Are You Welcoming Your International Guests?

hwy 401 I was reading posts on Lay My Hat yesterday, which is my new favourite forum for vacation home owners. It's a great read and quite illuminating in places as I would guess over 90% of the forum members have their rentals in Europe which gives a whole new perspective on the international rental industry to us in Canada.

As is often the case, I then went off on a tangent and began thinking about the differences Europeans would encounter here in North America and what we actually tell them about before they arrive.

Here's some examples:

What to expect when they leave the airport

I used to think the M25 (the highway that goes around London) was a scary introduction to the UK, as it was the first major road encountered after leaving Heathrow. That pales in comparison to the 401 which, for the uninitiated, is the primary artery connecting Windsor to the west of Ontario, to the Quebec border, and it passes through the centre of Toronto. This is one of the busiest roads in the world in terms of traffic volume so a brief description on Express and Collector lanes, and how best to navigate the route, is a nice idea.

How to navigate a 4-Way/Allway junction

On our first visit to the US we had no idea what an Allway Junction was and it caused a few issues on the first ones we encountered, until we ‘got it'. We were used to roundabouts as a system of traffic management and the whole idea of taking turns at a junction was totally new.

Stopping for school buses

This may also be a new concept for European visitors. We are very familiar with the laws on stopping for school buses in both directions but it could be a pricey mistake to make if on their arrival in Canada, a visitor fails to stop when either behind a bus, or if one is stopped coming toward them.

Liquor laws

So, the first thing you want to do on your way up to the cottage is stop at a supermarket for groceries, and there will probably be some beer and wine on the list. It will save your guests valuable time in searching for the booze aisle, if you let them know beforehand about the LCBO (in Ontario) and Beer Stores, and the fact that you cannot buy alcohol in a supermarket. Add in the closing times as well so you don't end up with irritable guests who can't celebrate their arrival on vacation with a chilled glass of wine.

More on liquor laws

We nearly fell foul of the liquor laws on our first trip to Ontario when we took a picnic to a provincial park and pulled out a 6-pack of beer from the cool box. We wondered why we were getting odd looks from people at neighbouring picnic tables until we got talking to them and learnt that consumption of alcohol in public places is prohibited.

Bugs and critters

Be honest about the wildlife large and small. If you have visitors in early May and you have not mentioned blackfly and you know they are an issue in your area, you can be guaranteed to have very unhappy guests. Be fair….you really can't expect your guests to wear bug jackets every time they go outside! A word to the unwary about bears, and the dangers of leaving garbage and other food waste outside, is also a helpful addition to your International Guest Guide.

Curtains and drapes

When we had our first overseas guests at our very private river cottage, we had a worried call from them asking if we had forgotten to put the curtains back up. They thought we must have taken them away for cleaning. They weren't happy when I said it was not usual to have window coverings when a cottage faced the water and there were no neighbours. We had to rig up some temporary curtains for them as an emergency measure. It's good to tell people if there will be something missing they might be used to!

These are just a few of the points I make in my welcome guide. I'd love to know how our European colleagues educate guests from the US and Canada. Do you have any quirky customs or laws that you pass onto your international visitors?

Photo: Courtesy of Lone Primate