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Houseguest Etiquette: Guidelines for Being a Considerate Guest and Thoughtful Host

By Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick

Some of my fondest memories of summers past include having houseguests. Perhaps it is because my friends have lovely manners, and my husband and I enjoy making their stays memorable. I do know, however, this is not the experience many have had, or remember about having houseguests, which is why I thought it necessary to outline the guidelines for being a considerate guest and a thoughtful host.

How to Be a Considerate Guest

  • Do be sure you are clear about when you are expected to arrive, and when you are expected to leave; and don’t go earlier or stay longer.

  • Do take a house gift; and if you are staying longer than a weekend, offer to take your hosts out to dinner one evening.

  • If possible, have a means of transportation so you don’t have to rely on your host to chauffeur you around.

  • Do not ask to bring a pet with you, unless you have a small “perfect” dog, and you know they won’t mind. Large dogs and cats should left at home.

  • Ask what the attire will be for the weekend so that you will be able to dress appropriately for all of the weekend’s festivities, and will not have to borrow your hosts’ clothes.

  • Do think of activities to occupy you for at least part of the day. Don’t expect your hosts to keep you entertained from morning until night—unless you know your hosts are expecting you to accompany them on all of the outings during the day, such as to the golf course, tennis court, beach, et. Cetera.

  • Do not leave your wet bath or sandy beach towels on the floor.

  • Do try to keep your room fairly neat. Make your own bed each morning unless there is a maid to make it for you. Be sure the bathroom is kept neat as well.

  • Do pack a robe. You may have to walk down the hall to go to the bathroom; and you may want to go to breakfast wearing one if it’s acceptable in the house you are visiting.

  • Ask what the rules of the house are. Are shoes allowed in the house? What time does everyone wake up and go to sleep?

  • Don’t treat your hosts as your personal servants. Offer to help out with the cooking and dishes.

  • Don’t expect your hosts to follow your diet regimen. If you are on a strict diet, it might be better to save your visit to another time when you can eat what your hosts are eating.

  • Be on time for meals and activities.

  • Don’t complain about your bed, your room, the food, the activities that have been planned for your stay, et. Cetera.  In other words, be an appreciative guest.

  • On the day of your departure, take the sheets, blankets, and pillow cases off the bed, fold them, and leave them neatly on top of the bed—unless, of course, your hosts have a live-in help.

  • Do remember to send a thank-you note to your hosts when you get home.


How to Be a Thoughtful Host

  • Do invite guests whom you know fairly well and know will enjoy the kind of weekend that is enjoyable to you.

  • Tell your guests when you would like for them to arrive and leave.

  • Give your guests an idea about what you have planned for the weekend and the clothes they will need to bring for the various activities.  If you are taking them to your club for dinner, and jackets are required, that is something they need to know.

  • If you are inviting friends you don’t know that well, it is a good idea to ask them if they have any special dietary needs or allergies.

  • Do stock your kitchen and bar with your guests’ favorite foods and drinks.

  • Do give your guests some free time during the day. It isn’t necessary—nor is necessarily appreciated by your guests—for you to have every minute of the day planned. Do, however, some group outings/activities planned.

  • Let your guests know what time you usually have your meals—particularly breakfast. If you are a late sleeper, and they are earlier risers, show them where you keep the coffee and let them know they are welcome to make their own breakfast.

  • Give your guests a map of your town if they are new to the area; and give them a list of sights they might like to see if you do not plan to give them a guided your of your town.

  • Check to make sure the guest room is ready for your guests: fresh sheets, flowers, snacks, reading material, an alarm clock, pad and pen by the bed, a couple of empty drawers bureau drawers, extra coat hangers in the closet, a mirror, and anything else you think they might like or need in their room to be comfortable. And also check to see that the bathroom they will use will have everything they need.

  • Do let your guests know if there is a limited supply of hot water in your house. They will be embarrassed if they unknowingly use all of the hot water before the others in the house have had a chance to take a shower.

  • Try to anticipate your guests’ special needs—if there are any. Remember, that as a host, it is your number one responsibility to make your guests feel comfortable in your home.

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