Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Be The Perfect House Guest

"Do you think I could ask to do a load of laundry?"

"Should we sit in our room here, or do you think they want us to come visit with them in the living room. I'm having trouble reading them."

"They take their shoes off when they come in, we better, too."

"Do we offer to help again. She didn't seem to want us in the kitchen."

"It was so cold last night, but don't say anything. I don't know if they own extra blankets."

These are from actual conversations that Jim and I have had when we are guests in people's homes around the world. Although we love having people stay in our home, we often find it difficult to know how to be good houseguests. We have the added factors of usually not knowing our hosts until we meet them at the airport or get dropped at their house and we are crossing a cultural barrier to reach out to them. Sometimes we speak their language (English or Spanish) and sometimes our presence forces them to use their second language to communicate with us.

After I wrote a dozen suggestions for being a good host, I began to wonder if we were good guests. So I decided to ask some of the women I know who have had the frequent house guests what they liked in house guests. These "professional hostesses" are mostly Americans from coast to coast and in the midwest, and also two English women living out of their context (one in the States and one in the Middle East). Together they have almost 300 years of hostessing house guests!

1. Take the Sheets Off -- To my surprise, six of the ten who answered, said they appreciate it when the guests strip the bed, put the bedspread back on, and maybe even carry the sheets to the laundry room! This includes my Aunt Mur who, "housed many preachers, family,  friends and over 49 foster kids." She should know!

Although I appreciate it when guests do this, that's probably not the first thing I'd say. But now I least in American homes!

2. Keep the Towels Off -- Another common theme was what happens to wet towels--off the beds, off the furniture, out of the hamper. In other words: 
Hang Up Your Towel
If no place is provided fold it over a hanger hung on the doorknob. And while you are at it, "Wipe down the shower with the squeegee provided," requests Sue, who has been hosting people for 40 years.

3. Kick Your Shoes Off -- Well, not necessarily literally...Like my Aunt Bernice says, "I want my guests to feel free to rob the refrigerator if they want something to eat between meals." Gina, a single friend who has lots of longer term guests, says, "You can eat anything in the house except my diet pepsi." "I would like them to feel at ease and able to help themselves to water etc." says Ros, who has been having overnight guests for 35 years.

4. Turn the Honesty On -- My daughter-in-law, Abby, who's been hosting guests for eight years, says, "I wish every guest would let me know when they need something.  I love to be organized and get you everything you need, but I have two very young children and I forget a lot.  There's not much worse than realizing a guest was awkwardly "making do" when I could easily have gotten them what they needed.  Just ask... It makes things so much easier."

And my friend, Vicky, says, "When your hostess asks about your food preferences, be honest!  As a hostess, I do not want to serve meals people hate or can't eat due to food allergies.  Please let me know what you really don't like or what you need to fit into your dietary needs.  If it is something I don't know how to fix, offer to teach me, I'm always willing to learn!"

Gina concurs, "As the hostess, you wonder what is wrong with a lot of murmurings and whispers, wondering if  some failure in hospitality has occurred."

5. Put On Your Helper Hat -- My Mom who still has overnight guests after 59 years, says, "I love it when my house guest offers to help in the kitchen.  If I don't need help it is nice if they stay in the kitchen and visit.  Often I do need help and appreciate it so much." Vicky adds, "Even if I don't need your help when you offer at mealtime, hang around and talk with me.  I love the company and it's valuable time during your visit."

6. Turn Your Calendar On -- Again my mom has a good suggestion: "Let me know if they will be here or not for a meal." I might add, make a commitment and stick with it! Vicky's been hosting guests for almost 30 years and she adds, "If there are places or other people you would like to visit, let me know before you arrive or upon arrival so I can help plan it conveniently." Basically just be considerate of your hosts.

7. Get On the Floor -- to play with kids! Abby, the mother of my two (soon to be three!) adorable grandchildren says, "I love it when guests take the time to get to know my kids too.   Extra bonus: when they play with my kids while I finish dinner!" (I find that particular request no hardship!)

8. Turn the Charm On -- Carolyn has been housing guests for over 35 years, and she says, "The one thing I wish every houseguest would do is: tell something humorous about themselves to put everyone at ease and freely enter into conversation."

9. Show Off Your Appreciation -- Ros says, "I love it when a guest asks for the recipe of a dish that I have made for them. It is the greatest compliment for the cook!"

10. Put On Your John Hancock Hat -- Another Carolyn, who had her first guest with her husband on her honeymoon 51 years ago (a wedding guest was traveling 225 miles in the same direction, so rode along!) says, "Sign our guest book!  Brings back memories years later of the people and of the places from which they came.  (We're filling our 8th book now!)"

What do you love when your guests do it?
What do you wish they would do?

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Linking with these great blogs. 


  1. One thing I really appreciate is when guests *relax* and be a little less formal than their mothers taught them to be. For instance, when I had a newborn, some friends came over to visit & brought Baklava - then, one of them walked out to my kitchen and opened the cupboards and got out plates & forks & *served* the Baklava - just like it was her house! It was such a help!

    I normally am not one who likes help in the kitchen, but I DO appreciate it when someone walks out and grabs a fork out of the drawer if I forgot to give them one. And, I do appreciate if someone plays with my kid so that I can cook : )

    (And, please don't make the bed perfectly when you leave, or pull up the bedspread after stripping the bed. Then I cannot remember that it has dirty sheets on it! I don't care if the bed is stripped or not, but I do want to be able to remember that I need to change those sheets before the next person visits.)

    1. I think most of us like it when someone feels at home enough to just do something they see needs doing. I've almost had an experience where I gave a "used" bed to a guest...thankfully I thought to check!

  2. These are all so good! I, too, know more about being a good hostess than a house guest (I try to do what I would want my guests to do), so appreciate this article!

    As a hostess, the two things I most appreciate are offers of help (I agree with the stay and visit in the kitchen, too) and jumping in to be part of the fun and craziness that is part of our household at times.

  3. Be flexible so that you don't greatly disrupt the family's prior commitments. As a guest, I love it when the family includes us in their family happenings. I've been to little league games, high school football games, cheerleader practice, county fairs, speech contests, band concerts and other events that were important to the people we were visiting for a few days. You get to know people in a different light!

    1. That's great. I've had guests who seem to not want to join in, then you are really torn about where you should be.

  4. Those are wonderful tips! I always feel out of place when staying with someone so I will keep your tips in mind the next time I am visiting!

  5. These are great suggestions. Thanks so much for sharing with Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party.
    Debi @ Adorned From Above

  6. We are featuring this post at this weeks Adorned From Above Link Party.
    Debi @ Adorned From Above



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