It’s traveling time for many expats – that means, long journeys to see friends and family, and staying in their houses (possibly sleeping on their floors), sometimes for extended periods of time. Many of us also host friends and family in our current location, which I wrote about back in 2014. This time I’m sharing some suggestions on being a good house guest and making sure you don’t end up on anyone’s black list.- Arrive with a small gift. I know we’re all bursting at the seams suitcase wise, but arriving with a thoughtful offering starts everything off on a positive note. If you can’t think of anything, ask your host what s/he would like and if no ideas are forthcoming, take something that isn’t going to sit around on a shelf or otherwise interfere with the décor.
– Leave or send at least a thank you note after your visit. A gift would also be nice, perhaps something you’ve come cross during your stay that your host seemed to have liked. The gift will obviously reflect the length of your stay, and in some cases a delivery of wine on your return (or some such delight) is appropriate.
– Don’t expect your host to cook every meal. If possible, ask to “take over the kitchen” once or twice and cook the family a meal. If that’s not possible, or you’re useless in the kitchen, take them out for at least one meal and pay the entire bill.
– And speaking of eating out, always pay your share. It’s often expensive to host guests and there’s no reason why eating out should be part of the cost. Admittedly I have stayed with friends who would not let me pay my way, but this was usually on the rare occasion I was travelling alone. When landing on friends as our family of five, there’s no way I’m not contribuing.
– Still on the subject of food, accompany your host when s/he goes food shopping and again, at least offer to pay for what your brood is consuming. Even breakfast for an extra family every day can add up, so at least make the offer.
– Keep your stuff confined to your room, and keep your room as tidy as you can. As a frequent host, it’s bad enough having my own family’s stuff all over the house, but when guests leave their shopping bags in the kitchen or at the bottom of the stairs, I find it a “bit much”. Ditto, for some reason, when I walk past a guest room and it looks like a bomb’s hit it. Yes, I know we often don’t have hanging space, but keeping the suitcase contents in organized piles will help keep you and your host sane.
– Unless you have express permission, don’t send your children downstairs in the morning so that you can sleep late. Even if it’s grandparents you’re staying with, make sure they don’t mind before you do it otherwise they might start feeling slightly taken for granted.
– If your hosts have children, offer to babysit at least once so that they can go out. I find that after a little resistance, most people are more than happy to take me up on this offer.
– Unless there really is no other option, try to find ways of getting yourself from A to B instead of relying on your host to ferry you around. If the airport is a long way from his/her house, offer (if funds allow) to organise your own transportation. If this isn’t possible, pay the parking fee at the very least. (Hosts usually don’t take you up on this, but making the offer is a nice gesture.)
– If you’re visiting people in a tourist-y location, don’t expect your hosts to come everywhere with you. Not only have they seen it all countless times, it can get expensive for them. If you really want them along, offer to pay their admission.
– Do some research about your host’s area and try to come up with a few things you want to do. In my city there’s a lot to do but not everything is universally popular. It always helps when guests give me a few items on a bucket list. Don’t go too far in the other direction though. I have a friend who had a family of four staying for three weeks (and that’s another point), and they came with an itinerary that covered almost every waking hour. Leave some time to spend chilling with the people you’re supposed to be visiting.
– Don’t stay for too long. Yes, if you’ve travelled a long way, it’s waste of money staying for only a week, and if you’re visiting grandparents or siblings, they may want you to stay for a long time, but always check!
Have a great summer!