Fellow Blogger Tilly Bud made an interesting blog post http://thelaughinghousewife.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/the-best-meal-i-ever-cooked/and I have thus been inspired to give some of my thoughts on the pros and cons of being a guest and being a host.
I have noticed on several occasions that younger family members who have stayed with us appeared to totally clueless as to some of the basics of “being a good guest”.
Not one to fume silently, Himself and I threw out a few gentle hints and when they fell on stupidly stone deaf ears, we chose a quiet moment for a small chat and were amazed to find that ignorance was the prime cause of the situation rather than anything intentional.
It seems that parents have chats about many things with their kids but advising them how to be a good guest is a topic that’s slipped though the net.
I’m determined that my kids know what’s expected of them as a good guest no matter how old they are.
It matters as much who and where you are staying, for how long, and your relationship with that person as much as other constraints.
For some people a visit to a sibling or parent will be a very formal and difficult affair, we’ve all heard the horror stories about the politics that goes on within families.
-Maybe one of the parties is just waiting for one other parties to slip up in whatever tiny way so that old scores and family grievances can be aired (sigh, yet again!)…
- or someone is married someone that the family doesn’t approve of and said family are just laying in wait for the “I told you so” moment…
- or the quiet homeloving spouse who abhours crowds and an obligatory visit to loud and party-animal type relatives (either theirs or yours or both)
Being a guest or a host can also be relaxed and easy going experience, but the trick is to make it so for everyone and not just for the Host or the Guest.
Some of our guests have not (and not been expected to) pay a cent for outings, transport, food or restaurants, some have contributed by bringing groceries, cooking for us at home or paying a meal out together.
As Hosts it also depends on how your financial situation… and finding a comfortable balance that is appropriate for the people who will be staying with you.
Thoughts to Ponder when you are the Host:
How well do you know your guests? Will you be mostly at home or out and about doing the sights, or a little (or a lot) of both? Do you have to work whilst your guests are staying? How long are your guests staying for? There’s a big difference to what’s exected on both sides for a two night visit or a ten day or month long one.
DO take into account the financial situation of your guests.
DO take into account your own financial situation too. (No-one should be bulldozed into paying more than they can afford when putting up and entertaining people) A tight budget means simple food and low cost entertainment, and don’t you dare feel guilty for this if you are the sole party picking up the bill.
DO take into account the exchange rate if your guests are from abroad. (the times when we as Hosts have contributed most financially, have been when we have known that our guests have come from abroad and the exchange rates have been severly not in their favour, but it also happened at times that we were financially able to make the extra contribution without pain since we had saved in preperation for the visit.)
DON’T expect your guests to automatically know the way you like your household to run, if they are staying for any length of time, give them a few short, clear ground rules. If you need a list, you probably have too many rules. Be prepared to relax a little too. If you have a particularly fragile or pricessless heirloom then consider packing it away for a bit to exclude possible disasters.
DON’T be afraid to speak up and ask for help, some guests prefer to wait to be invited to do things, because they don’t want to be invasive (or because they haven’t got a clue) if you don’t want to be cooking for a crowd and then faced with a mountain of mess in the kitchen to tackle alone afterwards, make it clear politely in advance that “many hands make light work” and that everyone is expected to help with the washing up. Remember that your guests can’t mind-read and not everyone is practically minded when it comes to seeing what needs doing.
Thoughts to Ponder when you are the Guest:
DO take into account your own financial situation. (No-one should be bulldozed into paying more than they can afford) if your hosts only want to have restaurant food, make it clear that you need something cheaper or be willing to cook.
Food… let’s face it: you’d still have to eat if you were at home, DO buget for food if you are away. You are staying with people not living off them.
It’s rude to treat family and friends as a free limitless buffet if you are staying with them, all the more so if you have a special diet or have high expectations of what should be served. Maybe you do prefer steak to that cheap cut of meat, but it’s not your place to suggest to your host that it be put into the menu unless you are willing to pay for it yourself.
If you are staying a length of time with family or friends, and your hosts are cooking at home? We usually ask what might be planned for dinner the next day and “where is the local supermarket please? Can we make a list together?, we’d love to pick up some shopping for you“
Even better, if you are on holiday and your hosts are working, shop for and cook one of their favourite meals, what a nice surprise to come home to right? (and yes, giving your host a treat does include you doing the washing up too)
As a guest I don’t like to feel like I’m an imposition and it *does* SO MUCH depend on WHO you are staying with… do they prefer to cook at home? … since I love cooking, I’ve either cooked with or for them or at least been a very willing sous chef. Personally I find it harder therefore when we stay with someone who clearly wants guests *out* of the kitchen .
We always offer to set the table, and to do washing up, we offer to hang up and fold laundry … those extra towels in the laundry are ours too after all.
If you are past potty-training age and you inadvertantly leave some unmentionables behind in the toilet then it’s common decency to get the toilet bush and do some cleaning up after yourself before you leave the little room.
Even if you ARE a neatness freak, or you think that something could be arranged better in the house, you do not have permission to rearrange other peoples kitchen cupboards, change the furnature to suit yourself, or fiddle with the settings on any electrical device.
If a household has a private office then it is not your business to just “check in on the computer“ without first asking permission or make yourself at home amongst people’s personal paperwork. If you have been given permission to use an office, say to check your email, then snooping though people’s paperwork is one of my most absolute no-no’s.
As a guest, one of the biggest blunders you can make is to not turn up for meals planned at home, if you haven’t specified that you’ll be absent then exect that dinner will be on the table for you at dinner time and your hosts will be vastly less than impressed if you don’t bother to turn up. Phoning right on dinner time to bail is also very rude unless there are special circumstances involved (and meeting someone cute in the bus back to your hosts is not a “special circumstance”)
Personally: Not turning up for meals and not having the decency to let me know at all, may result in me, as your Host, planting your suitcase on the street with directions attached for the nearest hotel.
Conversely, if you’ve declared that you’ll be out all day and advised your hosts that you will be late home, and things don’t go as planned so you return around dinner time, don’t be presumptuous and assume that your hosts ” will have kept some for you just in case” ir should get up after their meal and start cooking for you.
It’s polite to bring a small gift for your Host, if you are from abroad then maybe something special from your country is appropriate, but put some thought into it, try and bring something that you know your host will appreciate.
If you have brought wines, liqueurs or fancy chocolates etc as a gift then please don’t expect them to be opened on the spot, and then scoff the lot yourself… these were meant to be a treat for your host, not for yourself.
DON’T even think of phoning your Mother/girlfriend/boyfriend/ best friend etc for hours on end trans-global and leaving your hosts with the shock of a humungous phone bill when it arrives later on.
If you are borrowing a vehicle, return it clean and with a full tank and even worse, if you were speeding in said borrowed vechile and saw the speed camera flash as you scaped though that red traffic light then have the decency to confess your deeds to your host and to leave money for the fine.
Most of all, as a guest please remember that you are staying with family or friends, this doesn’t mean that you treat their hospitality like it’s a free hotel complete with room-service, maid service and with unlimited kitchen facilities.
Being a Good Guest or a Good Host is a mixture of good manners, common sense … after that, just relax, be yourself and enjoy the company!