Are you visiting friends or family this BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND? Find out how you can be the PERFECT GUEST during your stay …
Are you a horrible house guest? Do you arrive with too much luggage and not enough wine? Do you wreak havoc on a schedule and leave a shaken hostess in your wake? As we find ourselves in visiting mode, we suggest ways guests can take the “grate” out of “ingratiate”, with these tips on how to be the perfect house guest …
Do come and stay, they email, any time. We’d love to have you. And of course, they mean it. But are they really tickled pink when you take them up on it, appearing in the flesh, filling up their medium-sized hall with your large, sullen family, more bags than can be reasonably accounted for, and a spaghetti heap of power cables? Is the bottle of champagne you have stashed in one of your wellies really going to make up for several days of extra cooking, cleaning and noise? Maybe not.
1. ACCEPT PROMPTLY
When the invitation comes, get the calendar out and confirm as soon as possible. The summer has only so many weeks and weekends in it and your hosts are kind to extend the offer. One woman whose delightful home is matched by her warmth and hospitality says some guests still wait until the last minute to accept. “I can only presume they’re waiting to see if they get a better offer,” she sniffs.
2. COME BEARING GIFTS
Champagne is the default, but the best-remembered gifts may well be the ones you bring for your hosts’ children. Whether it’s the right football jersey or the first book in a new series, showing you’ve remembered a child’s hobbies and preferences warms parents’ hearts. We apply a women and children first rule: chances are the hostess will have done the bulk of the planning, bed-making and fridge-stocking. Have you ever thought of sending flowers ahead? Especially for a dinner guest, it’s such a thoughtful touch because it removes rummaging for a presentable vase from the pre-dinner to-do list on the day, when managing coats, mixing aperitifs and monitoring bubbling pans can be quite enough to contend with. The bedside table, cleared of your contact lens case, phone charger and Kindle, is a nice spot to leave a surprise parting gift. But choose wisely. A vast pot of delicious body lotion for your hostess, while a heady and appropriate present, may do no more than draw attention to the fact that you’ve walked out her front door trailing the scent of her old one.
3. ABSENT YOURSELF WHEN NECESSARY
“I love a guest who takes my kids out with theirs, rings and asks what they can bring back from the shops for dinner or babysits and sends you out,” says one ex-pat who seems to be constantly in hostess mode. But it’s sometimes difficult to manage other people’s children to bath and bed if the parents are in the house. So unless you’ve had your babysitting offer accepted, and are in loco parentis for a couple of hours, this is not the right time to help out. Make yourself scarce during these evening necessities. Don’t just scarper to the sofa and nose through what they’re series linking, though. Get on kitchen detail. “I love when a guest attacks the dishes in the sink, sets the table or offers to prepare the veg,” says one woman who regularly hosts multi-generational house parties. Can you imagine anything nicer than staggering downstairs, having wrestled the little ones into bed, and finding not only that the fish fingery plates have been scraped and dishwashered, but also that your guest had the forethought to pack cocktail makings and has magicked up the mojitos?
4. KEEP PRIVATE A PRIVATE HOUSE
Someone has to say it and it may as well be us. It’s unforgivably rude to publish photographs of someone else’s house, so think before you Instagram a snap of the table set for dinner, or your commentary on the contents of the bathroom cabinet.
5. BE KIND, ACT BLIND
Nobody will really think you haven’t noticed a brewing domestic or a purple-faced, screaming child; they know you haven’t missed the way the handle on the bathroom door falls off when you touch it, or how the cat hair on the sofa transfers to your favourite black trousers. They don’t want things to be that way any more than you do, and if you love your host the way you should, you’ll smile and understand. When it’s your home that’s being a temporary hotel, you’ll bless the blind eyes of others.
6. DON’T FORGET TO LEAVE
“Make yourself at home,” the hostess cries on the first day, and probably means it. She’s not seen you for a year and she’s fond of you. But that doesn’t mean you can stay indefinitely: she’s not married to you, and she didn’t give birth to you. More to the point, nor did her husband, nor was he at college with you, nor (take it on the chin now) does he think you’re as amusing, attractive and original as his wife does. As one host told us: “Friends are a little like fish – after a few days, they tend to go off!”
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