The Art of Being a Great Guest
So you’ve been invited to stay with someone while you travel, maybe a friend or acquaintance, maybe someone you met through couch surfing, or while on a tour. How can you make sure you’re the kind of guest they’re genuinely sorry to see leave instead of the one they can’t wait to see go?
There are no guarantees things will go smoothly no matter what the circumstances, as people and personalities and customs vary so much. But here are 10 ideas for making a visit a great one.
1) Clarify ideas and expectations of your host up front, for instance how long are they expecting you to stay? There’s a big difference between 2 days and 2 weeks.
2) Contribute, especially where food is concerned, either buying some groceries, contributing to the food costs, or purchasing things to add to their meal, as in offering to buy wine or make dessert, or…
3) Offer to cook a meal or two, depending on how long you’ll be there. Even if you’re not an expert cook (I’m certainly not!) most people will appreciate your efforts and a night off from cooking, even if it’s something simple like soup & a salad. And purchase the ingredients. Or offer to treat to a meal out, if you’re able.
4) Help out around the house. Most people appreciate a helping hand when it comes to chores, like washing dishes, hanging out laundry, taking out the trash. I’ve also helped with homework, walked a dog, and helped move furniture, among other things!
5) Give your host a small gift. It could be a bouquet of flowers, a candle or bottle of wine, or maybe some chocolates. Or it could be something homemade, like a small painting or craft item.
6) Offer to share your talents. Do you cut hair or are you a trained masseuse? An expert at organization? A gardener, tarot reader, reiki practitioner, graphic designer or a photographer? I’ve done a lot of photography and so I like to take photos of my hosts and send them copies. They can be candid, or more posed if they need a profile shot for Facebook or a resume or website. And you don’t have to be a professional – many couples or families are always missing someone in their pictures (the one shooting the picture!) & are thrilled to have their whole group included.
7) Be courteous & considerate. Pick up after yourself and clean up after yourself. Hang your towel, put the toilet seat down, don’t play your music too loud, you get the idea.
8) Share information. People are often curious about other places, so ask if they’d like to hear about where you live (this is especially nice if you’re from another country). And share travel information about other places you’ve been, if they’re of interest to your hosts.
9) Most important, be flexible and go with the flow. There’s nothing worse than a demanding guest who has to have everything their way. Remember, you’re a guest in their home.
10) Offer to reciprocate if you’re able. Someday they may visit your home town and need a place to stay.
You probably have your own ideas as well, these are just a few of mine. Oh, and remember to say thank you. More than once!
What makes a great guest, according to a few of my hosts:
“Someone who’s up for a good conversation & is not too fussy.” Maurice
“Being generous of spirit, non-judgemental and flexible.”
“Someone who respects the host & tries to blend in with as little trouble as possible. Observe the host & see how they keep their house & habits. When you leave, it should be as you saw the place when you came in – no physical presence – just a soul passing by!”