Lost in translation: The toils and joys of hosting travellers from foreign lands
One of the most rewarding parts of being an Airbnb host (apart from the benefits to your bank account) is getting to know people from cultures different to your own. Welcoming guests from all corners of the globe allows you the chance to learn new languages, discover unique traditions, and maybe even sample some delicious food. But there can be challenges when you open your doors to strangers.
What could possibly go wrong?
Many Airbnb hosts are well-travelled and have lived and worked in different cultures but if you’re a host who lacks this kind of experience, you might be wondering what could possibly go wrong? There are all sorts of things that can happen when cultures meet. Broken toilet seats, unusual smells coming from your guests’ room, animal products being cooked in your kitchen that you may find offensive, rituals that might interfere with the running of your house… or things around your house that could cause offense to guests depending on their religion.
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A smile says a thousand words
What do you do when someone arrives who does not speak a word of your language and they start demanding things and acting distressed? Take a deep breath….and smile. You may not understand each other and there may be issues that are causing concern but a smile can go a long way in easing the situation and buying you some time to figure out a solution.
Find help online
Google Translate is your friend. Sometimes. Depending on the languages you want to translate between and depending on the topic, this service by Google can be extremely helpful in dealing with communication issues between you and your guest. You simply type in what you want to say and click the language you want to translate it to. There are now a range of apps you can download which have audio samples of phrases and words to help you get out of tricky situations.
The internet is also a place where Airbnb hosts trade their stories and you might just find that if you Google your guest-dilemma, there could be a blog already written about it that offers up advice.
Prepare ahead of time
Some hosts will do their best to learn simple greetings in other languages in order to make guests feel welcome or to learn basic phrases that come in handy around the house. If you are likely to get frequent guests from a certain part of the world and you don’t speak the language, it’s always worth paying a professional to translate your Airbnb house rules. Also, consider having signs in different languages posted around the house (obviously you don’t want anything too visually intrusive or bossy but a post-it-note in the bathroom could be helpful) to offer up suggestions on how to use appliances or facilities.
Master the art of charades
Even if you go to the effort to have your house rules translated into several languages, there will be times when there is a communication breakdown that will require you to play a game of charades with your guest. Rather than be frustrated, we recommend you see these moments as an opportunity to have some fun. Yes, you are both confused. Yes, Google translate is failing you. But chances are, if you do your best to act-out the solution, sooner or later you will both be able to get to the bottom of the issue.
Spend money if it will help
If you find yourself in a very challenging cross-cultural situation, consider investing in a translator. Chances are, it will be money well-spent as you are likely to learn something that will help with future guests. Prepare a list of available translators in your area and have it somewhere handy in case of emergencies.
Cultural courses 101
We recommend hosts do some research about the culture of their guests before their arrival – particularly if you’re likely to get lots of guests from a certain region of the world. If you live in London and you notice that more and more of your bookings are coming from Chinese travellers, do some Googling so you’re better prepared for their arrival and so that you know what to expect when it comes to cultural barriers.
Make life easier for yourself
It can be daunting trying to prepare for new guests. The good news is, GuestReady has a team of highly experienced Airbnb professionals who can help arrange things like having your house rules translated. Our multi-cultural team also speak a range of languages and are happy to help ease you into your role as a host of international travellers.