Houseguest Etiquette

Most of us have been a houseguest at one time or another. Whether it was crashing at a friend’s house after a late night out, visiting an old friend who moved away, staying at a friend’s cottage for the long weekend, or staying with family abroad, we’ve all experienced living under another’s roof.

Living with people we don’t normally share personal space with can sometimes be an exercise in patience, consideration and respect. And, every once in a while, we need gentle reminders on how to be a good houseguest.

So, here they are:

1.  Host ≠ Servant. Just because you’re an invited guest in someone’s home, doesn’t automatically mean their existence revolves around serving you. Sure, good hosts will go out of their way to ensure you’re comfortable and want for      nothing, but you don’t want to take advantage of their kindness and generosity with demands and commands.

2.  Mi casa rules son tus casa rules. Whatever house rules exist, must be respected. No matter how ridiculous, nit-picky, or OCD you might think they are, as a guest, you are subject to them. Keep them in perspective and try not to roll your eyes or sigh too much.

3.  Honesty is good manners. If despite your best efforts to curb your bull-in-a-china-shop tendencies, you break, spill or otherwise damage  something, don’t panic and hide the evidence. You also don’t want to wait  until your last day to sheepishly inform your host that you damaged their property. Be upfront, apologize and offer to replace, repair, dry clean or do whatever is necessary to compensate them for your carelessness.

4.  Keep personal habits, personal. In the privacy of our own home for example, we might saunter from room to room multi-tasking while brushing our teeth. We might paint our nails while watching our favourite t.v. show. However,  your hosts needn’t see your personal grooming habits, especially if they’re off-putting like clipping your toenails at the kitchen table. (Bad visual, but drives the point home, doesn’t it?)

5.  Cover  your tracks. That means, being helpful by putting your plates in the dishwasher and cleaning up any messes you make. You may leave crumbs on  the counter at home, but that doesn’t mean you should do it in your host’s home. And, if, for example, if you put some pillows on the floor to lay more comfortably on the couch, put them back when you’re done.

6.  Show appreciation. Bring a little something your host might enjoy and give it to them when you arrive. Before you leave, write your host a thank you note. That’s right, write the note.

7.  Pretend you’re an army cadet and be ready for inspection. Make your bed, or at least pull the covers. Keep your clothes off the floor—no one needs to see  your unmentionables. Tidy the bathroom and keep towels on racks. Remember that a good houseguest is a tidy houseguest.

8.  Lose the scents. Perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, candles, body sprays, and scented lotions should be used sparingly or in some cases, even avoided.  If your host is sensitive to scents, your fresh-rain-on-a-beach-in-Tahiti  smell may give them a headache or make them nauseous. You also don’t want  to transfer your scent onto furniture, or let any scent take over the home. Never let them smell you coming!

9.  Practice good hygiene. Need I say more?

10.  Offer to help out. It may be for meals, clean-up, gas, or even laundry day. Your offers may be dismissed but the courtesy of your offers shows consideration and appreciation.

11. Engage.  Spend some time with your host so they don’t feel like you’re just using them as a hotel. Try not to retreat to your room every night, bury your  nose in a book everyday or become entranced by your communication device round the clock. Everything in moderation, right?

At the end of the day, if you’re guided by the Golden Rule (treat everyone as you would want to be treated), you can’t go wrong. The whole point is to spend quality time with people you’re fond of without annoying anyone to death. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to live with them forever, right?


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