It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman who moves overseas must be in want of a houseguest.
Actually, for me, one of the many joys of expat life has been having people come and stay with us. We have been blessed with guests – the type of guests that you actually want. The ones who want to come and see you, to catch up, to understand more about your new life.
But it’s not always the case. I’ve heard some horror stories. And the sad thing is that what should be a positive experience can end up damaging a friendship.
So, as a public service to expats everywhere I thought I’d put together a guide to being the perfect guest. You’re welcome.
Before we start…
Writing this has given me pause for thought; we haven’t always been perfect guests. There have been wet beds (the babies, not me..), scatty organisational plans, gifts that have smashed on the way. A glass of red wine dropped on a white sofa and white walls, making the room look like a scene from one of the scarier episodes of Luther. But we DID clear up all our own crap (literally in one awful poo-related incident that I won’t repeat here) and we did get invited back. And that red wine incident has gone down in friendship history.
So, forget perfect – good enough is good enough.
How to be a good houseguest
A little thought goes a long way
Otherwise known as – a good guest doesn’t come empty handed. Now this is not about loads of lavish, expensive presents – it really is the thought that counts. And that doesn’t mean it has it be a super thoughtful personal gift – we’re not all gifted in the gift-giving department. A bottle of wine always goes down well chez moi…
Tell your hosts your plans, in advance. Let them know your flights details, how long you plan to stay and what you plan to do. If you need help getting from the airport, ask in advance. Or if you have any allergies let them know – and have a plan to cater for yourself. And if your plans change, tell them. There’s nothing worse than staying in all day waiting for a houseguest who turn up the next day…
Doing an airport run might seem like no big deal…but if your hosts live an hour’s drive and have visitors regularly it can be a bit of a pain. If it’s offered, fabulous. If not, ask for help booking a taxi, download the Uber app or figure out the local trains.
It’s not a holiday for everyone…
Sure, you’re on your hols. But the likelihood is that your hosts aren’t – for them, normal life carries on as, erm, normal. Don’t expect that they drop everything, every day, to be your tour guide. They have probably been to the touristy places loads of time. Be independent – a bit of space is good for everyone.
But one thing that makes a host feel special is when guests are curious about their lives, about their ‘normal’ – so join them on a school run or go with them to their local hang outs. No-one likes to feel they are just a landing pad for the tourist attractions.
…and this is definitely NOT an all-inclusive resort
Pitch in, offer to help out. Pick up your stuff. Clean up after your kids. Your hosts shouldn’t be so exhausted by the time you leave that they need a holiday.
And if you happen to be in a part of the world where your hosts have domestic help – be gracious. A tip is usually very gratefully received.
If you break it, replace it
Or at least offer to. A very long time ago we had a guest stay and after they had left I noticed that a dish we kept on the coffee table had gone missing. I found the pieces of it wrapped in paper in the bin. It just seemed so strange not to let me know – accidents happen, things break, stuff gets spoiled. But an offer to replace or to compensate goes a long way.
A good houseguest follows the house rules
Well this seems like a very bossy one. But everyone has different rules at home – find out what they are and follow them. And use your common sense – don’t hog the bathroom, don’t use all the hot water when you take a shower.
One rule that we have never had to make explicit is ‘no outside/ unknown guests.’ A friend in Bangkok was pretty shocked when a guest brought a ‘lady’ back to spend the night…and yes, she heard them, and no he didn’t clean the sheets and absolutely he was never invited back.
Watch your kids
They are still your responsibility. And not just your kids – all the mess they make, and their bodily fluids. If your kid throws up, it’s still your job to clean up. And yes, I know someone who ended up cleaning up vomit while her houseguest, the Mum of said sick kid, sat on the balcony with her glass of wine. Not cool.
Don’t outstay your welcome
What’s the saying – guests, like fish, go off after three days. Short and sweet works well. And the longer you stay, the more you need to pitch in.
Leave no trace
The only thing you should be leaving your guests with is a thank you. Taking off the bedding, collecting up towels and putting any sofa beds back is usually very appreciated.
There are so many ways to say thank you…
Here are some lovely ideas on how you can show your appreciation
– take the family out for a meal
– cook a meal for them
– offer to babysit so your hosts can have a night out…and you all get a bit of space
– bring with you any beloved food items that they can’t get hold of
– take out the garbage (no-one’s favourite job!)
– make a fuss of their kids…play with them, read them a story to give the parents a breather
But most of all…show that you are enjoying yourself and their company.