How to be a Polite and Proper Houseguest

BY KAREN COOPER

What a privilege it is to be invited to someone’s home for a visit! Even better when that home is a lovely place situated by a beautiful lake. You just know it will be a wonderful time! Before you set off for your destination, take a little time to think about what it means to be a courteous and appreciative houseguest. A guest your hosts will want to invite back for more adventures and special times.

Here are some ways to demonstrate your houseguest etiquette and make the visit a true pleasure for everyone…

Bring a host’s gift

Because your hosts go out of their way to prepare for your arrival and make your experience in their home an easy, relaxing one, it’s nice to show your gratitude by arriving with a host’s gift. This could be a bottle of wine (if appropriate), a plant, a special food item or a basket of goodies. Think about who your hosts are and what they might like best.

Arrive with some basic groceries

Your hosts will surely appreciate a few staples for the house like extra toilet paper and paper towels (these go a lot faster when there are more people around). You might also like to bring a few items to help replenish food supplies such as coffee creamer, snacks, drinks, or anything else you think your crowd might use. If there are special food items you and your travel companions will need due to preferences or dietary restrictions, bring those along as well.

Tidy as you go

Part of being a good houseguest is not making unnecessary work for your hosts. Act like your Mama raised you right and clean up any messes you make. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, keep the bathroom tidy (hang up your towels), make your bed and just be considerate of the space you’re occupying.

Offer to help when you see a need

When you see your host busy preparing a delicious feast, offer to lend a hand. Look around and see what needs to be done and ask if it’s ok if you take on that task. Does someone need to make a run to the store? Walk the dog? Set the table? Offer up your amazing skills to make life easier for your host. If they say no the first time, keep asking and they will get the message that you really do want to help.

Give your hosts some personal space

Although your hosts are happy to see you, they probably don’t want to spend every minute of the day with you. They may feel pressured to entertain you and need a break.  Ask them about things to do in the area and make some plans to do things on your own (or with your traveling companions). If your hosts want to join you, that’s fine, but this also allows them time to regroup until you come together again.

Treat your hosts to a great meal

If you’ve got mad chef skills, get to work in the kitchen and prepare for your hosts your signature dish! If cooking is not your strong point, a great dinner out overlooking the water might be a nice treat. You know your hosts and what they like, so tailor what you offer to their preferences. This is an ideal time for you all to be together in a relaxed environment where you can really catch up.

Strip your bed before you leave

Do your hosts a favor and strip the linens from your bed before you go. Place all sheets and towels in a neat pile. This will save them some work as they’re cleaning up from the visit. You might even want to offer to remake the bed with fresh sheets if you feel your host would appreciate that. Play it by ear, but the less work your hosts must do upon your departure, the better…not to mention it gives them another reason to invite you back!

Leave a gift

Take some time during your stay to find out what kind of parting gift your hosts would love. Something that shows your gratitude as well as your good manners. This could be something that reminds them of the time you’ve spent together, something they admired on an outing or a particular food you enjoyed. Get creative and leave something that will help them remember the good time you’ve had.

When the time comes to say goodbye….

“Upon taking leave, express the pleasure you have experienced in your visit. Upon returning home it is an act of courtesy to write and inform your friends of your safe arrival, at the same time repeating your thanks.”

  • Excerpt from Our Deportment by John H. Young, an etiquette manual published in 1882.
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