With Covid travel restrictions finally easing, many people are keen to visit family and friends, who live further afield. After months stuck at home, most of us would jump at the chance to reconnect with loved ones and experience a change of scenery. But before you pack your bags, take the time to brush up on your house guest etiquette.
If you have been invited to stay at someone’s house this summer, make sure you repay your hosts’ generosity by observing a few golden etiquette rules. Not only will this make your visit more enjoyable for everyone, it will also ensure that you get a return invite next summer.
Never turn up empty handed
The number one rule of house guest etiquette is to always bring a gift for the host or hostess. The size and value of the gift will depend on the length of your stay. If you are only staying for one night, a good bottle of wine or champagne will suffice, perhaps along with a bunch of flowers or a house plant.
If it is a longer stay, you should look for a more substantial and personalised gift. Some suggestions could be house items such as picture frames, candles and candlesticks or a handmade bowl. If your hosts are keen cooks, a new gadget for the kitchen will probably go down a treat while gardeners will appreciate planters, tools or seeds.
If your hosts live abroad, you could bring something that reminds them of home such as locally produced food items or a memento from a favourite place.
Keep it tidy
You are not staying at a hotel so do not expect to be waited on hand and foot by your hosts. Keep your room neat and tidy by making the bed each morning and hanging or folding your clothes before placing them in your allocated storage space.
However tempting it is to just laze around with a cup of coffee and a good book, make sure that you offer to help with tasks such as cooking, clearing up after meals and sweeping the patio. If you are staying for more than a couple of nights it is also a lovely gesture to cook a meal for your hosts to really show your appreciation for their hospitality.
plan your stay
Establish the hosts’ expectations before your stay to ensure that they are in line with your own. Do they have planned outings for you both or are you expected to organise your own itinerary? How much time would they like you to spend in the house? Are they taking time off for the duration of your stay or will there be days when they are working?
For longer stays it is a good idea to plan a couple of day trips that will give you and the host some time away from each other. However much you enjoy each other’s company, a bit of breathing space will reduce the chances of minor irritations or disagreements rising to the fore.
Always ask first
It doesn’t matter how comfortable you are with your host or hostess, there’s no excuse not to be polite. Even if your host tells you to “make yourself at home”, always ask before helping yourself to drinks and snacks. Do not assume that you have free reign of everything in the house just because you are the guest. By the same token, you should also offer to contribute to the grocery shopping or, even better, volunteer to go to the store.
If you have brought children or pets with you, remember that they are your responsibility. It is a good idea to check if there are any rooms or areas of the house that are out of bounds for younger or furry guests.
Send a thank you note
Always follow up your visit with a handwritten thank you note within a week or two of returning home. Emails and text messages may be more commonplace these days but, when it comes to house guest etiquette, they do not have the same lasting impact as a written note.
If you want to go the extra mile you could include a small gift or some photos that you took during your stay. It will all go a long way towards ensuring that your hosts feel valued and appreciated.