By Caitlin Kelly
It’s the season of invitations — to a summer share, a beach house, a cottage. Maybe you’re finally meeting the parents.
While it’s lovely to be invited into someone’s home, it’s also a potential minefield of hurt feelings and unexpressed emotion. We’ve stayed with friends many times, most of whom live in fairly tight quarters, so being considerate and tidy really make a difference.
“You’re so low maintenance!” said one grateful hostess. We try!
A few ways to leave a good-to-great impression on your hosts:
When they ask about your dietary preferences, remember — it’s not a full-service restaurant
Some people have genuine allergies that are life-threatening and others simply have a realllllly long list of their very strong preferences. If you absolutely must have a specific food or drink, bring it with you. It’s rude to impose your individual will on a larger group of people gathered for a good time; when we stayed with friends who served steak for dinner, but invited a vegetarian friend, he happily joined us and ate only vegetables.
Be a good sport. It’s their home!
One of our hosts insisted we wear slippers (or bare feet) to keep the floors clean. No biggie, as they had a huge basket of nice clean slippers by the door. Everyone has their quirks and habits.
Sex? Keep it fully private and really quiet
No, I’m not a prude. Ask any host about the worst guests they ever had, and the screamers and moaners will likely top the list. It’s great you’re so deeply in love (or lust), but sharing space with people you might not know very well is neither the time nor place to enjoy a noisy sexual marathon.
If you’re bringing your children and/or pets, have a full and frank discussion before arriving about what your hosts need and expect from them, and you
Just because you adore them and find their 300-decibel shrieking/barking normal/charming doesn’t mean it is. People who have chosen to “get away” are hoping to flee their everyday stresses, not add new and fresh hells to their time off.
Buy groceries, pay for them or split food/drink costs with your host
Ditto for taking them out for a few very good meals. Even if one dinner costs you $150, that’s less than a decent hotel room in many spots at high season.
Bring a gift
Never arrive empty-handed. A great bottle of wine, some beautiful soap, a lovely coffee table book on a topic you know your hosts will enjoy. On our most recent visit we offered a set of gorgeous Laguiole steak knives; the ones we brought were different colors than these ones, but very welcomed. The one before that we gave our hosts a small handmade pottery serving dish.
Detach from, or put away, your electronics
While many of us now spend ours day on social media, time away with friends or relatives means enjoying (or trying to!) actual face to face conversation, in the house, walking through the woods or wandering the beach. Everyone needs and deserves quiet private time, but focus on the people who’ve invited you, not only your technology and distant amusements. And no phones at the table!
Write a thank-you note, on paper, and send it within a week
Sure, you can email and people probably expect nothing more. But choose a pretty card or use your personal stationery and highlight the things you most enjoyed.
No one writes thank-you notes anymore?
Polite people who want to be invited back do.
Help out wherever you can
Wash dishes or cook a meal or walk the dog or baby-sit for a few hours. Maybe you can help mow the lawn or weed the garden. They’ll probably say no, but might well appreciate the offer. It’s a home, not a hotel.
Avoid all public grooming
I once stayed with a younger friend who sat on the sofa watching television with his wife — while both of them flossed their teeth. To me, a more private person, it was just gross. You may walk around your own home clipping, cleaning or polishing your nails or brushing your teeth in transit, but in someone else’s space please keep all of it within the confines of a bathroom with a closed door. No one wants to see or hear the evidence of your later stunning public appearance.
Bring your own beauty, health and grooming supplies
If the place you’re visiting is miles from the nearest store, and you must have some essential item, be sure to buy it and bring it with you. No one wants to ruin their host’s plans with last-minute dashes for basics. Yes, they might have it, but — (tampons, diapers, nursing pads, Neosporin, etc.) — they might not.
No matter how welcome and relaxed you feel, pick up after yourself — coffee cups, dishes, newspapers, towels, sand-filled sneakers, wet bathing suits…
Bring a small flashlight
Perfect for midnight runs to the kitchen or toilet or while navigating unfamiliar stairs or paths. Our trusty headlamp has proven so handy so many times!
Avoid arguments — with your spouse/partner and your host(s)
Seems obvious. Some couples bicker as easily and normally as they breathe which can make less contentious people uncomfortable. Nor is a shared dinner table the best place to argue your views on gun control or other sensitive matters. Relaxation is the order of business, not sharing your deeply felt and hotly argued views on economic policy.
Do you enjoy being a guest?
What other tips would you offer a guest — or host?