My mother instilled in me at a very young age that a good house guest makes the bed they sleep in. The manner of making may not be to the host’s liking but it shows that you cared, that you tried and that you hope to be invited back some day. There’s nothing more off-putting than peering into a dimly-lit room, curtains drawn and the fan petering above head with bedsheets strewn over the floor. It leaves a lingering and unpleasant taste in the mouth of your gracious host.
Admittedly, my insistence on making the bed may have gotten out of hand to the point of where I’m making hotel beds with no hope of replicating their original state, knowing full well that the whole thing will be dismantled and thrown in the wash. But that’s not the point. The point is that today many of us have forgotten how to be good house guests. With the holiday season fast approaching, these tips will be sure to come in handy and leave you in good standing with the in-laws, family friends, or mum and dad.
1. Ask About the Rules of the House
In a laidback country like Australia, this may initially sound unnecessary. But asking the ground rules early on will prevent a lot of stress and unnecessary mystery. It’s the little things like:
- Filling up the cold water jug every time it dips below half-full.
- Using vegetable oil on cooking pans.
- Keeping the noise down after 10 so little Timmy can sleep.
Family homes run on habit and routine. Maintaining this ambience is the cornerstone on how to be a good house guest.
2. Offer to Help. A Lot.
You need to offer at least 2-3 times. The first refusal of help is a mere courtesy. Remember, this is not a hotel service and you probably haven’t paid them any money. So if you think that the hosts won’t resent you for kicking your feet up while they do all the chores, I’m afraid you’re dead wrong.
3. Keep Common Area’s Clean
One of the crucial cornerstones of how to be a good house guest. Same rules apply in share-houses. Don’t let your plates stack up beside the sink or your spilt wine go unattended. Theoretically, your room and your space is your domain for those couple of days so do with it as you will. Just don’t let your mess get in the way of other’s cleanliness.
4. Tolerate Kids/Pets
Yes, we know that if you had kids, you wouldn’t let them get away with that. The dog barks a little too much, for a little too long before the hosts address it. If these things really irk you, remember that your stay isn’t long. It’s not worth the awkwardness of bringing it up.
5. Give the Host Their Space
Once you’ve settled in, offered to help (and hopefully been of some assistance), it’s time to give the host their own space. If you’re in a foreign land you might want to follow your local friends around like a lost puppy. But unless you are offered to join them in their daily routine, stay out of their way.
6. Be Good Company
Although you’ll want to give the hosts their space, chances are sky-high that you’ll be enjoying one or many meals with them throughout your stay. Be good company and you’ll be well on your way to knowing how to be a good house guest. Leave politics, economics, crackpot cultural theories at the door. Make clever yet unoffensive jokes and always be asking what you can do to help. And finally, when it comes to alcohol, be merry but avoid being drunk.
7. Don’t Overstay Your Welcome
Hopefully, your length of stay has been determined well before your arrival and you will leave at that time on that day. However, if it’s a bit of a grey area, don’t go getting too cosy. 3-4 days is usually the sweet spot. A week can turn in to domestic hell very quickly. This list is based on how to be a good house guest, not how to be a good tenant.
8. Strip/Make the Bed Upon Leaving
If you’re staying at my house, this is exactly how to be a good house guest. If you’ve only stayed a night in a single bed, some hosts might not go to the effort of washing the sheets in a hurry. Make the bed. But if you’ve had four long and sweaty nights in a bed with your young lover then chances are the hosts would like those sheets washed. Leave the linen in a nice pile at the foot of the bed and not thrown around the room like oversized confetti. Open the blinds and windows to let some of your personal stench out and make sure the bathroom you’ve used isn’t a mess.
9. Leave a Parting Gift
It’s the thought that counts, seriously. Unless a specific object of desire has come up in conversation that is within your grasp to acquire, a bottle of mid-range red for him and some pleasant flowers for her will do the trick.
10. Send a Thank-You Note
No, not a thank-you email, or a thank-you text, or a thank-you Snapchat selfie. A physical, hand-written thank-you note. People love to have and hold ‘things’. The physical incarnation of your literal thanks sent about a week later will be a welcome surprise to your hosts and may wash any bitter taste they had about your stay from their mouths. It might even teach them a thing or two about how to be a good house guest when they come to stay with you.