Tips: House Guests
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, August 2006
Everyone, at one time or another, stays in someone else’s home. You may be on the couch in the family room, on an air mattress with the kids or in your own beautiful guest accommodation. The blankets may be too many or too few, overly itchy or worn, the pillows puffy or flat, you may be sharing a bathroom with three teens or have the chance to soak in a sumptuous bath.
Wherever you are and whatever the circumstance, remember to be considerate because you are in someone’s home. If you want room or maid service, stay at a hotel. The best guests are those who pitch in where needed and who stay out of the way when not.
There are a few things you can do to make yourself feel comfortable, useful, and at home without taking over and imposing yourself in a way that makes your host appreciate your presence. And remember, don’t overstay your welcome. It’s and old joke that guests and fish have one thing in common; they’re both no longer good after 3 days.
• Gifts of Thanks - It can be food to share during your stay, flowers, or something unique that "fits" your host’s taste. Offer to pick up the check at dinner, cook your favorite specialty, buy ice cream after the movies, or pay for pancakes at the local diner. If food is involved, check food preferences and allergies. It is better to know beforehand that three people in the family are vegetarians BEFORE you prepare your famous chicken salad. After you leave, send a thoughtful note, preferably hand written, in which you share some of the highlights of your time together.
• Be Clean and Tidy - Regardless of the housekeeping habits of your host, keep your space neat. If you are uncomfortable with the arrangement of their furniture or accessories, it is not your prerogative to redecorate. You can do this in your mind’s eye but not in reality (unless, of course, you are asked to help redesign the space in which case you can have a lot of fun.) When you cook, clean up the kitchen. When you are ready to leave strip the bed, wipe out the sink and tub and empty the trash.
• If You Break Something, Own Up to It - Whatever you do, don’t hide it in the drawer and let your host find the pieces three weeks after you’ve gone. Don’t throw broken items away because it may be a sentimental piece or repairable (even if you don’t think so). Apologize sincerely instead of commenting, "This was sitting too close to the edge of the tabletop and was waiting for a tumble." Try to avoid repeated apologies. A better thing to do is offer to pay for the piece or help find a replacement.
• Your Calls are Your Responsibility - Today we all have cells phone or phone cards. This is the time to use them.
• Everyone Needs Privacy - Give each other space. If your host is involved in a private conversation, excuse yourself, take a walk, or read a book in another part of the house. Do not share information you have overheard. Try to keep to your own routine of exercise, quiet time or whatever you do to keep your balance.
• Know "Sacred" Places - Before you plop yourself down, find out which is "papa’s" chair or if the space is an off- limits meditation corner.
A good guest is mindful of the host’s needs.