Tara Tiger Brown

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just prowling around

Manners #1: Be a good houseguest and host

I complain about a core group of things that irk me and I figured that I would write about them in attempt to let the bad vibes out and to hopefully give and learn some tips on manners.  To be clear, I’m not saying that I have good manners, and I’m not saying I don’t do things that annoy people, I’m just pointing out the things that piss me off.

The first on my list is overnight guests.  There are some key elements to being a good guest and there are definitely some key elements to being a guest that never gets invited back. On the flip side, I am also attempting to be a better host, so I am exploring what I can do better to have a pleasant experience with house guests as opposed to counting down the minutes until they depart.  Let me know if you agree, don’t agree, have additional suggestions.

Some things that make a good houseguest:
– Be very clear about arrival and departure times
– Ensure that the length of stay is appropriate for the familiarity you have with the hosts
– Do not expect the hosts to be travel guides or entertainment for your entire stay, take the initiative to plan activities.
– Offer to pay for at least one breakfast/lunch/dinner or make one of those meals.  It can be expensive to host someone, extra food, water electricity, etc.  Think about how much you would be paying for a hotel.
– Clean up after yourself and participate in keeping the house tidy, and don’t expect your hosts to be your cleaning service.  If you want that, get a hotel. Don’t leave garbage behind. Leave the area that you slept in tidy. Clean sheets or at the very least fold them.

Some things that make a good host:
– Have a house policy with a clear definition of a guest. This way there is no passive aggressive behavior when they don’t clean their own sheets or help load the dishwasher.
– Know your limits.  As Miss Manners states “never issue an invitation that you do not want to issue.” If you need a lot of space, then limit the amount of time a guest can stay.  For me, I have an extra room that is used as an office, and if a guest stays more than a weekend, I lose access to it and it starts to really bother me.
– Do not propose an open-ended visit.  Be clear about the length of stay and don’t let it go over.
– If a guest asks to stay longer and you don’t feel comfortable, you should talk to them about it and work with them on alternative accommodations.
– Be clear on how much time you can spend with your guests. Something I disagree on with Miss Manners is that a host needs to include a guest in all of their social activities.  I agree if their stay is for a weekend, but if it is an extended stay, I don’t think this should be necessary.  What is necessary is being very clear upfront if you are working and can’t vacation at the same time as your houseguests so they know if they are on their own.

Filed under: life, manners, , ,

4 Responses

  1. Julia says:

    I concur with all you have said! Currently we have no guest room (we live in a small 2bed,1 bath house) so it’s not an issue, but even when I’m visiting my mom, I keep the place very tidy, help with stuff around the house, buy groceries, wash my sheets on departure day and buy or make dinner at least once! All of these things seem so obvious but clearly we were raised better than others…!!

    As an aside, my mom’s FIRST response to people who call to say they are coming to Maui (where she lives) is “Great! Where are you staying?” ha!

  2. Erica says:

    I love being a host and don’t get to be a guest too often. I’d say the only thing I may disagree with is the cleaning of the sheets. I’d rather be the one (as a host) cleaning my own sheets for guarantee they are cleaned on the settings, etc. they are supposed to be. Washing machines can be tricky bitches and I’d feel bad (as a guest) for potentially ruining the linens.

    Uhm, see you in a month? :)

  3. ninamo says:

    I recently had an acquaintance suggest we meet at the gallery openings in my town. Since she was driving from 2 hours away, I said she could stay overnight if she needed, but that I had plans the next morning. She then informed me that she would be arriving in the early afternoon, so I said she could come to my place first and we could take one car. I made a big lunch, and she ate a huge amount of food, (and talked with her mouth full the whole time). Since there were appetizers at all the galleries we visited, and we stayed out late, I didn’t think any more food was required, but she suggested we stop at a store on the way home yet only bought a diet coke. Then when we got in my place she said she was hungry. I asked her why she didn’t buy anything at the store and she said she didn’t want any junk food. — It was a natural food store! Then she wanted to use my laptop to check her email for the rest of the night, so I finally went to bed. Evidently, she raided the refrigerator during the night and ate the lunch I planned to bring to my work the next day. And I ended up being late because she slept until 11, dawdled over breakfast, and took her time getting her stuff together before she finally left. Needless to say, she won’t be invited back.

  4. Culturally Conflicted says:

    These are fantastic pointers. We have house guests with some frequency, and the only people we have trouble with are my family members. (We had a five-year-old spend the night with us a couple of weeks ago, and she helped clear the table and mop the floor with my having to ask!)

    When I tried to communicate my expectations to my mother during a visit soon after my husband and I became parents, her reaction was, “I’m not a guest! I’m your mother.” I then spent the last two weeks of my maternity leave (we’d invited her for a weekend) chauffeuring her and my infant twins from tourist destination to tourist destination. My mother did cook one meal, but never once pitched in on the cleaning, dishes, laundry, or caring for the babies.

    I suspect this is a cultural difference, because we’re facing the same thing with my sister at the moment. Instead of doing her own laundry, she said, “My dirty laundry is in the twins’ hamper. I need it done tonight.” (Can you imagine!! I wouldn’t be caught in a million years saying such a thing!) When I delivered her clean, folded clothes to her room, she didn’t even bother with a thank you. My family is Indian, but I’m very Americanized, and am married to an American man.

    I telecommute from my home, but have been unable to successfully communicate that I am busy during work hours. Even a locked door and a sign saying, “In a meeting” had no effect. She knocked repeatedly while I was on a conference call because she wasn’t sure whether the dishwasher had been run. I’ve given up and moved my business to Starbucks until she leaves.

    The awkward part of this is that I can’t not invite her again. She’s my sister. I think a big part of this is that she has servants at her house and doesn’t understand how the US works, but I’ve been straightforward about my expectations. She has no income, so if we asked her to move to a hotel, we would need to pay for it.

    What to do?

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