If you want to be a good guest…
We are recovering from a summer of surgery and company. This is not necessarily a recipe for disaster, but the combination certainly highlights what makes for good visits and what can cause trouble. Here are my guidelines if you want to be a good guest, straight off the top of my head, after recent experiences, good and bad.
1. Plan ahead. Decide if your visit is to give or receive help, or simply for leisure and connection. If you are needy, be sure to let your host know. If you are the host and are needy, let your potential guest know what you need and how they can help.
2. Make your reservations carefully. If you want your host to pick you up, consult and chose a convenient time. If you want to get a discount ticket and will arrive or depart very early in the morning or late at night, be prepared to pay for a taxi. Don’t expect your host to be waiting in the cell phone parking lot after midnight.
3. If you have specific needs, disclose them well in advance. For example, if you are allergic to cats, let your host know so that you can both ascertain if there is a cat free zone to sleep in. Give your host time to prepare the zone. If you are very allergic to pets, and your host has many, better to obtain a guest suite than to blame your host for your sneezes.
4. Food can be a big problem. If you have specific allergies, let your host know. Then there is a difference between foods you like or hate, foods that make you physically ill, and strong preferences for certain foods or cooking methods. Talk this over in advance with your host. For strong preferences, it may be best to arrange to go to a grocery store as soon as you arrive, so you can obtain your heart’s desire. Then plan to cook a lot, if you are very picky about how your food is cooked. If you are deathly allergic to something, of course, let your host know. But don’t expect your host to know that you need a coffee ice cream fix at 2 AM. Instead, ask to go to a grocery and buy your own ice cream. Your host can’t be expected to meet your every need.
5. Respect personal spaces. You don’t expect your host to go through your suitcase or medicine bag. Don’t rifle through your host’s medicine cabinet, closets, or tools without permission. If you need a needle and thread, ask. Don’t assume that when your host says “Mi casa, su casa” it means that you can rearrange the deodorants and lotions in the medicine cabinet.
6. Generally, if you find a door open, leave it open. If you find a door closed, leave it closed. Particularly if your owner has pets, it is important to respect that each door probably has a purpose.
7. Help with cleanup. Don’t assume that because you are a guest, you are exempt from helping out. Don’t sit there checking your iphone while your host washes the dinner dishes. Lend a hand! Pick up the vacuum cleaner! Unless your host specifically says she wants her dishwasher just so, it is always appreciated to wash that which you have dirtied, and clean up that which you have messed up. Pick up hair in the tub, water around the toilet, pee and poop from small children. An invitation to visit does not necessarily include maid service.
8. Offer to help with expenses. Pay for a few groceries or a night out for dinner. Being a host can be expensive. Show you understand by doing something nice for your host.
9. Be clear about your own needs and expectations. If you don’t want someone else looking at your magazine, don’t leave it on the kitchen table. If you need a nap, go somewhere quiet and close the door, but don’t expect that the rest of the family or community can stop everything while you doze. It is one thing to be courteous. It is another to be walking on eggshells.
10. If there is a problem, count to 10. Breathe. Go for a walk. There will always be conflicts among people who share the same spaces. Don’t let things build up into an unhappy explosion. It is better to swallow some of your feelings, at least some of the time, rather than to end on a bad note. Your host probably mirrors your feelings, or more so. Be kind, be respectful, and allow conflicts to burn down to ashes. Don’t nurse the glowing embers into a fire. The visit will soon be over, and a peaceful ending is the best thing for everybody. Remember Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose? Don't put your host or hostess into that pickle!