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How to be a good house guest

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The holidays are coming up here in the USA, when a lot of people travel home or invite friends and family to stay with them. If you’re studying abroad, maybe some friends or a family that you know will invite you to stay at their home. This can be a wonderful experience that you’ll never forget, if your hosts are nice. Of course, everyone will have a better time if you are a well-behaved guest, too.

Everyone’s happy with a good house guest!

10 Ways to be an Excellent House Guest lists some of the things you can do (at least in the US) to be considered a good guest. For #9, I recommend that you ask your host before you strip the bed (that is, remove the sheets and pillowcases). For #10, if you forget, you can always mail a card. You can buy thank-you cards for 99 cents at most drugstores and card shops, such as Hallmark.

You should also ask if you should bring anything. If you’re going to stay with a college classmate, for example, she might not have extra towels or pillows. In addition, if you can’t eat something because of your health or religion, you should let your host know politely. You should also offer to take care of that yourself. For example, “I’m vegetarian, so if you don’t mind, could we go to the grocery store so I could buy some vegetarian entrees for myself?” It’s likely that your host will offer fix appropriate food for you, but you should be prepared to cheerfully take care of yourself if you need to.

Traditional host gifts for going to dinner at someone’s house include flowers, potted plants, wine (if the hosts drink alcohol), candy and chocolates, sweets from your home country, traditional items from your home country, homemade items such as bread, tea, and that kind of thing. If you’re staying overnight or for several nights, the gift should probably be a little bigger, such as a potted plant and some candy together. However, the cost is not as important as just remembering to bring something. You can just say “This is for you; thank you for having me over/thank you for letting me stay with you.” The host will probably say “Oh, you didn’t have to!” or something like that. But, of course, you were probably expected to.

While you’re staying with a host, don’t hesitate to ask for something if you need to. Just be polite about it. For example, if your host asks if you’re cold and need another blanket, say yes if you’re cold! Just be polite and say something like “Oh, if you don’t mind, that would be great.” Your host will feel very bad if he or she finds out later that you were uncomfortable during your visit, so it’s better to ask when you need something. It’s a good time for phrases like “Would you mind if I … Would it be possible to … Is there some way I could … Do you mind if I … Is it all right if I … I hate to bother you, but … ” etc. If your host can’t help you with the problem, then relax, be nice about it, and apologize for bothering them. (Of course, if you need something important such as medication, you should make sure that you get it somehow.)

This year I’ll be staying with my parents and my parents-in-law, so that’s a little different. They’d be insulted if I offered to help pay for the groceries, since we’re family. I’ll still try to help with some of the chores–and of course, I’ll already be bringing presents!

What do you think a good house guest should do?

P. S. Happy Hanukkah!

2 comments to How to be a good house guest

  • Good recommendations! I do always strip the bed when I leave, but I don’t think most hosts would be appalled if I didn’t. Here in China, staying at a friend’s house is pretty similar, though my friend preferred that I give her daughter a small gift, rather than pay for a bottle of wine. She also flat-out refused for me to help her cook meals or clean up dishes (that was really hard for me). Of course, in China and many Asian countries, it’s polite to take your shoes off when entering someone’s home too.

    Have fun with your folks and in-laws!

    Allison

  • Casey

    Don’t leave all your things over the bathroom. Other people have to use the same space. Pack your things back up and keep them with your suitcase.
    Don’t leave a trail of your stuff all thru the house. Ask for a place to keep your things and return them there.
    Don’t expect your hosts to provide all your meals for outings or longer stays like a week. Paying for your plane ticket doesn’t take away from the fact your host may still have a tight budget.
    Don’t expect your host to pay all your entrance fees, if you can’t afford them, say so. There are inexpensive ways to have fun if your budget doesn’t allow all the things you’d like to do.
    Give your host some free time. Don’t follow them around commenting on everything they do.
    If there are things you’d like to do while in the area for a long visit, arrange for you own transportation and don’t assume your host wants to go or pay the admission price with everyone that comes to town.
    Don’t ask your hosts questions they wouldn’t have the answer to anymore than you do. At a zoo, ask a zoo personel how old the zoo is.
    If your host works full time, don’t expect them to promptly come home and put supper on the table.
    Don’t use the same cup for your tea, without washing it, staining it beyond hope like you do at home.

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