Summer is prime season for invitations to friends’ beach, mountain, or country homes. While many assume that they have mastered the art of being a houseguest, we tend to believe that traditional etiquette has generally been on the decline and that many of us could use a friendly refresher course on the intricacies involved being a beneficiary of a friend's hospitality.
Your primary responsibility requires that you do everything in your power to make your visit as stress-free as possible for the host. You are not checking into a luxury hotel. You are being invited into someone else's private abode. This means acting in a respectful and friendly manner, not making any unreasonable or presumptuous demands, and, in general, obeying a code of etiquette that should come as second nature to anyone who has spent any time in polite company.
First and foremost, never overstay your visit. As Benjamin Franklin once said,
Modern technology has solved only one of these problems.
We all know the adage mi casa es su casa, but we urge you to please never take that too literally. Being a guest in someone else's home should never be equated with making one’s self at home. In other words, don’t leave the bra on the couch as you kick back your feet on the coffee table while watching a“Game of Thrones” marathon.
There are few more things more important than arriving with a proper gift for your hosts. This is absolutely de rigeur. Flowers in a nice vase, a beautiful Taschen coffee table book, or a special bottle of wine are always welcome and appropriate gifts.
However, we always think it's more interesting to bring something for which your city/town is known. Coming from New York? Bring Ess-a-Bagels Chicago? Pick up some of the amazing artisanal hand-made soaps from Abbey Brown. Los Angeles? Grab a dozen of the legendary strawberry donuts from The Donut Man.
Speaking of food, one should always offer to either take them out to dinner one night, or pick up some groceries and cook them a home-made meal. And of course, offering to do dishes and tidying up constantly should always be a given.
Lastly, there should never be any surprises with your hosts. Never show up unannounced-or, even worse, with a puppy, child, significant other or friend, unless you’ve explicitly cleared it with your host beforehand. You may call it spontaneous and fun…your hosts may call it rude and inconvenient.
THE IVORY ROW DOS AND DON’T OF BEING A HOUSEGUEST
DON’T overstay your welcome. Make sure it’s clear to your host when you intend to leave and make sure you stick to it.
DO make your bed, clean up after yourself, keep the bathroom tidy, and always clean any glasses or dishes that you use.
DON’T accept an invitation to attend a dinner, party, or date while staying at your host’s house. Exceptions are to be made only if your hosts are invited as well.
DO take a break from social media. No refreshing your Facebook feed at the dinner table. No Instagram images of your friend’s house. No tagging their address in any posts.
DON’T stick to your own schedule. No sleeping in bed until noon. If your hosts retires early, so do you. If your host rises early, you rise early too (unless they tell you specifically otherwise.)
DO remember to send a handwritten thank-you note. There are few things that are simpler and more appreciated than knowing that you were grateful for your host’s generosity.