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You’ve heard the cliché: houseguests, like fish, go off after 3 days.
Here are a few tips to ensure you stay on the right side of sushi:
Make your intentions known: Tell your hosts that you will be arriving at 5pm on Friday and will leave at 2:30PM Sunday (as the case may be, of course). This will allow them to plan meals and other activities around your schedule. Do I need to mention that being punctual is quite important? They are probably gagging to get on with laundry so get your skates on and shoo, as planned.
If you are bringing your children along, mention if they need special meals prepared. Bear in mind that some people are quite territorial about their kitchens (moi, to name but one), so don’t necessarily assume it’s okay to use the facilities. If it’s not, do not covertly use a brazier (portable cooking stove ) in your room.
Unless it poses a security problem, leave your luggage in the car until you have been greeted and had a while to socialise. Who knows, a teenager might materialise and volunteer to carry everything in (good luck with that).
Bring a present: If you are staying for three days, remember that you are saving a lot on hotel accommodations and restaurants. A beautiful book, a frame, a gift certificate to a spa are all good ideas. Above all, it should be something very special that they would like. (Note, I’m happy with all those listed, thank you.)
Also, consider taking along a treat from home: If you come from France, bring a case of wine as well … coming from the UK, then take along some whiskey … from Canada, take some maple syrup, you get the idea …
Communicate: If your hosts have to work during the day or have other engagements, you’ll need to know about it. The worst you can do is sit around waiting for them to entertain you. Plan to spend time exploring, or offer to take their children out for the day, if you feel they would appreciate that. Try not to lose the children or let them get tattoos. If you are going sightseeing, invite your hosts along but accept graciously if they decline. (Friends: If you are reading this, no thank you to going to the top of the Eiffel tower AGAIN, cheers.)
Ask what time the family usually has breakfast, and set your alarm if necessary. You might also ask what the best time to shower might be and do so quickly.
Be helpful, but not exaggeratedly. If you are only staying three days, then it might be more of a nuisance for you to offer to cook a meal as more time will be spent trying to find the implements you need. Do clear up the dishes after a meal though (but don’t stack at the table, ever), and help with the washing up.
Internet: If you must absolutely connect to the internet, as failing to do so will result in an aneurism, then ask only when you sense a lull. It is vastly preferable that you avoid using the household computer as this might contain sensitive or personal information. In addition, you might just mess up the settings. I repeat: Connect to the internet only in cases of extreme necessity. (No, Facebook and Twitter do not constitute an extreme necessity.)
Be tidy: your hosts might leave their shoes lying about and clothing on the floor; you should not. Rinse sinks and bathtubs after use. Put towels in a position to dry once they have been used (nb: not on furniture) and strip the bed. I don’t even want to entertain the notion that people would not wash sheets between two visitors, so I can only encourage you to strip the sheets without asking first. Fold bed linens loosely and put them on a chair or at the foot of the bed.
Note: If there is full time staff where you are staying don’t strip the bed, but do leave a $5-10 tip on the nightstand, depending on how long you have been in residence.
Bring your own stuff: You must not use your host’s shampoos, bar of soap or razor, as to do so is rude, absolutely disgusting and can be life-threatening, in that order. You’ll notice I didn’t mention toothbrush, and why would that even cross your mind anyway, hmm?
If you should damage or break anything, confess immediately and don’t just offer to replace it—just go ahead and do so. If it’s not possible, find something even better. Try not to break anything you can’t afford.
Thank you note: Send a prompt and sincere thank you note, to which you might add a bouquet of flowers. It’s quite likely that a lot of effort went into having you stay, from cleaning to shopping to dinner planning and wine choosing. And though you are assuredly worth it, show your gratitude, and then some.
Invite back: Even if you don’t have the space or any cooking talent, always try to find a way to repay an invitation, perhaps by taking your friends out for dinner, or getting them a hotel room in your city.
Most importantly: Have fun! After all, you are there to see your buds, so put on your party face and enjoy yourself. If you do your job well, your friends will have the best time having you stay and will beg you to come back often! (Which you will not do, but we’ll talk about that another time.)