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.
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!