Now that the lifting of lockdown restrictions has permitted us to throw open our doors, and our spare rooms, to friends and family, it is time to remind ourselves of the basic recommendations for staying overnight in other people’s houses.
Some people are the perfect house guests. They arrive on time, bearing carefully-chosen gifts, regale you with amusing anecdotes, wash up, make their own beds and leave early in the morning.
Others invite themselves, come late (or early), only remember to warn you of their food intolerances as you’re putting plates of lovingly-prepared but unsuitable food in front of them, loll nonchalantly – while drinking your best wine and boring on about their lives – as you clear up around them, and leave their room looking like a bomb site.
The difference between the paragon and the pest is that with the former, your only memory of their visit is of laughter and entertainment, and with the latter, you’re working to erase both the physical detritus and your feelings of irritation for days afterwards.
Follow our Golden Rules for House Guests for perfectly enjoyable guest experiences.
GOLDEN RULES FOR HOUSE GUESTS
If you are a visitor, follow an easy code of behaviour to avoid forever queering your pitch with hospitable friends.
- The true house guest from hell is the who doesn’t know when to leave. As the expression goes, ‘visitors, like fish, stink in three days’ Confirm both times of arrival and times of departure well before you’re due to show up.
- If you’re held up by traffic, or unforeseeable circumstances, call or text ahead and let your host know.
- Bring a present, not necessarily flashy, but thoughtful – for example, some single-malt if you know it’s the host’s particular tipple.
- If you are highly allergic to any foods then you should inform your host, clearly and succinctly, before you arrive. If you merely suffer from mild food intolerances, or strong dislikes, take a more circumspect approach. The potential seriousness of the problem should be weighed up against the offence and inconvenience that it will cause to the host. Presenting someone with a long, and varied, list of foods to which you have a mild aversion is quite unacceptable; on the other hand, if one – commonly served – food will make you feel ill and uncomfortable, the host should be told.
- Keep the physical evidence of your presence in your host’s house to a minimum and tidy up after yourself – no muddy wellies in the hall, coats discarded in the sitting room, half-drunk cups on every surface.
- Offer to help (with laying tables clearing dishes, washing up etc.). Your host may well decline your offer, but at least you’ve made the effort.
- Unless specifically invited to do the contrary, don’t make yourself too at home. So don’t help yourself to food from the fridge, or booze from the cupboard. Always ask your host first.
- Don’t assume that you can use the washing machine, or run piping hot baths in the middle of the day. Check with your host first.
- Be flexible and accommodating. If your host suggests a walk, or a visit to a stately home, or a shopping expedition, acquiesce gracefully. You’re on their territory and should fall in with the prevailing mood.
- If you go out with your host – to a pub, restaurant, tea shop – try and pay for the drinks or food. It’s a gesture of gratitude for the hospitality.
- On the morning of your departure, check whether your host would like you to strip the bed. If you’re told not to bother, then make the bed neatly, and ensure that everything in the room is exactly as you found it.
- Above all, leave exactly when you said you would: too early and it looks like you’re trying to escape, too late and you’ve outstayed your welcome.
- Once you’re home, send a handwritten note profusely thanking your hosts for their hospitality. Do this within a day or two of your return.