It’s houseguest season, with friends and relatives gathering for varying lengths of time under one roof.
But togetherness has its limits, and if you’re the guest, you don’t want to push them. What etiquette is involved when you crash at someone’s house?
Here are 10 things we’re pretty sure a good houseguest would never do:
1. Expect their host’s undivided attention 24/7.
The best houseguests realize that their hosts have their own lives and don’t expect them to drop everything when they visit. As a houseguest, you may be on vacation, but your host may not be. Hosts may have to go to work, be home in time to walk the dog, stop and run errands, and do normal, everyday things even though you are visiting. They may even want some downtime, alone without a guest asking where they keep this or that. Let your host have that down time, suggests Mary Mitchell, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette. Otherwise, everybody will end up exhausted from the effort of having to be sociable, she wrote.
2. Expect their host to be their daily tour guide.
The best houseguests are self-sufficient. They know which sights they want to see, did their research on which restaurants they want to try and aren’t afraid to take a subway without their host pointing the way. In other words, they take responsibility for their own vacation.
Hosts may enjoy showing off their city, and that’s fine. There is certainly room for asking them to share recommendations for where to eat and how to get there. Just don’t expect your hosts to be your daily tour guide.
3. Forget to show up with a gift.
In all likelihood, your hosts have stepped up their game in preparation of your arrival — cleaning the house, laundering extra sheets, buying the yogurt brand you like for breakfast. The least you can do is arrive with a gift to show your gratitude. A nice bottle of wine is fine. Same for flowers. But don’t show up empty-handed.
And while you’re at it, Wisebread advises houseguests to leave a parting “thank you” gift as well. “During your stay you should’ve gotten a good sense of what your hosts want, like, or need. Use this information to purchase a small parting gift that shows your gratitude and decency as a human being,” suggests the site.
4. Assume that room comes with board.
Being able to save money on a hotel is a fabulous way to travel on a budget. Don’t arrive thinking that all your meals are included, too. Be grateful for the morning coffee, but don’t let anything stop you from buying groceries or chipping in a fair share, advises the Emily Post Institute. Treating your host to a nice dinner out is a lovely way to express thanks.
Another thing, says Emily Post Institute, is don’t show up without toiletries. And if they can’t come on the plane with you because of federal restrictions, buy your own when you arrive.
5. Expect their host to accommodate their picky eating.
Whatever diet you adhere to is your business. But if you aren’t prepared to eat what’s served, ask where the nearest supermarket is and go pick up the things that you will eat. A guest who proselytizes about “their” diet is rarely attractive, so just don’t go there.
6. Assume their host should clean up after them.
Good houseguests understand they are staying in someone’s home, not a hotel that provides daily maid service. Make your own bed, wash out your coffee cup, offer to help in meal preparation.
7. Open drawers to find things or start helping themselves to food in the pantry without asking first.
Some hosts have a “make yourself at home” attitude. But think twice before you start poking around in the medicine cabinet, looking for the aspirin. Respect your host’s privacy. And do not use your host’s phone, computer or any other equipment without asking, says the Emily Post Institute.
8. Borrow the host’s car and return it on empty.
Seriously, peeps, you are being spared the cost of taxis, Ubers, having to rent a car and buy insurance on it. Under no circumstances should you skip refilling the tank and thus stick your host with your gas bill on top of everything else.
9. Hog the shower when your host needs to leave for work.
Be proactive and ask about the best time to use the bathroom for showering. It’s a small thing, but it ranks high on the stress-o-meter.
10. Ignore basic common sense.
We all do things differently, and as a guest the rules you should be following are those of your host. If you are given a key, don’t forget to use it. Lock the door when you leave, don’t make a lot of noise when you get home and, if your host is asleep, maybe heating up smelly leftovers at 2 a.m. isn’t such a great idea. Ask before you assume the fragile wine glasses go in the dishwasher, and, yes, you probably should use your towels more than once.
Oh, and practice the rule made popular by Benjamin Franklin: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Don’t push your expiration date.
Clarification: A previous version of this story indicated Benjamin Franklin had originated the saying “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” The saying was not original to him, though he did spread it.