to see. My visits home have felt like whirlwinds and I leave feeling like I didn’t get to spend real, quality time with anyone because I spent so much time with everyone.
Hosting visitors lets us catch up with one or two people slowly over a week or so. Train rides into Seoul or late night cab rides give us time to talk in between sightseeing and hiking. When people come to visit I feel like I get to sit down and and be with that person without distractions.
This one goes without being said, but free and comfortable accommodation on a trip can go a long way to making travel financially possible. We are happy to give up our couch in exchange for visit with friends and family. There’s even an old-school slumber party feel to couch crashing that’s fun.
This year our school has a few guesthouses available for visitors to the school, so our friends have gotten there own little dorm room. This is obviously rare, but either way, free accommodation with your expat friend will likely be given happily in exchange for a familiar, friendly face.
New Experiences for Everyone
The first time we had visitors Ryan and I went to several Korean landmarks that we hadn’t gone to. When we first moved to Korea, after moving in and settling down we didn’t tend to visit touristy destinations for one reason or another. When visitors came we were happy to explore new Seoul sites.
Living somewhere for several months or years doesn’t mean everything has been done. There’s always new things to do or try no matter where you live. Adventure is out there.
My mom visited last summer and now when I talk to her she can picture what a walk out with our dog is like, or what kimchi tastes like, and it makes me feel a little less far away from her.
Sharing where we’ve been living with friends and family is so much better than trying to explain over the phone. I love taking friends to my favorite coffee shop or delicious restaurant, confidently directing the cab driver in Korean and otherwise pretending like I’ve been this good at navigating a foreign country the whole time (I wish). And after they’ve been to see me friends back home can relate to my experiences because they’ve been here too.
Reminder of the Weird
I love hosting visitors and being reminded of all the strange and quirky things Korea has to offer. All the weirdness that we noticed when we first arrived quickly disappeared into a feeling of normalcy.
That guy drinking soju and eating ramen outside of the convenience store? Middle-aged Korean women shoving and cutting in line like it’s no big deal? Heads down, phones up, and hush hush in the subway? Thirty blocks filled with identical apartment buildings? They all have come to feel pretty normal.
Seeing visitor’s reactions to the strange, foreign things reminds me to notice all of the awesomeness, and is certainly entertaining for visitors too.