Rick says to call or look up a friend of a friend. My husband's cousin just told us he has a cousin that lives in England. I emailed him to introduce myself.We found he lives in Southport. We just changed our itinerary (we are leaving next Monday) to go meet up with Ken and his wife Cathy. How hospitable the English are. He has no idea who we are but they have invited us to join them for a day. We will either meet in Llangollen area or we will drive up to Southport, north of Liverpool. Talk about an experience! We will see and hear more than what we will find on our own. So, be assertive and contact those friends of family and friends. Happy Travels. b
You're absolutely right about the hospitality of the Europeans! My first trip to Scotland we had a barbeque with friends and family. My host's Aunt invited me to come and stay at her house so she could take me to St. Andrew's and the Fakland area. I had just met her that weekend! It was a fantastic experience and I've always made it a point to see her when I'm in the area.
I've done the same in both Ireland and Spain. My Irish friend met up with us when we were near his town, and he and I went out for a pint in a pub in Cashel that is built into a Norman tower house. The next day he led us up into the mountains to a special spot of his where we got a stunning view of the valley. He then took us to Kilkenny, and then on to our B&B near New Ross. A few months after that trip he visited us in the States.
Last year I met up with a longtime online friend from Spain. He took vacation days and drove me around northern Spain. He and his wife and daughter also had me at their house for dinner every night when we got back from the day's adventures. This October, he and his wife will be visiting us and seeing central Illinois. There's nothing better than having a local guide!
I agree. When Europeans invite you to visit, they really mean it. While in France we visited a business aquaintance who had a dinner party with friends in our honor. That night we were invited to dine the next evening with a couple who produce cognac. We had a wonderful time and were then invited to join friends of theirs mushroom hunting. We had a great time and are now going back to visit during the World Cup and the huge party they have each year at their vineyard. Have a wonderful time!
We happened to meet the Burgermeister of a town. He was so nice to us. He insisted he cancel all of his appointments for the rest of the day and be our tour guide. He even took us to lunch! We were a little uncomfortable that he took so much time for us, but it sure made for an unforgetable trip!
My daughter in law comes from Riga Latvia and my in laws invited me to stay with them. Every four years, Latvia has a song and dance festival. This is the summer this festival is going on, but the air fare is very expensive and cant afford to go this year. The air fare alone cost more than my trip to Italy this fall!
Someday I'll go. This will be so nice because I'll be right in with the locals and meet family I've never met before. Rick's saying is a very good one!
I'm going to be the contrarian here, but just keep in mind that whoever you look up could very well send somebody to your house. Americans and Europeans have very different ideas of hospitality and traveling. In Europe the hosts plan the days and pay for all expenses. Vacations are longer too. So if you experience European hospitality, you are very likely to get a guest for a week or so, and you will be expected to drive that person around and pay for everything. In Minnesota at least, we believe that "guests and fish smell after three days." Also our custom is that the guests take the hosts out and pay for their dinner.
I have been on the receiving end of European hospitality, but I can't say that I've always been happy to get that e-mail that I'm getting guests at a time that we are busy with work or our own immediate family.
I loved hosting my Irish friend, and I can't wait till October when my Spanish friends get here. My Irish friend came with a rental car and he stayed in a hotel (at his request). I'll drive my Spanish friends around, and they will stay on their own, as I did in Spain. It's just important to clarify the way things will go before making the trip. I wouldn't be happy with drop-in visitors, either!
The genuine friendliness found abroad is one of the primary reasons I love traveling there. Years ago I was heading back over to London I wanted to see a rugby match played. Not at the professional level but a neighborhood team. I scoured the internet and found a team in Hampstead and made contact via email.
Not only was I invited to visit one of their games I was invited to join them at the pub they and family members go to before and after their matches. Truly memorable hospitality! I'm proud to say I knew what the term "Ball's Out," really meant before it made it across the pond and is now being used incorrectly by ESPN announcers for American football.
My husband met a person through MySpace (I know, it sounded shady to me too.) They had been in email communication for a couple of years and we mentioned we would be in the area (Lake Como) on a certain day. The man came to the train station and drove us to his home where he and his wife and kids were hosting a barbecue for several friends from several counties. It was the most memorable event of our trip. We brought wine and enjoyed the best bruschetta ever. It turns out the he had only told his wife about our arrival that morning and she was still the most gracious hostess. It was a bit of a stretch to make the contact but the benefits were great!
We met a couple in Ireland on a short(30 minutes) tea/scone break. They apologized for the weather we were having. I asked for their email saying I would let them know how the rest of our trip went. I corresponded with them for another year. We told them we were coming back to Ireland. They invited us to stay with them in Northern Ireland. We reluctant but said we would stay one night and possibly two. We stayed a week! They were in charge of a walking group so we spent the week on several walks and a day in the city park listening to the caretaker explaining what what in the park. What a wonderful week of vacationing in Ireland with a local family. Ireland is a wonderful/friendly country. I know the people in England and Wales are friendly, helpful and very kind. I didn't know this subject would receive so many comments. Thanks. We leave in 6 days for our first trip in England/Wales and I KNOW it will be great!!
A rounding second (or third or fourth!). My wife and I will not only be staying with the brother of a friend of ours for two nights in Cambridge, but we will also be visiting friends of my wife's aunt in Manchester. Afterward, they have offered the use of a flat they own in Llandudno for free for a week! We are going to be able to do a lot with the extra $800-$1000 that paying for an apartment would have cost.
So even if you feel self-conscious - it is definitely worth it to make contact.
It's true what you said, but Europeans are able to mka friends for life by being as you (and others)said. Americans very rarely have this kind of friends.
I met a great friend on a Disney site. I posted I was going to the UK and she offered to take me and my husband to Windsor Castle. I didn't even know her and yet she took time out of her schedule to pick me up, and drive us around.
Needless to say, a great friendship was formed. We finally got to reciprocate when she came to Southern california last month. I took her to Hollywood, to Canters Deli, and to Huntington Beach where she got to celebrate her birthday near the surf of the Pacific Ocean!
Karen, I am always hosted by friends and family in England and France. I have only returned the favor twice in the last 20 years, since frankly Europeons seem less likely to come to the west coast of Canada for holiday, and those that do often only spend a few days here and run off to the Rockies.. works out just fine for us.
I do think it takes a certain type of person to enjoy meeting and spending considerable time with new family members or friends, and some people ( like you I guess) aren't really into it... and that is ok. You are not wrong, in fact being honest about how long one wants a guest around is a very good point. I think I could spare more then 3 days though, up to a week if I like them. LOL . I would also not stay at their home any longer then I would have them at mine.
I do think it is great for me though, I know I have eaten at some amazing places, seen some off the beaten road sites, and experienced alot more then some people will ever be able to by staying with friends and family. I am however very careful to NEVER stay too long, I need my " hotel time" also. I think when you stay at someones home you have to help out alot more, do dishes, make beds, etc, and I love staying at hotels to get a break from that!!
This summer I will spend only 4 nights with relatives, and the other 21 nights in hotels.. LOL
As I read the posts on this topic, it's apparent to me that most of the posters have been on the receiving end of European hospitality much more than giving end. Even though I may have the contrarian view (be careful about accepting hospitality that you don't care to reciprocate), I must add that some of my best travel memories have been the experiences in European homes. Experiencing life inside a home gives you insights that you wouldn't get on a city bus tour.
Travelers should just be aware of the cultural differences. When my extended family started traveling in the 1960's, they were pretty enthusiastic about the hospitality they received from the European relatives. Forty years later, the European relatives and their children are coming over, and their enthusiasm has waned considerably. From personal experience I can say that it's not always easy making conversation with somebody with whom you have nothing in common except for a miniscule amount of DNA.
Rick Steves posters should refrain from making judgments as to who has better lifelong friends. There are differences in ways of traveling and showing hospitality. And don't stay in a private home unless you are wiling to host those people (or their friends/family) down the road. This is especially worth noting if you live in a place that tourists like to visit.