How To Get Rid Of Relatives Who Won’t Leave Your House

By Maja Svrakic

#4 Become the family gossip.

Photo credit: flickr / mrehan
We’ve all lived it. Our kind, yet basically unknown third cousin from the old country, or our mom’s college roommate’s friend’s daughter’s best friend, or sometimes it’s even just our errant little sister or best friend from college, needs a place to stay for a week for vacation/internship/job search or whatever. Two months later you’re pulling your hair out wondering when you’ll ever get your home back. As Mash-Ups, it’s in our DNA to share resources and help whoever in our community might need a hand. And for those of us who are immigrants, it’s basically law. It’s what helps us rise, and makes us the best hosts! It’s also what makes us victim to that most insidious of criminals: The Relative Who Won’t Leave Your House. And we’re here to help. Our Serbian-American Mash-Up Maja Svrakic, who immigrated to the U.S. as a kid and now hosts maybe a few too many long-term guests, shares her tips for how to get rid of the extended friends and family that never leave.

My husband and I both have big extended families outside the U.S., so that immigrant hospitality is something we love. But sometimes. Sometimes it is just too much.

Recently, a simple dinner party conversation landed me a houseguest who was a total stranger. I was visiting my sister in Chicago, and a girl named Brenda came up and introduced herself to us. She asked where I lived, and when I said New York, she exclaimed: “I’m going to be in New York for a movie premiere in 2 weeks!”

My sister then says, “I’m sure Maja won’t mind if you stay with her.” My jaw dropped. I had just met this woman 2 sentences ago! I thought fast and said, “Oh, but we only have an awkward L-shaped couch.” And Brenda goes, “Oh, we (her boyfriend apparently) can squeeze on an L-shaped couch.”

I am famous for avoiding conflict, avoiding saying no and putting hospitality way over my own comfort. I grew up in wartime, we’re supposed to help each other! So, I had to break the news to my husband. Brenda and boyfriend showed up at 1 a.m. on a Monday, while we were sound asleep. In the morning, on my way to work, there were strangers sleeping on our awkward L-shaped couch. We met them on the evening of the next day when we ordered pizza. Literally shook hands for the first time since they helped themselves to our apartment 2 days earlier.

Since then, I’ve armed myself with tactics for the unwanted guest. Here’s my advice for dealing with a relative — or friend of relatives — who shows up, and won’t leave.

1. Have an annoying pet.

Julius, our 85-pound chocolate Lab, is known for his “hot stabby paws.” When he wants your attention, he will slobber on your laptop, insinuate his large head in your armpit, shred any piece of paper you have lying around, rearrange your shoes, and stab you with his hot paws until you have to drop whatever it is you thought you were doing and appease him. Houseguests who have any intention of doing anything other than hanging out with Julius don’t last long.

2. Do not stock your fridge or pantry with anything edible.

I have a selection of vegan dairy, Schweppes bitter lemon, and carrot pickle. That’s really it.

3. Only have instant coffee.

This is an important addendum to #2. To serve with my instant coffee, I have vegan “creamer” and fake, no-calorie “sugar.”

4. Ask as many prying questions as possible.

Of course, once they open up, you must hint that you will share all of their confidential information with the rest of the extended family. This may be incentive enough for them to leave the home of the family gossip — you may earn a poor reputation, but you will also have your privacy! Your choice.

5. Talk about your sex life in detail.

It will make your guests feel so welcome.

Nothing is grosser to your relatives than too many details about your sex life, whether you’re a single or a boring married. And if you’re trying to make a baby, definitely get specific about your fertility. “I start peeing on a stick on Sunday. I will probably ovulate on Tuesday. My peak fertility is Wednesday. Please be aware that we’ll need a minimum of 2 hours for foreplay, sex, and post-sex inverted position to maximize semen percolation.” It will make your guests feel so welcome.

6. Do not allow smoking of any kind in your apartment.

Everybody in the rest of the world still smokes. So your American home shall be a bastion of discomfort for them.

7. Treat your relative like a teenager.

Tell them you live in an Asian household (whether you do or not) and they must leave their shoes outside, then nag about where his/her shoes are outside, why so many glasses half-filled with water are on random bookshelves in the apartment, roll your eyes if they come in after midnight, and maybe give them an insulting allowance, like $2.75 for a Metrocard every day.

8. Assign them errands.

This is classic: “Oh! As long as you’re here, do you mind getting the dishwasher fixed, waiting for the cable guy, walking the dog, and stocking up on toilet paper? It’s so helpful to have you staying in our home so long!”

9. Talk up how amazing their life is wherever they were before they squatted at your place.

“Oh, there is NO good hummus outside of Israel.” “Ugh, the Chinese restaurants here are so inauthentic.” “There’s something so romantic about the monsoon season.”

10. Invite over the family that your family is trying to get away from.

This is the nuclear option. You can’t get your cousins off your couch after they came for a “week” and stayed for two months? Invite your aunt and uncle to come stay with you too. Maybe your grandma. When your cousins look at you with horror, say brightly: “I just thought we were having so much fun together, we should get the whole family here! I got them a 3-month visa!”

Soon, you’ll have your space back. You’re welcome.

How do you deal with unwelcome guests? Tell us!
Want more tips? We got you. Top 12 Tips For Being The Best Indian Daughter-In-Law How To Hack A Kosher Dessert How To Be An Optimist With Alan Yang

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