Over the holidays you may have the pleasure of being a houseguest in a friend’s or relative’s home. I have a great deal of experience in being a houseguest. No, it’s not because I’m a freeloader. I am single with no dependents of either the two or four-legged variety so it is easier for me to travel to visit friends and relatives than it is for my more encumbered friends and relatives to visit me.
Holidays can be a stressful time and having houseguests can add to the stress. I have a few tips that will make your stay more enjoyable for you and your host.
Always remember that you are a guest in someone’s home. You are not staying at a five star resort or even a Motel 6. Your host is not there to cater to your every whim and request. There is no bellhop, room service or maid service.
Pick up after yourself. I realize I already covered this in the preceding paragraph, but it cannot be said enough. There is NO maid service. Towels should be hung up after use, not left on the floor in a damp heap with the hopes of getting a fresh towel each time you bathe. Towels can be used more than one time.
Make your bed. You may not make your bed at home. I understand the rationale of not making your bed and even used the “why do I have to make it when I’m just going to get back in it tonight” line on my mother when I was younger. Her solution was to close my bedroom door. But for the few days that you are a guest in someone’s home, it won’t kill you to make the bed.
Help with meal preparation and cleanup. Set the table, chop an onion, load the dishwasher. You’ll get bonus points for preparing a meal. Make pancakes in the morning, or a stir fry in the evening. Can’t cook? Then suggest ordering pizza or Chinese food and pick up the tab.
If you have special dietary considerations, let your host know. Your host doesn’t want to substitute peanuts for cashews in a recipe and have you keel over from a peanut allergy. If your food preferences are more a choice rather than a means of avoiding allergic reactions, then suspend the frog legs and bean sprouts flatulence diet for the few days of your visit. If you must stick to your gluten free, sugar free, salt free, cholesterol free, lactose free all organic diet, then make a trip to the grocery store to purchase the few foods you can eat and prepare them yourself during your stay.
Adjust to your host’s schedule. If you are an early riser and your host prefers to sleep until noon, this does not mean you have to stay in bed until noon, too. You can quietly get up, have breakfast and read the paper. The key word is quietly. Do not slam doors and rattle drawers wondering loudly where the sugar free substitute is with the expectation that your host will emerge from his coma to fix your breakfast. Do not insist that outings and mealtimes be scheduled around your TV viewing habits. Do not pout if your host despises Glee and would rather watch something else.
If your visit entails quite a bit of getting out and about, shopping, sightseeing and dining out, then offer to pay for gas. Do not expect your host to pick up the check when dining out. Be prepared to pay your own way. If your friend orders an entree and a glass of water while you down three gin and tonics, an appetizer, entree and dessert, splitting the bill equally is not paying your fair share. It is rude, boorish behavior. It is a wonderful gesture to occasionally pick up the check for your friend when dining out.
When visiting a family for more than one night, you very well may witness a family spat which may escalate to a major fight. Do not take sides. If you feel uncomfortable, quietly excuse yourself and go to another room. If you live for the dysfunctional fights that are the hallmark of reality TV, then you may want to pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy the ringside seat, just refrain from taking sides.
When your stay comes to an end, ask your host if she would prefer you to strip the sheets from the bed or leave it made up. Do not assume she wants the bed stripped. Seeing a pile of dirty laundry laying on the floor when laundry day is days away may stress some individuals and not bother others. Always ask what your host would prefer.
If you didn’t arrive with a gift for your host, once you have returned home have a gift delivered. Flowers, house plants and fruit baskets are lovely gifts and needn’t be expensive.
Take the time to write a thank you note. Do not email your thank you note. Use a pen and paper or a note card. Your host welcomed you into his home for a few days, you can spend five minutes writing a three or four line thank you note. Do not underestimate the power of the hand written thank you note.
Be a good, gracious houseguest and you will be invited back. Treat your hosts like they are innkeepers and next year when you mention you’d like to visit, they just might suggest you stay somewhere else.