Guidelines for Gracious Guests

Our son was transferred to Japan two years ago and we will be traveling there for the holidays. We adore our two young grandchildren and can’t get enough of them. We’re scheduled to stay for three weeks and are looking forward to this time with our family. However, much as we think we all get along famously, is there some truth to “after three days fish and company … ?”

Of course, given the expense and distance of an overseas trip, you wish to make the most of your visit. But yes, lengthy stays in someone else’s home can become less than “fresh” and enjoyable to all parties. Even in close families, too much togetherness is, well, just too much togetherness.

Sometimes, we make the mistake of assuming a too-casual attitude with family. However, as a guest in anyone’s home, you must do your part to making your visit go as smoothly as possible. Why shouldn’t we treat our family just as well as we treat others?

Just as there are certain practices that you do in your own home to make guests feel welcome, there is a knack to being a good houseguest. After all, you want to be invited back, right? Here are some suggestions:

  • Confirm arrival and departure in advance: Never assume you can stay as long as you want. Work around your host’s schedule.
  • Arrive with a host gift: It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it cannot serve two purposes. In other words, don’t pass off your holiday gift as a hostess gift too. Homemade brownies are a welcome treat or try giving a holiday candle.
  • Pitch in. Pick up after yourself, play with the kids, fold laundry, chop vegetables, wash dishes, etc. You are not visiting royalty. Helping out will allow you to feel a part of things.
  • Treat: You’ve arrived with a hostess gift and a holiday gift or two. But if you’re staying awhile, offer to spell your hosts from kitchen duty by treating them to a restaurant meal. Lunch or breakfast will be less expensive. Can’t swing that? Then pick up an inexpensive bottle of wine for dinner or rent a PG DVD that everyone can enjoy. Even a well-heeled host appreciates being appreciated.
  • Take a break: Split up your together time and provide some space that will feel welcome to everyone. For a long stay, take a couple of days or even a week in the middle of the visit to enjoy a trip to a nearby tourist attraction. When you return to your host’s home, it will be a fresh visit all over again. Even for a shorter stay, take yourself off to stroll through town or visit a coffee shop with a good book. If you are visiting a family with children, perhaps you could offer the parents a break while you stay with the kids.
  • Let some things slide: During any extended visit, irritations or tensions may arise. In those instances, ask yourself what your aim is before you act or speak. Do you want to insist that you are right or do you wish to have a happy visit? If it is the latter, and I hope it is, choose to let some things slide. Take a few deep breaths and consider taking that break mentioned above.
  • Exit well:  When it’s time to depart, leave a room as clean as possible. Ask your host what to do with used linens. Remake the bed and empty the trash. Return glasses or cups to the kitchen.
  • Pen a prompt thank-you: Follow up with a written thank-you note (not email) as soon as you return home. Keep it short, but remember to mention a few things that you particularly enjoyed about your visit.

Does this sound like too much effort for family? If so, then check into a hotel. There, you can pay to have others see to your needs. If you’re a guest though, and wish to be invited back, follow through on these guidelines and have a wonderful visit.

Vicki is a licensed professional counselor and welcomes your questions. She can be reached at [email protected]







































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