“Visits always give pleasure – if not the coming, then the going.” –Portuguese proverb
Do you think you know how to be a good houseguest?
There are some things in life we take for granted — like assuming that everyone knows how to behave, what to do, and what not to do while visiting someone’s home. Even if that someone is a family member, you still need to remember you are a guest in their home. The holidays can be an especially stressful time even without guests staying overnight.
“When you’re invited to someone’s home for a weekend or longer, knowing what to do to maintain harmony is essential. Sharing living quarters can bring out tensions between guests and hosts like nothing else – and it’s up to you, the guest, to do your best to avoid tense situations.” -Sue Fox, Etiquette For Dummies
How to Be a Good Houseguest
Here are some important things to consider when you plan to stay over at someone’s home:
1 – Be sensitive. Did you call and ask if you can stay? Or did the host invite you to stay in their home? They may feel obligated to say yes, or even to invite you. Listen for anything between the lines. Do they really mean it? Is there space for you to sleep?
2 – When asked to spend the weekend with friends, never assume that bringing your pets, children, friend, or family member is acceptable if you aren’t directly told or invited to do so. Never ask if your children are included in a weekend invitation. Assume they are not unless your hostess specifies otherwise. Don’t ask to bring your pet.
3 – If you have special dietary requirements, please let your host know before you arrive. You may also want to bring some of your own food.
4 – If you’ve brought your children, bring along a supply of portable snacks.
5 – Bring a small gift for the host as a gesture of appreciation. Bring a bottle of wine (or liquor), a picture frame, candle, flowering plant, or a gift that you know your host would appreciate. Nothing too extravagant. Coming in the door bearing gifts is always a good way to start off the visit.
6 – Know when it’s time to go home; don’t wear out your welcome. If you agreed to leave on Sunday afternoon, don’t extend your stay until Monday morning. Remember the old Benjamin Franklin saying, “Fish and houseguests begin to smell after three days.” He was speaking from the point of view of the host.
7 – Offer to pick up the tab sometime. You are saving money by not having to pay for a hotel. If your host takes you out on excursions to see the local sights or you go out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you should pay your own way or better yet, treat your host. A good guest would also offer to purchase the gasoline if they take you sightseeing.
8 –If you stay longer than a weekend (three days or more), offer to take your host and hostess out for dinner one night. If there are other houseguests involved, you can all split the cost.
9 – During your stay you must adapt to the host’s lifestyle. Don’t try to run the show. Be adaptable. Be open to the host’s suggestions for meals and recreation. Be ready for anything – or for nothing.
10 – Give your host some space. Usually, both guest and host need some “breathing room” away from each other. Depending on the length of your visit, you might want to spend an afternoon or an entire day out of the house (alone or with your family) and leave your host in peace. Don’t rely entirely on your host and hostess for entertainment. Don’t make other plans without letting your host know.
11 – Don’t accept an invitation before checking with your host. If you have friends in the area who invite you over to their house, tell them you have to check with your hostess before accepting their invitation and be sure to ask if it’s all right to bring your host and hostess with you.
12 – Offer to help. By simple observation, one should be able to notice what needs doing. Ask your hostess if you may help with any household chores.
13 – Clean up after yourself, make sure not to leave your belongings strewn around the house, and make your bed. When your stay is over, empty any wastebaskets and ask your host where to put the used bed and bath linens.
14 – Tidy up after yourself. If you are sleeping on a pull-out convertible sofa bed, take the sheets and blanket off each morning, fold them, and put them along with your pillows away in some out-of-the-way place (you can leave the sheets on the mattress before folding the bed). When it’s time to go to bed, it’s up to you to turn the sofa back into a bed.
15 – Keep the bathroom clean. Don’t splash water everywhere – if you make a mess around the sink, clean it up. Don’t throw anything on the floor, and don’t forget to flush! Men should keep the seat down.
16 – Before taking a bath, ask the hostess if there’s any limit to the hot water supply and, if there is, use the hot water sparingly so others will get their fair share. After the bath, clean the tub.
17 – Return a borrowed item as soon as you no longer need it – and in as good shape, or even better than as when it was lent to you.
18 – If you break it, you fix it. If you break a glass or piece of china, tell your hostess. If it’s something valuable, take it home and have it repaired. If you accidentally leave a stain on a bureau or side table, again tell your hostess and offer to pay whatever the refinishing charges will be. If you stain upholstery, rugs, or other fabric, insist on paying the cleaning bill.
19 – Telephone – Don’t tie up the telephone; if you make a long-distance call be sure to charge it to your credit card or ask the operator for charges and reimburse your host. Don’t answer your host’s telephone without asking. This rule applies even if you’re right next to the phone.
20 – Bring your own toiletries. Don’t count on your host having stocked the guest bathroom cabinet with everything you might need.
21 – Be on time for meals and other activities. If you want to have breakfast in your bathrobe that’s fine, provided you come to the breakfast table looking neat, hair combed, and wearing bedroom slippers.
22 – Be considerate of someone else’s house; don’t sit on furniture in a wet bathing suit; keep your feet off the furniture; don’t hog the bathroom.
23 – Keep your voice down late in the evening or early morning, and if the guest room has a television, keep the volume low.
24 – If you must smoke, ask the hostess if she minds your doing so in her house; if she does, then smoke only out of doors. Never smoke in bed.
25 – Don’t make the first move to go to bed. When to end the evening is the host’s prerogative. You can hint that you’re tired, but the custom is to wait for the host to give you the signal. The exception is when your hosts are family or close friends who won’t mind if you retire early or stay up late.
26 – On the day you leave, take the sheets, blankets, and pillowcases off the bed, fold them, and leave them neatly on the top of the bed.
27 – Appear to enjoy yourself. Even if you aren’t having the best time, act as if you couldn’t be more pleased.
28 – Check your bedroom and bathroom before leaving to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Then check it a second time. It’s inconvient for a hostess to have to mail something you’ve left behind.
29 – Be courteous. Treat any household help courteously.
30 – Always send your host a thank-you note or letter of appreciation.
“Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.” -Author Unknown
Emily Post’s Etiquette, by Peggy Post, 17th edition
Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette: 50th Anniversary Edition, by Nancy Tuckerman, Nancy Dunnan, and Amy Vanderbilt
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated, by Judith Martin
Etiquette for Dummies, by Sue Fox