Am I A Good Enough House Guest?

Did you make the bed? [Via]

Did you make the bed? [Via]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy, 

Can we go over house-guest etiquette?  Specifically, with respect to how one contributes to groceries, gas, etc, when staying at another’s house? What is the minimum?  Is there a maximum? What other things should a person be doing when they are a house-guest?  Bring a gift, I know, be generally considerate, etc, but basically, how do I be the best house-guest I can be, without breaking my own bank to do so? 

For example, recently my boyfriend and I visited our friends for the long weekend, who live far away.  They picked us up at the airport (they had no choice, there are no busses or taxis where they live). I paid for a rather large grocery bill (contributed to in part by the many cheeses I selected, for I know my friends are cheese-loving).  I then also bought quite a bit of booze, although my boyfriend and I drank quite a bit of it, as we are more dedicated drinkers. We provided probably 5/6 of the wine, beer, and whisky that was drank over the long weekend.  I also brought a small-ish gift and bought another one for them while I was there.. 

Did I do enough? Should I have done more? I paid for a lot of groceries, but we definitely ate other things in our stay. 

This particular stay does not have me overly worried, as they are old dear friends and I have been exorbitantly generous with them many many times, and frankly if I under-delivered this once I am to be forgiven.  But I would like a refresher!  


Anxious Guest


Emily Post says that houseguests should bring their own toiletries, offer help around the house, and ask about stripping the bed before leaving. Giving a gift and writing a thank you note after are also “musts.”

Jaya: This writer have nothing to worry about, because they have absolutely gone above and beyond with being a house guest.

Victoria: Umm yes, way above. I don’t do any of those things when house guesting. Like, if you spend more money on your hosts than you would on a hotel, what’s the point, really?

Jaya: Have we been shitty house guests the whole time?

Victoria: No we are totally normal guests.

Jaya: I think I’ve done combinations of the following things to thank hosts in my time: paid for groceries, cooked a meal, treated hosts to dinner, brought a bottle of wine/other small gift, paid for gas. Sometimes I’ve offered to do many of those things but the hosts insisted I needn’t worry, so I did none of them, and just thanked them profusely. I’m not sure I’ve ever sent a thank you note for crashing at someone’s house.

Victoria:  I think the standard is to bring a little gift and send a note after, but I honestly can’t remember if I’ve done that. Maybe I am the worst! I know my parents sent flowers to a family I stayed with when I evacuated college for Hurricane Ivan.

Jaya: I think it depends on your relationship with the host. I feel like a lot of formal etiquette treats it as if you’re taking in, like, weary travelers. I’ve always been friends or family with the people I’ve stayed with, so it’s far more casual. For instance, I had a friend move to New York and stay on my couch for a week before his apartment was ready. He bought a lot of his own groceries, but we offered to cook for each other and other things like that, because we’re friends and enjoyed having the other around. It wasn’t this burden.

Victoria: Yes! Usually a guest is someone you know or like having around, so it’s a bit of a treat for the host too?  I mean, you crash with someone because you are in town for something else, I think you have more of a need to thank them. But if they have invited you because they wanted to see you, then you should still do SOMETHING, but you don’t need to be picking up every little tab.

Jaya: Absolutely. Guests should not feel the need to constantly apologize for their presence. Clean up after yourself, offer to do some nice thing for your host, and don’t overstay your welcome, but you don’t have to be hyper-aware of everything you’re doing. There’s no need to break it down so far. No one will notice if you pay for 4/6 of the liquor instead of 5/6, or whatever. Oh but speaking of that, how do you know if you’ve overstayed your welcome? I feel like usually you know exactly how long you’ll be somewhere, so it’s not always an issue.

Victoria: Yeah, you’d usually say “Oh I’m planning on coming for four days.” Otherwise…once you host starts asking how long you think you will there is a good time to plan on leaving within a day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s