Monday, January 9, 2012

Parental visit

There comes a time in every expat’s life when he gets a visit from across the ocean from his parents.  My time was this Christmas. 

My wife and I spent most of October, November, and December preparing the house – doing all the various DIY, obscure cleaning, and upgrade jobs that we’d been putting off.

Our place is small, so my mother and her partner stayed at a local hotel.  We picked them up and took them to the hotel on their first day to find that my mother had been made “Guest of the day”, which was a source of amusement for us.

Many of the things that my mother and her partner noticed about North Central Florida, I remembered noticing myself when I first visited several years ago, but they’ve since become my everyday normality, so I barely notice them anymore. They seemed surprised by how neat and tidy everything was.  Parts of Britain do certainly have severe litter problems, although like in  the USA, it can vary quite a bit from from place to place.

My mother and her partner are less flexible than me – although I moan about some things in the US, I am essentially a go-with-the-flow sort who likes to explore things.  When it comes to food, for instance, although I am lukewarm on certain elements of mainstream American eating, I do like many things about the Floridian diet, such as the fresh seafood, as well as Mexican and Cajun dishes (plus Chinese, Indian, Thai, Caribbean, and Italian).  My mother’s partner is much more conservative with his eating habits, however, so we ended up eating at places that served food such as “British Fish and Chips” (which is never quite like the real thing in the USA, anyway), rather than at the places where they serve a more local menu.

In a cafe in St Augustine

All in all the trip was a success, however.  We did start running out of touristy things to do with my parents towards the end, but that was kind of inevitable - Gainesville is essentially a working college town, not a holiday resort, so there are only so many sights to see.  We did manage to find some alligators for them to photograph, however, and take them on day trips to both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, including a visit to America’s oldest continuously occupied settlement, St Augustine.


  1. Wow - I haven't known many Brits who didn't like some kind of American food! Glad they had a good time and you survived.

  2. Aw, that's awesome! Mine are yet to visit (both of them are terrified of flying) but we're planning a trip next year ourselves.

    It's funny how some people have a comfort zone, especially with food. I'm sure I used to be the same, but you soon realize that even if the owner of the British restaurant is British, it still doesn't taste like home.

    How was St. Augustine? It's been on my 'to-do' list for a long time.

  3. @Expat mum - It wasn't that they didn't like American food, just not terribly interested in trying it. Well, apart from steak and french fries. I am almost the opposite, in that I will usually look on a menu for the things that I've not had, rather than what's the most familiar.

    @Rob - St Augustine is worth visiting. I've been there more than once. The fort is interesting if you are interested in history (which I am) and there are lots of places to eat and drink. It's generally relatively tastefully preserved, but still very touristy and bustling. There is an attractive beach too not far from the old town (but there are beaches everywhere in FL, of course).

  4. I am delighted for you all


  5. Thanks, David. They are hoping to come again, maybe in a couple of years or so.

  6. I agree. Having visitors does take you back to your own first perceptions. It's fun to see how much you now take for granted that used to seem strange.

  7. It is always fun when the parents come to stay! ;-)