Some people may dread having the in-laws visit but personally I wish they could stay forever. Of course we have our moments, but I do really look forward to their trips. Here our my tips for a successful visit and if you would like to add any please comment below:
- How will they get there?
If your in-laws, like mine, are not used to airports it can be a daunting prospect. I know some people who travel to China especially to collect relatives. Some are able to have other younger relatives within China who take them to a large international airport for their one direct flight before being picked up at the destination country before traveling onward together to the smaller cities in the UK. We do neither of these and I am fully aware my first tip may lead to criticism. This method was recommended to me by a Chinese friend who frequently does this: book one of the in-laws onto the wheelchair assistance service. One person in the party is usually enough because the other person will be allowed to follow them. Now this is not what the service was designed for but if you consider that your in-laws may not have a high school education, and would find transfers incredibly stressful with a possible increase of blood pressure, I think it can be justified. I did feel a little uncomfortable the first time so I booked one in-law on the service stating learning difficulties (instead of bad knees) due to their genuine minimal education but they were still pushed around the airports in a wheelchair. Honestly, they would have got incredibly lost and distressed without using this service and I think this is a disability of some form.
Another time we used this service it was for a double transfer. The first transfer within mainland China was complicated by the fact that there is no wheelchair assistance between the baggage collection and the new check-in desk. As this was not made clear at the time of booking, and I had written proof that the wheelchair service was continuous, I was given a voucher that I used to pay for a seat and meal upgrade on their return flight. Therefore, if you will rely on this service to get your in-laws safely to their destination, I recommend booking flights where the first flight will leave mainland China. The transfers in Europe took place without a hitch.
2. Why I recommend traveling light?
We encourage our guests to travel light in terms of their own clothing and shoes. The majority of their baggage normally contains goodies from China such as a specific brand of hot pot soup mix that you can’t find in the UK. This means that when they return to China we can fill up their bags with goodies for them to take back. Additionally, they may prefer to buy some clothing in the UK which are more appropriate for the climate. If they are traveling from the countryside where they still use an indoor coal burning stove, you may also find that the scent from the coal is impossible to wash out. In this case it may be easier to buy a new outfit. When I’m out shopping, even when they’re not with us, I’m always on the look out for items and bargains I know they’d love.
3. Will they get bored in your country?
Chinese people, especially visitors who max out their 6 month visit visa are known for finding the UK to be a rather boring place. They may be used to: popping out to the local store at 11pm; or buying a street snack at 9pm; or chatting with other neighbours in the communal garden before joining in with some dancing in the square.
To combat boredom here are my recommendations:
A: If you haven’t already joined in with the local Chinese community’s social events calendar, seek them out. There may be other lonely visiting relatives they can meet. You can find the communities through the Confucius Institutes, Chinese language schools, and the local Chinese Church whose participants are mainly there for the social side.
B: Arrange for them to bring over a Xiao Mi Box. This can be attached to your television set and can turn your television into a Chinese TV broadcasting station. The signal may sometimes be a little slow but its very popular especially during Spring Festival.
C: Check out this website: www.dnvod.tv this will keep them up to date with all the latest TV dramas from China and more.
D: Show them some local walk routes and make sure they know how to cross the roads safely in your country, also showing them to watch out for cars backing out of driveways. Walk with them, then behind them, making sure they can remember where to go before they go alone. I haven’t yet needed to teach them how to use the local buses. When they go out I make sure they have some cash, a mobile phone, a letter explaining they are lost with their name, my name, and our contact numbers with home address. Perhaps they’d like to go out on an errand to the local shop so help them get familiar with where the important items are.
4. Will they only like Chinese food?
Not necessarily. In fact, my in-laws love to try new things, within reason of course. There are some common favourites that all our visitors have enjoyed: home made scones, peanut butter, soft French baguettes, and lentil soup. If you are cooking western food, try to start with keeping dairy to a minimum. Over time I find many do convert into dairy lovers. My mother-in-law in particular likes a generous slice of viennetta ice cream after the kids are in bed. My in-laws also particularly enjoy the flavour of lamb in the UK. Casseroles are similar to some slow-cooked Chinese dishes. Roast potatoes and roast vegetables in general are great with a Sunday roast, the juices from roasted onions and tomatoes will stop them feeling the meal is too dry. If you have a roast, they’re likely to prefer the outside pieces of the lamb/beef or a leg of the chicken/turkey. On the table keep a jar of lao gan ma, a spicy sauce, that is available in most Chinese supermarkets and recently larger Sainsbury’s. Put simply, don’t worry too much about the food. I’m sure you’ll soon discover which items disappear faster than the others.
5. When my in-laws return to China, what do they take back?
Because my in-laws live on a farm and in winter their food options are somewhat limited, I pack the following:
Things that can go together with Chinese steamed bread (mantou): peanut butter (I know you can buy this in China but my in-laws often don’t treat themselves so last time my grandfather-in-law returned with five 1kg jars); chocolate spread such as Nutella (another favourite); homemade jam; honey (they prefer the Australian brand); tins of fish (any kind so a mix).
Items that may boost the flavour of their noodle soups: stock pots/cubes of different flavours; tubes of tomato puree.
Believe it or not, they liked the quality of the gardening gloves for the farm work. They also took back knee pads also from the garden centre for use in the terraced fields.
Silver foil: I showed them how it could be used to wrap up a sweet potato and put in the fire.
For some reason they still like to take back porridge oats and also dried milk powder.
Finally we add in some suitable vitamin supplements, biscuits for grandmother, chocolate, and any clothes or shoes they wish to take back. Some people like to take back small gift bottles of whisky
6. Travel Insurance
To risk or not to risk is purely your decision. I would always recommend getting insurance cover for your visitors. They can get coverage in China but I normally go for a more international company. Companies outside of China that will insure a Chinese visitor to the UK are few and far between but I have previously used World Nomads. If you have found a better alternative I would also be interested to hear.
I hope you enjoy having your in-laws to stay as much as I enjoy having mine. This is a basic guide of tips that suit us but there may be others that work for you better.