One of the worst things about being an expat is being far away from best friends and family. One of the best things is getting the chance to show off your new country and home to them when they come and visit. But this is not without its pitfalls.
I have now had the literal delight of entertaining people aged from 11 to 81 in Austin Texas and here are a few of the things I have learned.
Before moving to Austin I had two main misconceptions about the weather that affected my job as a host. I firstly had the image that it stayed warm all year so invited people to come in the winter and enjoy the pool. Secondly, I habitually thought of summer as a time to be outside doing activities like hiking or taking long walks with the dog through the greenbelt.
But when I saw my sister bracing herself to get in our pool staying five minutes and then hopping out shivering I realized… DON’T invite people in Fall or Winter if they are looking forward to spending time in your pool!
Conversely DONT invite them in the summer and take them on long walks. Guests like, my best friend, may find the quirky shops on South Congress Avenue (Soco) fascinating. But the experience of walking between them for an hour in over 100 degree heat almost killed her! So much so even the thought of ice cream couldn’t persuade her to sit outside in the unbearable unbearable heat and needed water, shade and the air-conditioning on freeze in the car to recover!
I put on a stone (and a bit!) and moved up a dress size after moving to Austin. The food is so good here. But it does lean towards the higher calorie end. Although delicious, a diet of Amy’s Ice Cream, Frozen Yoghurt at Tutti Fruiti, Pizzas and Pasta at Reales Italian, Burgers at Hopdoddy, BBQ at County Line, Fried Chicken at Lucys and American diner favorites like Mac ‘n Cheese at Cover 2 is not exactly good for your health (or waistline).
So while you might want to share the delights of American food with your guests DON’T eat out every night in ‘typical’ American restaurants.
Instead DO take time to also show the virtuous delights of Juiceland, the vegetarian pleasures of Mothers’ Cafe, the huge chopped salads they do here and the massive vegetable and fruit platters from the supermarkets: that you just don’t get in the UK. So that you don’t get your guests (like mine) overloaded on carbs and sugar desperately ordering salad in Torchy’s Tachos!
However don’t get guests all excited about unique Austin hangouts like Amy’s Icecream and then not take them. After asking all week to go my parents only ended up getting Amy’s in the airport as they left!
Lot’s has been written about top things to do in Austin. So I shan’t spend much time on them here. My main tip would be to remember that they have travelled to see you not have a bus tour of Austin landmarks. So DON’T fill their time with tourist attractions!
But if you get lucky DO take them to see iconic events like ACL even if – like my poor sister -they only arrived the day before and are still acclimatizing to the time and heat – because as she found the pure joyful exuberance of it is worth it!
Better than showing off what every tourist sees DO share with them the places that are special to you in Austin.
The greenbelt walks by the creeks are one of my favorite parts of Austin and have been much appreciated by my guests who shared my delight at finding such untouched
wilderness in the city especially the waterfalls and flowers.
I also love the lakes. If there is anything better than zipping over the vats expanse of Lake Travis, being towed on a tube and stopping to dive into its warm waters it is being able to do all that with your close friends beside you shrieking with laughter as the boat jumps over the waves!
The Oasis might be a tourist trap but the view of Lake Travis is truly amazing especially at sunset – when they ring a bell and people clap! This sunset ritual was new to me and only discovered showing off the view to friends from home.
This comes to my final DO.
DO use the opportunity of spending time out in Austin to try new things yourself. I cant believe I never went to the Graffiti Park before my sister came, or the LBJs Presidential Library till my parents came and how could I have missed out on Barton Springs Pool and Torchy’s Tachos till this July when one of my best friends came?
Above all enjoy and remember the main thing they have come to see in Austin is you!