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Learn2 Be a Gracious Houseguest
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A little tact will get you invited back

You don't have to be the life of the party to dazzle your hosts--they'll be much more impressed if you make your bed and offer to help with the dishes.

In many ways, hosts and overnight guests are engaged in a game of cat and mouse. For example, it would be rude for a host to ask you to clean up after yourself, yet it would be rude for you not to. Thoughtfulness and tact are essential ingredients of hospitality, for both those who give it and those who receive it.

There aren't any hard and fast rules houseguests must follow. Some hosts want to cater to your every need, while others practice the every-man-for-himself approach. You'll need to adapt yourself to the circumstances. But no matter what your host might be like, you should be aware of the principles that govern host/guest relations so that you can take active steps toward a smooth and pleasant sojourn.

Before you begin

Even before you cross your host's threshold, try to establish some of the ground rules for your stay, so there won't be any surprises on either side. You may need to address (tactfully, of course) one or more of the following issues:

  • Departure time: Your invitation will probably include an arrival time, but it may be up to you to establish when it's time to go. For example, some people might assume that the weekend ends on Sunday afternoon, while others assume it's Monday morning. If you're invited just for the night, ask what your host has planned for the next day so that you don't overstay your welcome.
  • Special needs: If you have any special sleep or dietary needs, let your host know in advance. If you have a bad back and must have a real bed instead of a couch, give your host time to accommodate you. If you spring this news on your host right at bedtime, you both might go to bed unhappy. The same goes for insomnia, food allergies, and any other ailments or special needs.
  • Your other plans: If you're staying with one friend and want to take advantage of the opportunity to visit another, it's perfectly polite to take some time out from your host to pay a call. However, it's better to let him or her know in advance so it doesn't seem like you're simply planning an escape.
  • What to pack: Ask your host what clothes to pack, and if you'll need any other items during your stay (i.e. a bathing suit for swimming, shoes for hiking, etc). This way you won't have to depend on your host to come up with any missing items, and you'll also get an idea for the dress code that you'll be more or less expected to follow. In addition, you'll know what to expect from the weekend, giving you time to prepare yourself physically and mentally. It might even provide an opportunity to warn your host that you hate swimming, hiking or something else they might be planning. An advanced warning is much more polite than a last-minute refusal.
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    Step 1: Bear gifts
    Step 2: Offer to help
    Step 3: Stay out of the way
    Step 4: Clean up after yourself
    Step 5: Send a thank you note

    • A telephone calling card
    • A housewarming gift
    • A well-packed suitcase (so you won't have to borrow clothes or personal items from your host)
    • A willingness to help with chores


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